Rabbi Meir Azari ’92
Bet Daniel Congregation, Tel Aviv, Israel
What is your mission as the Rabbi of your congregation in Israel?
In the last thirty years, I have tried to open the hearts and minds of millions of Israelis living less than an hour from our community to the story of Reform Judaism, to tell them Judaism can be fun, interesting, vibrant, and modern. I believe that our mission is not only to serve our congregants, but also the entire community around us. Most of our activities are geared toward the secular population of the Tel Aviv region. We are there for them when they celebrate the joy of Judaism through lifecycle events and we support them when they reach difficult moments in their lives.
How does your work strengthen the Jewish community in Israel?
Every year, I meet hundreds of families who celebrate lifecycle events – weddings, b’nei mitzvah, conversions, etc. These events bring thousands of Israelis in contact with Reform Judaism every month. For most of them, this is the first time they experience egalitarian, progressive Judaism. Additionally, I am proud of our work at Beit Daniel, in which we have had the privilege to mentor and guide 15 rabbis who are now serving congregations and institutions that impact the Jewish People all over the world.
How did your education at HUC prepare you for your career?
Most of my years at HUC in Jerusalem, I was the only student. It taught me to think and work independently, creatively, and to understand that sometimes I will have to face the challenges that this work presents on my own. I think that, in the modern era, rabbis need to be more than just a scholar or a great speaker, he or she needs to be a great entrepreneur. These lessons have helped me a great deal in my 31 years at The Daniel Centers for Progressive Judaism.
What impact are you having in advancing Jewish identity, education, and engagement?
I believe that I have played some role in helping shape Reform Judaism here in Israel. During my thirty years serving the community, the Reform movement underwent a transformation here in Israel to a form that better met the needs of Israelis. I had the privilege to be at the forefront of shaping Reform services and lifecycle events into what they are today. I am also proud of Mishkenot Ruth Daniel, the education center and guest house we established, alongside our ability to raise the resources, to serve 60,000 guests who arrive from abroad each year. And, I am also proud of the student rabbis who have studied with and taught me over the years who will serve as the future of our movement all over the world.
Describe HUC in one word.