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In our nearly 170-year history, only six senior rabbis have led Washington Hebrew Congregation.
Their vision and dedication have guided our growth and evolution.
Louis Stern came to Washington Hebrew in 1872 as “Chazen and Leader in Hebrew and Jewish Religion.” He guided the Congregation through the construction of our first building in 1897, the acquisition of a cemetery, and the development of our Reform liturgy and rituals.
Rabbi Abram Simon came to our Congregation in 1904 and dedicated his life to scholarship and community activity. He was a member of the Red Cross during World War I, he broadcast radio lectures, and he served as the president of D.C.’s Board of Education and the Conference of Christians and Jews. After his death, his name was given to an elementary school on Mississippi Avenue SE. Today, Temple members honor Rabbi Simon’s impact by partnering with Simon Elementary School to provide tutoring for students and resources for teachers.
Rabbi Norman Gerstenfeld, who initially served as Assistant Rabbi, succeeded Rabbi Simon 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. We were fortunate to capture several of Rabbi Haberman’s lectures and discussions on video. We invite you to view them by clicking here.
Rabbi Joseph P. Weinberg became the fifth senior rabbi in 1986. He infused creativity into every facet of the Congregation and guided both the renovation of Kaufmann Sanctuary and the creation of the Albert & Shirley Small Chapel complex. He led WHC’s involvement in Soviet Jewry, the establishment of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, and the security of the State of Israel. His call for social justice helped establish the Carrie Simon House, a transitional residence for homeless mothers and their infants. A strong advocate of civil rights and social justice, Rabbi Weinberg had marched with Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma, and after King’s death, he created our annual interfaith MLK Shabbat tradition.
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 Eliana Fischel, 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.
Rabbi Susan Shankman has been a Rabbi at Washington Hebrew Congregation for more than 20 years; she was elected senior rabbi in August 2022. Her vision is a commitment to creating a caring, compassionate, inclusive community that provides opportunities to pursue deep Jewish learning as well as joyful worship and holiday observances. At the heart of her rabbinate is a focus on social justice, outreach to interfaith families, and a dedication to ongoing dialogue with the interfaith community. Rabbi Shankman was ordained by the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 2001.
3935 Macomb Street NW
Washington, DC 20016
11810 Falls Road
Potomac, MD 20854
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