Shmuel Herzfeld

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July 2014, Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld

Shmuel Herzfeld (born October 9, 1974) is an American Open Orthodox rabbi. He heads Ohev Shalom Synagogue in Washington, DC. He is a teacher, lecturer, activist, and author.

Early life and education[edit]

Herzfeld is from Staten Island, New York City, New York. He is one of five children. His brother Akiva[1] is also a Rabbi. His eldest brother Baruch[2] is the founder and CEO of ZenoRadio[3] and ZenoLive.[4]

He received his smicha from the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary in 1999, and a Masters in Jewish History from Bernard Revel Graduate School of Yeshiva University. From 1999 to 2004, Rabbi Herzfeld was Associate Rabbi at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, where he was mentored by Rabbi Avi Weiss. 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 Soloveitchik but subsequently chose a career in the rabbinate, abandoning his doctorate.


Herzfeld 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,[5] and frequently wrote 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.[citation needed] He has appeared in the national news, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, NPR, CNN and Fox News.[citation needed] On May 23, 2014, Herzfeld delivered the opening prayer for the United States House of Representatives as a guest Chaplain.[6]

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.[7]

In 2004, Herzfeld began working at Ohev Sholom - The National Synagogue, the oldest continuous Orthodox synagogue operating in Washington, DC, 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 increasing the synagogue's membership from 75 families to approximately 375 families as of 2015.[8]

Ohev Sholom was the first synagogue in the United States to hire a maharat, an ordained female clergy member. Ruth Balinsky Friedman joined the congregation in July 2013.[9]

In December 2014 under Herzfeld's leadership, the Ohev Sholom Makor Chaim Mikvah[10] 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,[11] 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.


Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld delivering the opening prayer as guest chaplain at the United States House of Representatives on May 23, 2014

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,[12] 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.[13]

In 2008, The New York Times published a Herzfeld op-ed piece.[14] This article attracted media attention in NPR, other newspapers, and many blogs.

Herzfeld has been outspoken regarding the problem of the agunah, appearing in a front-page article in The New York Times in January 2011.[15] This article generated a significant amount of media attention and put a spotlight on the agunah crisis within Orthodox Judaism.

Herzfeld has also been vocal 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[16] arguing that the U.S. 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.

Herzfeld is a critic of Donald Trump and his presidential campaign. During Trump's speech to the annual AIPAC Conference in 2016, Herzfeld stood and shouted out: "Do not listen to this man. He is wicked. He inspires racists and bigots." Herzfeld later wrote: "With every cell in my body I felt the obligation as a rabbi to declare his wickedness to the world."[17]


Herzfeld has written five books:

  • Fifty-Four Pick Up: Fifteen Minute Inspirational Torah Lessons (2012)
  • Food for the Spirit: Inspirational Lessons from the Yom Kippur Service: The Orlofsky Edition (2014)
  • Lieberman Open Orthodox Haggadah (2015), a bestseller on[18] and at the Jerusalem Book Fair.[19] A second printing and Hebrew edition were published in 2016.
  • Renewal: Inspirational Lessons of Rosh Hashana (2015)
  • An Extra Seat (English and Hebrew Editions) (2016)

Herzfeld records and publishes the daily "5 Minute Daf Yomi" podcast, in which he provides a brief overview of the day's page of Talmud. He began recording podcasts in late 2015, and has received over 96,000 downloads since then.[20]

In September 2017, Herzfeld debuted the "AlefBlessed" cards, a Jewish high-holiday themed playing card series.[21][22]

Personal life[edit]

Herzfeld currently resides in Washington, DC, with his wife, Dr. Rhanni Herzfeld, and seven children.


  1. ^ "Rabbi Akiva Herzfeld - Rabbis 2013". The Forward. Retrieved 2015-11-03. 
  2. ^ "Brooklyn's Bicycle Man Uses Two Wheels To Bring Hasids and Hipsters Together". The Forward. Retrieved 2015-11-03. 
  3. ^ "Zeno Radio offers immigrants a connection to home". Metro. Retrieved 2015-11-03. 
  4. ^ "Will Listener Interaction Make the Difference for Internet Radio?". Retrieved 2015-12-30. 
  5. ^ "Weekday Daily Programming". Archived from the original on March 2, 2009. Retrieved January 13, 2016. 
  6. ^ Congressional Record, vol. 160 (no. 79), May 23, 2014
  7. ^ "Shepherd Park/Woodside Community Eruv Information". Retrieved 2014-09-22. 
  8. ^ Murphy, Carlyle (September 15, 2004). "A Rabbi's Unorthodox Revival". Retrieved 2014-06-12. 
  9. ^ Boorstein, Michelle (July 4, 2013). "In a first, a female spiritual adviser joins an Orthodox synagogue in D.C". Retrieved 2014-09-22. 
  10. ^ "Ohev Sholom Makor Chaim Mikvah". Retrieved 2015-03-25. 
  11. ^ "Beltway Vaad: Open Orthodox Leadership for the 21st Century". Retrieved 2015-03-25. 
  12. ^ Trachtman, Tal (2011-11-26). "Unorthodox Position - by James Kirchick - Tablet Magazine – Jewish News and Politics, Jewish Arts and Culture, Jewish Life and Religion". Retrieved 2015-03-10. 
  13. ^ "Casino online con bonus". 2013-09-27. Retrieved 2015-03-10. 
  14. ^ "Dark Meat". The New York Times. August 5, 2008. Retrieved 2015-03-10. 
  15. ^ "Religious Divorce Dispute Leads to Secular Protest". The New York Times. Retrieved 2015-03-10. 
  16. ^ "The U.S. should open its doors to imperiled European Jews". Retrieved 2015-03-25. 
  17. ^ Michelle Boorstein & Julie Zauzmer, Good for the Jews? Trump at AIPAC triggers protests, standing ovations — and debate, Washington Post (March 21, 2016).
  18. ^ "Lieberman Open Orthodox Haggadah". Retrieved 2015-03-25. 
  19. ^ "'Gefen Publishing Site". Retrieved 2016-05-06. 
  20. ^ "5 Minute Daf on Podbean". Retrieved 2017-09-26. 
  21. ^ "A D.C. rabbi enlists some comic book collaborators for a blessed project". Retrieved 2017-09-26. 
  22. ^ ""That wacky rabbi is at it again: 'Matzoh Man' has a new idea"". Retrieved 2017-09-26. 

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