Five Great Neck rabbis with widely differing points of view on many issues met to address the question Are We Still One People? at their annual Rabbinic Dialogue at Temple Israel of Great Neck on Feb. 3. The discussion brought together the religious leaders from the community’s largest Reform, Conservative and Orthodox congregations, as well as the rabbi of a major Iranian synagogue.
The rabbis will come together again, and the community is invited to ask questions following the rabbi’s discussion, A Frank Look at the Political, Religious and Social Issues That Are Dividing the American Jewish Community, at Temple Israel on Sunday, March 5. The program will feature Rabbis Tara and Meir Feldman of Reform Temple Beth-El, Rabbi Howard Stecker of Conservative Temple Israel, Rabbi Dale Polakoff of Orthodox Great Neck Synagogue and Rabbi Yamin Levy of the Iranian congregation Beth Hadassah. The rabbis selected the topic and say they will welcome comments from the audience.
“I’m excited about the discussion,” said Rabbi Stecker of Temple Israel. “I think it will be a lively exchange.”
The program, started many years ago by the Men’s Club of Temple Israel and the Brotherhood of Temple Beth-El, originally featured Rabbi Mordecai Waxman of Temple Israel and Rabbi Jerome K. Davidson of Temple Beth-El. Drawing big crowds over the years, the annual program expanded to include the other rabbis, as well.
Rabbi Meir Feldman, who came to Temple Beth-El in 2009, shares the pulpit with his wife, Rabbi Tara Feldman. Meir Feldman began his career as an associate at a prestigious Wall Street law firm and then as a federal prosecutor in Los Angeles.
“If someone had told me then what my life would be like now, I would never have believed it,” he said. He attended Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion and, in 2001, started a biweekly Park Slope Friday Night Minyan. From 2002–04 he served as a Rabbinic Fellow at the Upper West Side’s B’nai Jeshurun.
Rabbi Tara Feldman earned a BA in Russian language and literature from Vassar College, an MA in elementary education from Lesley College and was ordained by Hebrew Union College in 2001. She held a number of associate positions before becoming co-senior rabbi with her husband. A Jew-by-choice, she is the mother of two and a lifelong exercise enthusiast, with interests in yoga, mediation and storytelling.
Rabbi Stecker has served as the senior rabbi of Temple Israel since the end of 2003, and his contract with the congregation was recently renewed for another 10-year period. He previously served for seven years as the rabbi of the Jewish Community Center of West Hempstead and for four years as the assistant rabbi of the Shelter Rock Jewish Center in Roslyn. He received his BA degree in English literature from Columbia University in 1987 and his master’s in Bible from the Jewish Theological Seminary, where he was ordained in 1992. He has served as president of the Rabbinical Assembly of Nassau and Suffolk, an officer of the New York Board of Rabbis and as a board member of the Solomon Schechter High School of Long Island.
Rabbi Polakoff is in his 30th year as the senior rabbi of Great Neck Synagogue. He served as president of The Rabbinical Assembly of America and has been deeply involved in numerous communal causes, including the Orthodox Caucus and the Beth Din of America. Before coming to Great Neck Synagogue, he served as the assistant rabbi of a congregation on Manhattan’s Upper East Side and the rabbi of a congregation in Morristown, NJ.
Rabbi Levy is the senior rabbi of Beth Hadassah Synagogue, Iranian Jewish Center of Great Neck, and is also the rabbi of the Long Island Hebrew Academy in Great Neck. For the past 22 years, he has held positions in the rabbinate in Highland Park, NJ, and Seattle, WA, as well as in Great Neck. In addition, he has held educational positions at various yeshivas and is the author of a number of acclaimed articles.
The program will begin at 10 a.m. in Temple Israel’s sanctuary, located at 108 Old Mill Rd.