Daniel Zemel, Rabbi
“If it’s not broken, break it!” Senior Rabbi Daniel G. Zemel, Temple Micah’s rabbi since 1983, says that much of the model of organized Jewish life in America is broken, but too much of the establishment doesn’t realize it. Temple Micah has come to embrace these ways, which are reflected in the congregation’s restlessness, willingness to grow in ways tangible and intangible, and open-minded approach. “We seek to be good citizens in the nation’s capital through our sponsorship of Micah House, a group home for formerly homeless women in recovery from addiction, as well as many other good deed projects in the community. We seek energy and creativity in our worship. Our approach to Jewish education is constantly evolving,” says Zemel. He feels his primary role at Micah is as a cultural translator— grappling with the challenge of “translating” the inherited Jewish past into a theology and practice that speaks to today.
He loves Temple Micah. One member describes the congregation as “a smart, messy place with a soul.” He finds all three of those designations uplifting. After all, everything that is hard is messy.
A graduate of Brown University, Rabbi Zemel received his rabbinic ordination from the New York campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1979. Over the years, he has been involved in numerous community and Jewish organizations but derives greatest satisfaction from being a founder of Micah House. His twenty year involvement with Synagogue 2000 was instrumental in shaping his vision of synagogue life and the role of rabbi. Rabbi Zemel has written many articles and essays on a wide variety of Jewish topics. He has contributed an essay to each volume of the Prayers of Awe series, a multi-volume commentary on the High Holy Day liturgy.
Rabbi Zemel is blessed with a loving family that is the center of his life. When not at Micah, he is either with family, visiting Israel, reading, studying, thinking, or dreaming of his beloved Chicago White Sox playing in the World Series.
Contact Rabbi Zemel:
“Israel at Seventy” – Yom Haatzmaut Sermon 2018
“An Open Letter to the Israeli prime minister” – Washington Jewish Week, February 22, 2018
“My Sense of God” – December 2, 2017
“The American Synagogue: In Search of Profundity” – Yom Kippur 5778
“5777/5778” – Rosh Hashanah 5778
Rabbi Zemel in the Washington Post – “He said he wouldn’t preach politics. Then Trump won, and he gave his sermon in tears.”
“We Will Rise” Sermon Following the Election – November 11, 2016
“Job Encounters the Machzor” – Kol Nidre 5777
“Not Dead Inside” – Rosh Hashanah 5777
“Israel: The Place I Love That Does Not Love Me in Return Or I Am Still a Zionist” – Rosh Hashannah 5775
Josh Beraha, Associate Rabbi, Director of Congregational Learning
Rabbi Beraha grew up in Providence, Rhode Island and spent many wonderful and formative summers first as a camper and later as a counselor at the Union for Reform Judaism’s OSRUI camp in Oconomowoc, WI. Before entering rabbinical school Rabbi Beraha earned a B.A. in history and Hebrew literature from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an M.A. in education through the New York City Teaching Fellows Program. He then spent five years teaching students with special needs at a public school on the Lower East Side of Manhattan and working for several local alternative Hebrew schools and Jewish organizations. During his time at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Rabbi Beraha was awarded the prestigious Bonnie and Daniel Tisch Rabbinical Fellowship in recognition of academic success and leadership potential, which brought him to Temple Micah as an intern. He also served as a rabbinic intern at the CCAR Press where he was involved in the creation of the new Reform Machzor and Sharing the Journey: A Hagaddah for the Contemporary Family. His rabbinic thesis was entitled, “Do Jews Believe? The Rise and Fall of Jewish Theology in Post World War II America.” He was ordained in 2014.
Rabbi Beraha is overjoyed to begin his rabbinic career here at Micah as an Assistant Rabbi and Director of Congregational Learning. And when he’s not pondering how to develop a culture of radical passion for Jewish learning, or how best to create and sustain a shared quest for Jewish identity through experience and study for all members of Micah, you’ll find him listening to music, brewing fancy coffee, and running around town with his wife Nani, and their three very loud and lively children—Raphael, Maya, and Lily.
Contact Rabbi Beraha: