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Rabbi Lawrence W. Raphael

A national leader in Reform Jewish education

20632LarryTorahWEB200Rabbi Lawrence Raphael joined Congregation Sherith Israel as our ninth senior rabbi in 2003 following 30 years as a faculty member and dean at Hebrew Union College in New York.

Prior to coming to Sherith Israel, Rabbi Raphael was the first director of the department of Adult Jewish Growth at the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (1996-2003). There he created Torah study programs for both individuals and congregations. He also initiated popular study retreats and programs on adult spirituality. 

Deeply involved in training the next generation of rabbis, cantors and Jewish educators throughout much of his career, Rabbi Raphael served as national director of continuing education for the Rabbinic Alumni Association of the Hebrew Union College and the Central Conference of American Rabbis (1993-1996). 

During his 30 years in New York, Rabbi Raphael also led annual High Holy Day services for hundreds of young adults and college students. The participatory services, sponsored by the Metropolitan Conference of the National Federation of Temple Brotherhoods and the Hebrew Union College, created a unique community for young people building adult lives in the midst of a busy city.

Above all, Rabbi Raphael sees synagogues as transformative places for both individuals and communities. “Synagogues are where we grow Jews,” he says. “Synagogues are where we fortify the Jewish spirit, address issues of Jewish literacy, cement the bonds of Jewish peoplehood, enhance the vibrancy of Jewish life, deepen our faith in God and engage in the work of making this a better world.” 

A native of Los Angeles, Rabbi Raphael graduated from UC Santa Cruz (1967), where he founded and became the first president of the UC Santa Cruz Alumni Association. He was ordained at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati (1974) and earned his Ph.D. in leadership and higher education from New York University (1990).

A mystery buff, Rabbi Raphael edited two volumes of Jewish mystery fiction, Criminal Kabbalah and Mystery Midrash, now in its third printing. He also loves Jewish stories and poetry, both of which he uses frequently during services and talks.

Rabbi Raphael and his wife, Terrie, are the parents of Matthew, Andrew and Rachel.

Click here to learn more about Rabbi Larry Raphael’s perspective on the role of synagogues in American Jewish life.