Who We Are
The Massachusetts Board of Rabbis (MBR) is an organization of rabbis of various streams and groups serving congregations, agencies and institutions within Massachusetts. Its membership consists of men and women from across the denominational spectrum who come together for fellowship, religious camaraderie, educational enrichment, and to speak with a single voice on behalf of our Jewish community.
How We Got Here
Originally founded sometime around 1938, the Massachusetts Board of Rabbis was known as the Rabbinical Association of Greater Boston, and met at the offices of the Associated Synagogues at 177 Tremont St. (where the Va'ad meets today). Its founders included Rabbi Herman Rubenovitz of Mishkan Tefila, who served as president for many years, followed by Rabbis Louis Epstein (Kehillath Israel), Joshua Loth Liebman (Temple Israel), Beryl D. Cohen (Temple Sinai), Sam Abrams (Ohabei Shalom). Chaplaincy was a major topic of discussion, along with lay leader Harry Kraft of the Associated Synagogues (now the Synagogue Council of Massachusetts).
Why Join the MBR
The MBR is more than its rich history and wonderful programs; it is also about the relationships we build and the community we nurture. As a member of MBR you will be provided information to join the "Members Only" section of this site, which allows you to:
- -access our Members Directory
- -learn about special offerings for rabbis
- -have a conversation with colleagues through our blog
To join our growing community, click on the Membership menu item on the left.
Honoraria for Life-cycle Events
Current recommended fees for officiation at funeral homes in the Greater Boston area are:
$625 for graveside-only or memorial service-only funerals
$725 for chapel service plus graveside.
The current range of fees for weddings in our area is from $750 to $1,500 (a/o February 1, 2015).
For information about clergy parking at area hospitals and discounts for Red Sox tickets for rabbis, please contact [email protected] for instructions or call 781-861-0300.
Statements and Resources
The Massachusetts Board of Rabbis celebrates the breadth of diversity within the Jewish people, as among all humanity. Delighting in the myriad ways that human beings are created in God’s image, we encourage the greatest spirit of openness in our communities, that we might be blessed through the unique holiness of all who enter.
Important Resources from MBR
The MBR general meeting on the end-of-life allowed us to explore this important topic with a panel of experts in a combination of training, lecture and havruta learning. Here are links to some of the resources mentioned at the Training.
MBR sponsored an important general meeting on the topic of dementia and alzheimer's. Feel free to access the following resources as follow-up to the presentation:
- Link to directory of memory cafés in Massachusetts: www.jfcsboston.org/MemoryCafeDirectory
- Link to Memory Café Toolkit: www.jfcsboston.org/MemoryCafeToolkit
- Link to information about Dementia Friendly Massachusetts Initiative: www.jfcsboston.org/DementiaFriendlyMA
Entering Elul: A Mindfulness Retreat
with Rabbis Dan Liben and Toba Spitzer
Wednesday, August 28, 9:30am-1:30pm (lunch included)
Temple Beth Elohim, Wellesley
As we begin preparations for our own Elul journeys and the work of the High Holydays season, we invite colleagues to join us for a morning that will include sitting and walking meditation, text study, and a mindful lunch, all in a beautiful setting at Temple Beth Elohim, Wellesley. This is an opportunity for self-care and renewal as well as an opportunity to explore teachings related to the Yamim Noraim. No meditation experience is required. Dan and Toba are graduates of the Jewish Mindfulness Teachers Training Program of the Institute for Jewish Spirituality, long-time practitioners of mindfulness mediation, and have taught mindfulness in a variety of settings.
These are the Lives of Sarah and Hagar:
Rethinking a Relationship
With Rabbi Dr. Jane Kanarek
Wednesday, September 4
9:45-11:30 am Breakfast and schmoozing
In this session, we will examine the different midrashic traditions surrounding the Akedah and Sarah’s death, reading them as a window into Sarah’s relationship with Hagar. If you attended the High Holydays Seminar with Dr. Judith Kates, this will be an intriguing follow-up, and if you missed that session, this learning stands on its own. Jane Kanarek is Associate Professor of Rabbinics at Hebrew College, where she teaches Talmud and halakhah. She is the author of “Biblical Narrative and the Formation of Rabbinic Law” (Cambridge University Press, 2015) as well as the co-editor of “Learning to Read Talmud: What It Looks Like and How It Happens.” In addition to her scholarly work, she is a member of the Rabbinical Assembly’s Committee on Jewish Law and Standards.
Midwifing Freedom: An Exploration of Life, Death, and Transformation
With Rev. Mariama White Hammond
Thursday, March 28, 10am-11:30am
Co-sponsored with the New England Board of Cantors
As we approach Passover, Rev. Mariama will join us for study, conversation and song. Her teaching will draw on the African-American readings of the Exodus story, and her own compelling work for social, environmental, and spiritual transformation. This program promises to feed our minds, hearts, and spirits, as we enter the season of our freedom.
Rev. Mariama White-Hammond is a powerful teacher and preacher, and a longtime activist on social justice issues ranging from immigration policy to fair wage issues to climate change and ecological justice. She has served as Executive Director of Project HIP-HOP (Highways Into the Past – History, Organizing and Power) and as the Minister of Ecological Justice at Bethel A.M.E. church in Roxbury. An ordained elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Rev. Mariama is currently working with a multi-racial, multi-class team of leaders to build a new church focused on reaching those who have been alienated by traditional church.
A New Mishnah Translation Project: The Rhetoric Of Prohibition And Obligation with Dr. Shaye Cohen
February 28th, 2019
For over 10 years, Dr. Shaye Cohen has been working on a new, annotated translation of the Mishnah. Begun as a solo project, it has become a group project, with three editors and over 30 contributors. Together we'll explore how the Mishnah employs a range of rhetorical strategies of permission, obligation, prohibition and suggestion.
The Age of Anxiety: What Rabbis Need to Know with Dr. David Rosmarin, Harvard Medical School
Co-Sponsored by the Ruderman Synagogue Inclusion Project and the Rabbinical Council of New England - Vaad Harabonim
Thursday, January 10, 2019
9:45am Breakfast and schmoozing
Congregation Shaarei Tefillah, 35 Morseland Avenue, Newton
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 19.1% of American adults experience significant anxiety in every given year (nearly one in five), and over the lifetime 41.7% will have a full-blown anxiety disorder (more than two in five). Yet, ironically, we have fewer reasons to be anxious today than ever: Advances in technology, economics, medicine, and other fields make us more productive, connected, affluent and privileged than any period in history. Why is the modern world such a ripe context for the development of emotional disorders, and more importantly what can we do about it? This interactive workshop will address these and other questions and outline practical recommendations for rabbis in how to handle mental health needs of congregants, students, and communities, by providing spiritual care, reinforcing psychologically adaptive spiritual messages, and collaborating with mental health professionals.
David H. Rosmarin, PhD, ABPP is an assistant professor in the department of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. He is also the founder/director of the Center for Anxiety, which has offices in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Rockland County and is one of the largest providers of private-pay mental health services in greater New York, servicing more than 500 new patients each year. Dr. Rosmarin is a board-certified psychologist and a prolific researcher who has authored over 60 peer-reviewed publications, 100 scientific abstracts, and a recent book entitled Spirituality, Religion & Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: A Guide for Clinicians (Guilford Press, 2018). His work has received media attention from ABC, NPR, Scientific American, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times.
"How to Have Difficult Conversations" Workshop with the Leadership Development Institute at CJP
Thursday, December 13
Managing conversations around synagogue and organizational issues, Israel, and various local and national political and social issues can be difficult. If we are to maintain--and even grow--healthy communities, we need to learn the skills to make these conversations productive. This workshop focused on how to manage these difficult conversations, including practicing skills. Participants also learned to facilitate the activities presented at the workshop in their own congregations.
The workshop was facilitated by the Leadership Development Institute at the Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Boston: Daniel Langenthal, Rabbi Josh Elkin, Harvey Greenberg and Guy Sapirstein.
A Conversation with R. Marc Baker, President of CJP
Wednesday, November 28
Temple Shalom in Newton
We were thrilled to welcome MBR member and new CJP President Marc Baker for a conversation about his vision for the greater Boston area Jewish community, and our leadership role as rabbis and as the MBR.
MBR Opening Program with R. Naamah Kelman
THE NEW ISRAELI REFORM SIDDUR: What's New, What's Different, & What's Israeli About It?
Thursday, October 11
Rabbi Naamah Kelman, Dean of Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem, oversees clergy training for Americans and Israelis and other programs that promote pluralism and liberal Jewish values in Israel. She shared how the new Siddur reflects some of these challenges, and her journey working for our shared causes and concerns in Jerusalem
Entering Elul: A Mindfulness Retreat with Rabbis Dan Liben and Toba Spitzer
Tuesday, August 7
As we begin preparations for our own Elul journeys and the work of the High Holydays season, we invite colleagues to join us for a morning that will include sitting and walking meditation, text study, and a mindful lunch, all in a beautiful setting at Temple Beth Elohim in Wellesley. This is an opportunity for self-care and renewal as well as an opportunity to explore teachings related to the Yamim Noraim. No meditation experience is required.
Dan and Toba are graduates of the Jewish Mindfulness Teachers Training Program of the Institute for Jewish Spirituality, long-time practitioners of mindfulness meditation, and have taught mindfulness in a variety of settings.
MBR High Holydays Seminar
Co-Sponsored by the New England Board of Cantors
Thursday, June 7
Temple Shalom, Newton
Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld
Through an exploration of a series of classical midrashim and contemporary poems, we’ll explore the theological and psychological landscape of living, leading, and loving with an acute sense of our own limitations. What is the relationship between feeling “partial” and feeling part of something larger than ourselves?
Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld is President Elect of Hebrew College. She has served for the last 11 years as dean of the Rabbinical school of Hebrew College. Prior to that, she served as Hillel Rabbi at Tufts, Yale, and Harvard for 15 years. She has been on the summer faculty of the Bronfman Youth Fellowships in Israel since 1993. She is the co-editor of The Women’s Passover Companion and The Women’s Seder Sourcebook (Jewish Lights 2003).
Jewish Wisdom for Challenging Times:
The Ten Commandments as a Roadmap to a Sustainable Society
with Dr. Jeremy Benstein
Thursday, May 17th, 2018
From the opposition to false ideals and slavery, via the Sabbath, the sanctity of life, to the prohibition on coveting (and yes, 4 more...) - these familiar concepts have some strikingly unexpected, politically cross-cutting, and timely lessons for the lives we lead and how to create a just and healthy society that will "long endure on this earth." The session will include a detailed text study, with ideas for drashot and teachings to be shared at a tikkun or other Shavuot learning experiences.
Jeremy, a native of Toledo, Ohio, moved to Israel over 30 years ago, with a dream of making Israel an inspiring society. That dream led to his co-founding the Heschel Center for Sustainability in Tel Aviv, strengthening Israel's civil society, and promoting sustainability, and progressive Judaism. He currently serves as Associate Director of the Center. Jeremy holds a BA from Harvard, an MA in Judaic Studies, and a PhD in cultural anthropology from the Hebrew University on social-environmental activism as a focus of shared citizenship between Jews and Arabs in Israel. He is the author of book The Way Into Judaism and the Environment (Jewish Lights, 2006), and is married to Dr. Annabel Herzog, and together with their five children and two cats, lives in Zichron Yaakov
June 2017 - Sermon Seminar and Israel Bonds Luncheon: Great learning with Elie Kaunfer
"Understanding the Mahzor: A Look at the High Holiday Liturgy"
Close to 30 MBR members prepared for the High Holidays by exploring, with Elie Kaunfer of Mechon Hadar, the critical areas of the liturgy. Through Elie's dynamic teaching we were able to gain a deeper sense of the unique structure of the prayers in the machzor, as well as look in-depth into specific prayers. Looking at the Untane Tokef, we enjoyed delving into the biblical and rabbinic sources of High Holiday prayers, with an eye toward deeper meaning and connection to the larger themes of the holidays.
Continuity and Change
The MBR gratefully acknowledges the work of our Executive Committee, in particular our President, David Lerner, and is happy to welcome Toba Spitzer as President for the next two years.
We also thank our Managing Director, Alan Teperow, for his service to MBR for the past 13 years and wish him well in retirement.
March 2017 - "Changing the World from the Inside Out: A Jewish Approach to Personal and Social Change"with Rabbi David Jaffe
MBR's Yom Iyyun this year explored Jewish, spiritual resources for developing the inner-characteristics needed for sustained, productive engagement in social change in today's fractious, polarizing environment. David Jaffe expertly taught classic Biblical and Rabbinic sources as well as Breslov Hassidut and Mussar. While the focus was on our own practice as rabbis and Jewish leaders, teachings and materials can also be applied to our communities. This year's Yom Iyyun is made possible through the generosity of Brezniak-Rodman Funeral Directors.
February 2017 - Historic Conversation with Muslim Leaders
On Wednesday February 8, 2017, senior leadership of the local Muslim community addressed the Mass Board of Rabbis. In what was a historical event that would have been unthinkable not too many years ago, Shaykh Yasir Fahmy, senior imam of the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, and Yusufi Vali, Executive Director of the ISBCC, spoke to a gathering of some fifty rabbis. In an atmosphere of friendship and openness, the two leaders created a personal connection with the rabbis as they shared their own stories.
In a manner of explication very similar to our own way of teaching, Shaykh Yasir taught a Muslim text, a “Hadith” on the prophet Jibreel/Gabriel, considering contemporary concerns through the lens of an ancient text. Yusufi spoke about the nature of the Muslim community in greater Boston, acknowledging the challenge of weaving one community out of the more than sixty nationalities represented in the ISBCC alone. He shared some of the immediate concerns faced by Muslims in this time of uncertainty and fear. On behalf of MBR, we sent a thank you note to the shaykh and Yusufi on the day following the discussion expressing the tone of the gathering as one of appreciation and respect, of friendship and hope.