Rabbi Avi Weiss to speak at Berkeley’s Beth Israel

Rabbi Avi Weiss, longtime Jewish activist and leader of the Open Orthodox movement, will speak on Sunday, Sept. 18, at Congregation Beth Israel in Berkeley as part of a weekend marking Rabbi Yonatan Cohen’s 10 years at the synagogue.

Rabbi Avi Weiss

Also speaking during the event will be Rabbi Saul Berman, who in 1963 was hired to be the first rabbi at the Modern Orthodox shul. Now a professor of Jewish studies at Stern College of Yeshiva University in New York, Berman will speak about “Repentance for Failures in Friendship.”

Among other things, Weiss is the founder of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah in Riverdale, New York, which ordains rabbis in what has become known as the Open Orthodox movement, as well as Yeshivat Maharat, which trains Orthodox women for spiritual leadership. Cohen is a graduate of Weiss’ rabbinical school. In his talk, Weiss will address “Finding God in Times of Despair.”

Beth Israel, located in a quiet neighborhood on Bancroft Way not far from the intersection of University Avenue and Sacramento Street, has grown from 160 families to about 250 during Cohen’s tenure and is now the largest Orthodox synagogue in Northern California, according to congregation officials.

The Sept. 18 “day of learning” also will include breakout sessions led by scholars, plus a gala to honor Cohen and his wife, Frayda Gonshor Cohen. The weekend includes a Shabbat dinner followed by a 9 p.m. panel composed of three generations of CBI rabbinic leadership. For ticket prices and more information, visit www.cbiberkeley.org.