Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld (born October 9, 1974) in Staten Island, New York (also known as Shmuel or Rav Shmuel) is an American Open Orthodox rabbi who heads the Ohev Shalom Synagogue, of Washington, DC. He is a teacher, lecturer, activist, and best-selling author.
Herzfeld received his smicha from the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary in 1999. He also received a Masters in Medieval Jewish History from Yeshiva University under the guidance of Dr. Haym Soloveitchik, where he wrote on the topic of Hechlid Be-Miut Simanim. He started a PhD under Dr. Haym Soloveitchik, but subsequently chose a career in the Rabbinate, abandoning his doctorate. He then served as the assistant Rabbi under Rabbi Avi Weiss at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale from 1999 to 2004, before transferring to Ohev Sholom.
From 2008 to 2010, Herzfeld hosted a weekly radio show called Shmoozin with Shmuel, which was aimed at Jews in the Washington, DC community, and frequently writes columns in newspapers. His writings have appeared in many publications including, The New York Times, the New York Sun, The Jewish Week, The Forward, and Washington Jewish Week. He has appeared often in the national news, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, NPR, CNN and Fox News, and is regarded as an important figure in Modern Orthodox Judaism. On May 23, 2014, Herzfeld delivered the opening prayer for the United States House of Representatives as a guest Chaplain.
His Torah thoughts are archived on his personal website.
Herzfeld is a Jewish Orthodox activist. He has been vocal on many issues, including Israel activism, Jewish outreach, the threat of anti-Semitism, gay rights, and the plight of the agunah. Herzfeld is currently the Vice President for Amcha - the coalition for Jewish concerns, a grass-roots coalition which engages in pro-Jewish activism.
Herzfeld has been outspoken regarding the problem of the agunah, appearing in a front page article in The New York Times in January 2011. This article generated a significant amount of media attention and put a spotlight on the agunah crisis within Orthodox Judaism.
Herzfeld has also been outspoken regarding Antisemitism in Europe, particularly in France. In early January, 2015, after the deadly terrorist attacks at a kosher supermarket in Paris, Herzfeld published an op-ed in the Washington Post arguing that the US should do whatever it can to welcome European Jews to the United States. Herzfeld continues to speak out in support of European Jewry, and marched with the French Ambassador at a rally in early 2015.
Under Herzfeld's leadership, the Shepherd Park eruv, first built in 2004, was merged with the Woodside eruv, creating the combined Shepherd Park/Woodside Community eruv encompassing over half a dozen synagogues and thousands of Jewish families.
Herzfeld has written three books, including in 2015 the Lieberman Open Orthodox Haggadah, a best-seller on Amazon.com and at the Jerusalem Book Fair, Fifty-Four Pick Up: Fifteen Minute Inspirational Torah Lessons in 2012, and Food for the Spirit: Inspirational Lessons from the Yom Kippur Service: The Orlofsky Edition in 2014.
In December, 2014 under Herzfeld's leadership, the Ohev Sholom Makor Chaim Mikvah opened to the public. The mikvah is a modern, clean, and fully accessible mikvah open to the entire community.
In February, 2015, Herzfeld took a leadership role in forming the Beltway Vaad, an Open Orthodox alternative to Orthodox Judaism. Herzfeld's role is Kashrut Administrator, and continues to play a role in the certification of Soupergirl, along with the DC Vaad and the Star-K of Baltimore.
Ohev Sholom - The National Synagogue
Ohev Sholom - The National Synagogue is the oldest continuous Orthodox synagogue operating in Washington, DC. It was founded in 1886 by Russian immigrants, and moved several times to other locations in Washington, before ending up at its current location at 16th and Jonquil Streets, in Washington, DC, in 1960. The synagogue was noted for its Cantor, Moshe Yoelson, the father of Al Jolson.
Herzfeld joined the synagogue in 2004, with a vision of taking the spirit of the synagogue out to the community and to welcome all Jews regardless of their prior Jewish background or training. He has been very successful, increasing the membership from 75 families to approximately 375 families as of 2015.
Ohev Sholom was the first synagogue in the United States to hire a Maharat, or an ordained Orthodox female clergy member. Ruth Balinsky Friedman joined the congregation in July, 2013.
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