Congregation Celebrating 50 Years with Torah Writing Project
Rabbi Fred Greene, the new senior rabbi at Congregation Har HaShem in Boulder, sees the congregation’s 50th anniversary this year as an opportunity to deepen the Jewish journeys of congregants.
“I want to journey with you,” said Rabbi Greene, who will be formally installed as senior rabbi on October 23. “And I believe to make our journeys meaningful, we need Torah in our lives.”
As part of that, Har HaShem’s Board of Trustees and Rabbi Greene recently announced that Har HaShem will celebrate its 50th anniversary by a hiring sofer, a scribe, to write a new Torah scroll, which contains the Five Books of Moses in Hebrew. Members of the congregation also will have a chance to participate in writing the scroll.
“This is going to be a year of writing a Sefer Torah, learning Torah, having encounters with Torah, and being a community whose love of Torah will nurture ourselves and our house, Congregation Har HaShem,” he said.
Rabbi Greene began his tenure at Har HaShem on July 1 following a one-year search process. He was hired following the departure of Rabbi Joshua Rose, who left Har HaShem in June 2014 to take a position at a congregation in his hometown of Portland, Oregon. Rabbi Mark Glickman served as an interim rabbi for one year while the congregation considered its future and the personality and strengths desired in the next rabbi.
“I came to Har HaShem to do synagogue work a bit differently,” Rabbi Greene said. “To make Torah a living Torah, not an artifact. I want to advance social justice with people who want a better future. I want to be a part of an authentic, caring community . . . I want to be a part of a community where we believe one another matters. I want to be a part of a Jewish community that wants to shine its light to bring warmth and light to others.”
Barry Baer, president of the Har HaShem Board of Trustees, noted that Rabbi Greene’s journey is now intertwined with that of Har HaShem congregants. “I have found Rabbi Greene to be a mensch,” a person of integrity and honor. “He is a caring person full of life, dedicated to our community and to helping each of us along our Jewish journey.”
Rabbi Greene traces his roots as a rabbi to the summer of 1985. That was when his father died of cancer while Rabbi Greene, then only 15, was attending a Jewish youth group leadership camp.
He left camp to observe Shiva, a seven-day Jewish ritual of mourning, and then later returned for a second session of the camp. He was comforted by counselors, rabbis and fellow teens, people he remains very close to today.
“That was my first example of what an inclusive and supportive Jewish group looks like. It had a tremendous impact on how I see the function of a Jewish community,” Rabbi Greene said.
His father’s death brought not only communal support, but also inspired a broad set of big questions. Some well-meaning comments, such as “God needed your father,” or that his father’s death would make the youngster stronger, sometimes led to anger.
“Why did God need my father?” Rabbi Greene recalled thinking. “I needed my father . . .That led me to think a lot about the end of life. What is the purpose of life, and where is God’s hand, and how does that work? That took me to a very interesting place. That really was a defining moment.”
Three decades later, one of his fellow campers, now also a rabbi, recalled that summer in a blog post.
“I can’t think of anyone who was more widely loved than Fred,” wrote Rabbi Jason Rosenberg of Congregation Beth Am in Tampa, Florida. “I think that it was his kindness and sincerity that made so many of us admire him — there was a strength in his kindness that was palpable.”
Rabbi Rosenberg will officiate at Rabbi Greene’s installation as Har HaShem’s rabbi. They not only were campers together in 1985, but they were classmates at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, the Reform movement’s seminary.
“One of the great, great joys of rabbinical school for me was getting the chance to truly become his friend. He was so well respected among our class — everyone knew how seriously he took his studies. But his passion is always expressed with a gentleness and a warm-heartedness, and an overabundance of humility.”
Rabbi Greene also officiated at Rabbi Rosenberg’s marriage to his wife, Hillary, in 2000.
“Fred is so warm and sincere that we knew he’d be great as an officiant. And we both love him and his family, so we knew that would make it more special. When you throw in our long connection, going back to summer camp, it was pretty much a no-brainer,” Rabbi Rosenberg said.
The installation ceremony will be held during regular Shabbat services at 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 23, followed by a series of celebratory installation events throughout the weekend, including a Saturday worship service and Torah study, a Saturday night Havdalah and social event, and Sunday school activities with students and parents. The community is invited to join the Friday and Saturday celebrations by making a reservation through www.harhashem.org.
Rabbi Greene and his wife, Deborah, have three daughters: Yael, who is a junior in high school; Leora, who is in 10th grade; and Noa, who is in 7th grade.
Rabbi Greene previously served as rabbi of Temple Beth Tikvah in Roswell, Georgia, for nine years, and prior to that was associate rabbi at Congregation B’nai Israel in Bridgeport, Connecticut, for five years.
A native of East Meadow, New York, on Long Island, he has worked with different agencies to promote social justice; address addiction, food insecurity and homelessness; and to protect civil rights. He has been a strong advocate for youth engagement and Jewish summer camp experiences.
Rabbi Greene also worked for organizations such as the New Israel Fund, and in different departments of the Union for Reform Judaism focusing on adult education, membership engagement and outreach to those who feel vulnerable in the Jewish community.
He received his B.A. in Political Science and Jewish Studies from Hofstra University, and an M.A. in Hebrew Literature and ordination from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, New York, in 2001. He remains an active member of the Central Conference of American Rabbis.
Follow Rabbi Greene and his wife, Deborah, on Facebook; Rabbi Greene also writes a blog called “ayekah – where are you” at https://ayekah.wordpress.com and is active on Twitter at https://twitter.com/rabbigreene. His wife writes a blog called “Reflecting Out Loud” at http://reflectingoutloud.net.