In our history of over 160 years, only six senior rabbis have led Washington Hebrew Congregation. Their vision and dedication have guided our Congregation and have greatly contributed to our growth and evolution.
Louis Stern was engaged in 1872 as "Chazen and Leader in Hebrew and Jewish Religion" and guided the Congregation through the construction of its first building, the acquisition of a cemetery, and the development of Reform liturgy and ritual.
Rabbi Abram Simon came to the Congregation in 1904 and dedicated his life to scholarship and community activity. He was a member of the Red Cross during World War I, broadcast radio lectures, and was president of both the Board of Education in Washington as well as the Conference of Christians and Jews. After his death, the District named a public elementary school in Anacostia The Abram Simon School. Today, Temple members honor Rabbi Simon's impact by partnering with Simon Elementary to provide tutoring for students and resources for teachers.
Rabbi Norman Gerstenfeld, who served as an assistant rabbi to Rabbi Simon, succeeded him in 1938. Rabbi Gerstenfeld was a brilliant orator, and for more than 30 years was a remarkable presence in the District's religious life and in the national Reform movement. He also guided the construction of our current home on Macomb Street NW.
Rabbi Joshua O. Haberman accepted an invitation to become senior rabbi in 1969. He reintroduced the Congregation to many of the beautiful traditions that early Reform Judaism had discarded. His scholarship and love of learning enhanced the spirituality of the Congregation throughout his tenure. He also nurtured a growing connection between our Congregation and the State of Israel and presided over the construction of the Julia Bindeman Suburban Center in Potomac, Maryland in 1976.
Rabbi Joseph P. Weinberg became the fifth senior rabbi in 1986 and infused creativity into every facet of the Congregation. His call for social justice helped establish the Carrie Simon House, a transitional home for homeless mothers and their infants. He also guided the renovation of the Kaufmann Sanctuary and the creation of the Albert & Shirley Small Chapel complex. He led our congregation's involvement in such issues as civil rights (where he marched with the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.), Soviet Jewry, the founding of the U.S. Holocaust Museum, and the security of the State of Israel.
Rabbi M. Bruce Lustig became senior rabbi in 1999. A creator of a sense of community, a social activist who pioneered Mitzvah Day (now adopted around the country), and a caring pastor, Rabbi Lustig is leading the Congregation into an exciting and promising future. With Cantors Mikhail Manevich and Susan Bortnick, and Rabbis Susan Shankman, Aaron Miller, and Joseph Skloot, the journey of Washington Hebrew Congregation continues to thrive as a Beit Knesset, a house of communal gathering, a Beit Midrash, a house of Jewish study, and a Beit Tefilah, a house of prayer.