Rabbi Josh Zweiback Appointed Director of the Year-In-Israel Program at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Jerusalem

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Rabbi David Ellenson, President of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR), has announced the appointment of Rabbi Josh Zweiback as Director of the Year-In-Israel Program at HUC-JIR in Jerusalem, effective July 1, 2009.

“The appointment of Rabbi Josh Zweiback as Director of our Year-in-Israel program inaugurates an exciting new era in rabbinical education at the College-Institute.  His intellectual ability, his Jewish knowledge, his religious sensibility, his love of Israel and Hebrew, his musical talents, and his wealth of congregational and educational experience in the American rabbinate make him uniquely qualified to play a creative role in the formation of our students as they begin their quest for religious leadership in the Jewish world,” said Rabbi Ellenson and Rabbi Michael Marmur, Dean, HUC-JIR/Jerusalem.

Ordained by HUC-JIR's New York campus in 1998 and trained as a Jewish Educator with an M.A.J.E. from the Rhea Hirsch School of Education, Rabbi Zweiback has served Congregation Beth Am in Los Altos Hills for the past ten and a half years. He began his career at Beth Am as Adult Learning Coordinator, the movement's first full-time adult educator. He was later promoted to Senior Educator, tasked with overall responsibility for all of Beth Am's education programs. For the past three years, Rabbi Zweiback has focused on the pulpit and pastoral components of synagogue life, sharing fully in the preaching and lifecycle load of the congregation with his Beth Am colleagues.

During his tenure at Beth Am, Rabbi Zweiback initiated numerous educational programs including Tzavta, a family b'nai mitzvah enrichment program; Hagigah, a theater based children's education program; Hadracha, a teacher training initiative; and helped found Gan Ami, Beth Am's early childhood education program.

Rabbi Zweiback supervised all aspects of Beth Am's adult education program and particularly enjoyed the opportunity to teach courses in Talmud, Zionism, Jewish mysticism, Tzedakah, Modern Jewish Thought with a focus on the writings of Emanuel Levinas, and Reform Judaism. He worked with colleagues to create and implement a Lifelong Jewish Learning Map, which serves as a curriculum of Jewish studies for all ages of synagogue life. For the past five years, Rabbi Zweiback has served as a Visiting Lecturer at HUC-JIR's Rhea Hirsch School of Education in Los Angeles, teaching a course in Adult Curriculum.

He has a passion for communal programming and initiated the Peninsula Night of Jewish Unity, which is now in its eleventh year.  This event brings together over twenty Jewish institutions in the Bay Area for an evening of Jewish learning and attracts over 500 people from all of the movements of Judaism.

He has taught 7th grade Jewish Studies at the Gideon Hausner Jewish Community Day School in Palo Alto for four years. He developed an approach to teaching Pirkei Avot through song composition, which culminates each year in the debut of recordings written and performed by the students (http://www.hausner.com/avot/).

Four years ago, Rabbi Zweiback helped launch Beth Am's Fund for the Future Endowment campaign, which just reached its goal of building a four million dollar programmatic endowment for the congregation.

“Yoshi Zweiback will bring to our Year-In-Israel Program his unique and inspiring energies as dynamic congregational rabbi, master educator, songleader/musician, and social activist. Throughout his rabbinic career, he has been a leader in the transformation and revitalization of Reform Judaism in the congregation, the classroom, and the broader Jewish communal world.  This appointment marks a new era for the enhancement of our program and the impact it can have for our students and graduates.  Rabbi Zweiback’s move to HUC-JIR/Jerusalem with his wife and three daughters is a significant expression of the centrality of Israel to American Reform Judaism. He will leave his mark on all our American and Israeli programs and be a wonderful and crucial addition to our staff,” said Rabbi Naamah Kelman, Associate Dean, HUC-JIR/Jerusalem, who will become Dean of the Jerusalem campus on July 1, 2009.

As an HUC-JIR student, Rabbi Zweiback founded KAVOD, a tzedakah collective dedicated to promoting human dignity (http://www.kavod.org). He continues to serve as KAVOD's Volunteer Executive Director. KAVOD's board includes fourteen graduates of HUC-JIR. Six years ago, in partnership with the College-Institute, KAVOD initiated a Tzedakah Fellowship program which affords HUC-JIR students the opportunity to learn how to raise and distribute tzedakah funds efficiently and effectively.  Since its inception, KAVOD has distributed over $750,000 with an overhead of just $75.

Rabbi Zweiback is a musician and composer who has served as a songleader at various movement camps and in youth group settings for over twenty years. As part of Mah Tovu (http://www.mahtovu.com), he has released three albums and published two books. Mah Tovu has performed across the United States and their melodies have found their way into camps as well as synagogues.

His publications include the teacher's guide to Shalom Ivrit II; Day of Days; and Days of Wonder, Nights of Peace: Family Prayers in Song for Morning and Bedtime, all from Behrman House Publishing. Numerous sermons have been published in The American Rabbi. He wrote a chapter in Theological Terms in the Talmud, edited by Dr. Eugene Borowitz. He has served on the editorial board of BabagaNewz Magazine since its inception in 2001.

Born in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Rabbi Zweiback was raised in Omaha, Nebraska. His father, Dr. Speedy Zweiback, and his mother of blessed memory, Hermene Zweiback, made Jewish education and Jewish community a priority for Josh and his sister and brother. He attended Princeton University, graduating magna cum laude, Phi Betta Kappa in 1991.

He is especially excited about bringing his eleven years of congregational experience as an educator, rabbi, and musician to the first-year students in Jerusalem. He also looks forward to pursuing a Ph.D. in Jewish Education.

Rabbi Zweiback is married to Jacqueline Hantgan who is a public policy advocate and organizer. in the field of stem-cell research. Jacqueline and Josh met in Jerusalem in 1992 and have long wanted to return there to live. They have three children: Isa, Ariela, and Naomi.


Founded in 1875, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion is the nation's first institution of higher Jewish education and the academic, spiritual, and professional leadership development center of Reform Judaism. HUC-JIR educates men and women for service to 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 American Jewish Archives, 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. www.huc.edu