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:
$600-chapel service (effective June 2012)
$550-graveside service (effective December 2012)
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.
Sermon Seminar and Israel Bonds Luncheon features Great Learning with Elie Kaunfer
Understanding the Mahzor: A Look at the High Holiday Liturgy
Join us on June 7th from 9:30 am - 2:00 pm, as we prepare for the High Holidays by looking at the critical areas of the liturgy. We will gain a deeper sense of the unique structure of these prayers, as well as look in-depth into specific prayers. We will delve into the biblical and rabbinic sources of these prayers, with an eye toward deeper meaning and connection to the larger themes of the holidays.
Rabbi Elie Kaunfer is President and CEO of Mechon Hadar. Elie has previously worked as a journalist, banker, and corporate fraud investigator. A graduate of Harvard College, he completed his doctorate in liturgy at the Jewish Theological Seminary, where he was also ordained.
A Wexner Graduate Fellow and Dorot Fellow, Elie is a co-founder of the independent minyan Kehilat Hadar and has been named multiple times to Newsweek's list of the top 50 rabbis in America. He was selected as an inaugural AVI CHAI Fellow, and is the author of Empowered Judaism: What Independent Minyanim Can Teach Us About Building Vibrant Jewish Communities (Jewish Lights, 2010).
Continuity and Change
Please join us at 9:30 am sharp to thank our outgoing Managing Director, Alan Teperow for 13 years of service to the MBR and David Lerner who completes his term of president. We will also elect our new Executive Committee and welcome our new president, Toba Spitzer.
In the Community
Statement on Transgender Inclusion
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.
Black Lives Matter — A Statement of Jewish Solidarity by the Massachusetts Board of Rabbis
The Massachusetts Board of Rabbis reaches out in solidarity with African Americans and with all Americans of conscience. We express outrage in response to the recent police killings of black males in our cities, two adults and a child, and deep concern over the failure of grand juries to indict. Grieving with their families, we honor the memories of Michael Brown, of Eric Garner, of twelve-year-old Tamir Rice.
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
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.
December 2016 - Community Study discussion with CJP
CJP has commissioned community surveys every decade since 1965. This year’s study is deeper than prior surveys, administered in cooperation with the Cohen Center at Brandeis University. According to CJP officials, 70% of all Jewish households in Greater Boston received the survey.
The purpose of MBR's meeting was for CJP to share key findings and themes that have emerged from the 2015 Study, including significant changes in the structure and character of Jewish life as compared to prior years.
Here are some of the highlights of the study:
• Geographic shifts (e.g. growth into Cambridge, Somerville and Central Boston)
• Increasing diversity, including 11% of all households reporting that they are “just getting along,” 8% Israelis, 7% LGBTQ and 12% households with a disability
• New ways of connecting
• Boston Jews decreasingly identify with a denomination and there has been a small reduction in synagogue membership. The synagogue remains the largest institution, by far, that engages the Jewish community.
• Interfaith families parallel involvement of in-married families
• Jewish education (formal) has gone down in in-married households and has increased in interfaith households. Informal Jewish education has increased for all families
• 2/3 of all Boston Jewish households have been to Israel
• Most parents are more concerned that they have Jewish grandchildren than that their children marry within the faith
Results of the survey are posted on www.cjp.com, with comparisons to prior surveys.
November 2016 - Workshop: "Respecting Broken Tablets: including and supporting community members whose lives are changed by Alzheimer's or a related disorder"
Beth Soltzberg, MSW, MBA, Director of the Alzheimer's/Related Disorders Family Support Program at JF&CS, and a coordinator of the Dementia Friendly Massachusetts Initiative, led a moving discussion about the profound and growing impact of dementia on our community. Alzheimer's has been termed "the theological disease" because of its unique challenges to concepts of personhood. Yet, as the prevalence of these conditions grows with our aging society, those living with dementia and those who care about them are speaking out more and more, and their experiences are motivating a fresh, hopeful and inclusive approach.
Beth’s presentation addressed the following important issues: (1) dementia fundamentals and concrete tips for communicating with someone who has dementia; (2) inspiration from success stories in synagogues and other faith communities around the U.S. and the world; (3) an update on efforts underway in Massachusetts communities, including a pilot initiative at Temple Shir Tikvah in Winchester; and (4) resources to learn more, and suggested ways that synagogues and other Jewish community organizations can help keep those living with dementia woven into the fabric of our community.
September 2016 - "Surrender and Rebirth" with Nehemia Polen
The MBR was privileged to study with Rabbi Nehemia Polen for its opening meeting in Elul, exploring the topic of "Surrender and Rebirth: The Spiritual Cycle of the High Holy Day Season. The three texts we learned at this exquisite learning session all relate to transformation and teshuvah. According to Polen, "we tend to focus on the very same thing every year, so we have to wonder whether this process is working. In this spirit we are looking at three Hasidic texts that are deeply concerned with return in the metaphysical sense - return to some place it all began (or before it all began). This is return before rigidity and habit began. Ultimately, incubation of new spirit can emerge and become transforming.”