HUC-JIR Remembers Rabbi Marcus Burstein z"l - Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion
Skip to main content

HUC-JIR Remembers Rabbi Marcus Burstein z"l

Main Content
Thursday, October 20, 2016

Teacher, Friend, Positive Outlook – Rabbi Marcus Burstein z"l
By Rabbi Mark Kaiserman '97, Cincinnati

To learn from Rabbi Marcus Burstein was to learn directly from Marcus’s self. He modeled in example, in personality, in generosity of soul, and in love of the world around him. You were always learning from him because he was always a mensch.

Marcus and I were friends since we were both at HUC-JIR, but we never shared a campus or a class. We met on a program for rabbis and cantors to go to Germany and interact with German Christian seminary students. I first laid eyes on him in Newark airport and within minutes I knew we would be friends for life. Marcus was inherently genuine, full of joy, loved Judaism, and everyone who met him found they instantly had a teacher of life and friend forever.

Marcus exemplified Pirke Avot 6:1, “Yehoshua said: Make for yourself a teacher; acquire for yourself a friend; and judge every person on the positive side.”

In Marcus you always had all three at once. By your side, he would celebrate a world of possibility. He was ever a caring and devoted companion. And he helped you uncover new lessons from the world.

One area that truly exemplified Marcus’s blessings was a rabbinic mentor. Marcus loved being a mentor in the rabbinic mentoring program. He was genuinely exuberant when he was preparing to spent Shabbat with a student, not to show off his own experience and wisdom, but to enjoy learning from someone and seeing them shine in their pulpit. It was his way. Not to tell, but to share; Not to look for the flaws, but to celebrate the successes; Not to create an imbalance of status, but to work alongside as partners.

Marcus lived his dedication to HUC-JIR, to the rabbinate and to his colleagues through his devotion to and leadership of the Rabbinic Alumni Association. He served with great distinction as its president and as its representative to the College-Institute’s Board of Governors.

Rabbi Marcus Burstein passed away just after this past Yom Kippur ended in 2016 following a tremendous battle with cancer. It was almost as if he wanted to let everyone have the power of the holidays before his own needs intruded.

As Rabbi Amy Schwartzman put it in his eulogy, “He carried his rabbinic integrity, his spirituality and his love of Judaism everywhere he went.  All of us got the whole package with Marcus – and an impressive package it was - intellectual, enthusiastic, upbeat, funny, sometimes silly, thoughtful and always kind.“

Pirke Avot said it too: He was always our teacher; He made everyone his friend; and he always judged every person on the positive side. May his memory be for a blessing.

Rabbi Burstein and his family have asked that donations be made to HUC-JIR to support the Rabbinic Mentor Program at HUC-JIR in New York or to one of the other worthy tzedakah funds noted below.

Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion
Rabbi Marcus L. Burstein Fund
Brookdale Center
One West Fourth Street
New York, NY 10012

Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (List Rabbi Marcus Burstein in “In memory of” section)
Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
2027 Massachusetts Ave NW
Washington, D.C. 20036

Rabbi Marcus Burstein Fund Sending Youth to Israel at Temple Rodef Shalom
Temple Rodef Shalom
2100 Westmoreland Street
Falls Church, VA 22043

Condolence messages may be sent to:
Eric Larson
25 Hudson Drive
Dobbs Ferry, NY 10522

Arlene and Julian Burstein
440 Westgate Drive
Edison, NJ 08820

Founded in 1875, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion is North America's leading institution of higher Jewish education and the academic, spiritual, and professional leadership development center of Reform Judaism. HUC-JIR educates leaders to serve North American and world Jewry as rabbis, cantors, educators, and nonprofit management professionals, and offers graduate programs to scholars and clergy of all faiths. With centers of learning in Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, and New York, HUC-JIR's scholarly resources comprise the renowned Klau Library, The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, museums, research institutes and centers, and academic publications. In partnership with the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, HUC-JIR sustains the Reform Movement's congregations and professional and lay leaders. HUC-JIR's campuses invite the community to cultural and educational programs illuminating Jewish heritage and fostering interfaith and multiethnic understanding.