Spirituality: Jerusalem rabbi brings process-shul model from Memphis

Long-term emissary merges best of US and Israeli traditions.

By SHOSHANNA KEATS-JASKOLL
December 28, 2017 13:32
Rabbi Shai Finkelstein endeavors to keep Jewish law focused on people and context at the Nitzanim sh

Rabbi Shai Finkelstein endeavors to keep Jewish law focused on people and context at the Nitzanim shul in the Baka neighborhood. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

 
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Sitting down with Rabbi Shai Finkelstein is like downshifting from a high-speed chase on a freeway to a relaxing drive on a lazy Sunday with nowhere in particular to go and all the time in the world (remember those?). His demeanor is relaxed and warm, and everything he says is measured and considered. He takes time to hear and acknowledge what the other person is saying before responding , and instead of taking stances, he speaks of process. In place of definitives, he discusses context. While many believe that things are right or wrong, Finkelstein says this is rarely so, with so much depending on people, place, and time. This seems to be at the core of his success as the beloved community rabbi of the Nitzanim shul in the capital’s Baka neighborhood and is an approach from which we can all learn.

Born in Haifa to an Israeli mother, a child of survivors, and a father born in Romania, Finkelstein served in the IDF and was ordained as a rabbi in 2000 by the Chief Rabbinate. His excellent English is from the years he and his family spent in Memphis, Tennessee, as emissaries – two years that turned into 16, during which Finkelstein also earned an MBA.

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