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Rabbi Emeritus Elliot B. Gertel

Rabbi Elliot B. Gertel in front of the ark May 2013Rabbi Gertel ( was the spiritual leader of Congregation Rodfei Zedek from 1988 through June 2013.  The 5773 High Holy Days were bittersweet, the last ones led by Rabbi Gertel.  Our celebration of his 25 years at the Congregation began at the dinner in his honor preceding Selichot services and concluded at services for Simchat Torah.  Even when on sabbatical until his retirement, Elliot was our rabbi and continued to guide our decision making, provide us pastoral care, and officiate at our life cycle events including b'nei mitzvah and other special occasions.

A native of Springfield, Massachu­setts, Rabbi Gertel attended the Joint Program at Columbia University and the Jewish Theological Seminary from 1972 to 1976, earning a B.A. in philosophy and a B.H.L. in Bible.  He received a M.H.L. from the Seminary, where he was ordained in 1981.  He did research and editing for Dr. Gershon D. Cohen and for the Rabbinical Assembly.  From 1982 to 1988 he served his first pulpit, Congregation Beth El Keser Israel in New Haven, Connecticut.  In December 2007 Rabbi Gertel received a Doctor of Divinity degree, honoris causa, from JTS in recognition of his contributions to Jewish life.  He was honored by Akiba‑Schechter Jewish Day School in March 2012.

In Chicago Rabbi Gertel has been chairman of the Joint Television Commission of the Jewish Federation and the Chicago Board of Rabbis, President of the Hyde Park and Kenwood Interfaith Council, and a board member of the Chicago Jewish Historical Society.  Rabbi Gertel has been a contributing editor of Conservative Judaism and Jewish Spectator magazines.  He has contributed many essays and reviews to popular and scholarly publications in the fields of Jewish thought, Jewish literature and American Jewish history, and, since 1979, has been the media critic for the Jewish Post and Opinion, American Jewry’s longest-running national English-language weekly.  His books include:

  • Jewish Belief and Practice in Nineteenth Century America: Seminal Essays by Outstanding Pulpit Rabbis of the Era
  • What Jews Know About Salvation, which prodded the Library of Congress to list "salvation" as a Jewish concept
  • Over the Top Judaism, which discusses the depiction of Judaism in film and on television

On the congregational level, Rabbi Gertel was an innovator whose programs have won Solomon Schechter awards for music and publications and "unique programming."  He pioneered in outreach to synagogue alumni and in joint ventures with other communal agencies, such as Jewish Family Services.  Rabbi Gertel wrote several intergenerational Festival services; and he developed the concept of "one synagogue with many schools," which became fundamental at Rodfei Zedek.

A selection of articles and reviews by Rabbi Gertel…

A Letter of Thanks – with musical selections
  (May 2013)
A Golem on Supernatural (April 2013)
Voices of Rodfei Zedek (September 2012)
Farewell Remarks (September 2012)
In Gratitude, a Tribute to Rabbi Gertel
  (September 2012)
A Year of Transition and Sabbatical
  (September 2012)
On Being Honored by the Akiba-Schechter
  Jewish Day School (March 2012)
The New Regents Park Controversy (November 2011)
Thanksgiving Hymn (November 2011)
Transitions (October 2011)
Viruses and Choices (September 2011)
On Transitions (September 2011)
To the Mayor of Chicago (September 2011)
With a Lev Shalem (Fall 2010)
A Serious Man (November 2009)
Funny People (October 2009)
The Hangover (September 2009)
Family Guy (October 2009)
Defiance (September 2009)
Remembering Our Neighbor and Friend,
  Rabbi Arnold Jacob Wolf (January 2009)
“Seeking Brothers”—In the Bernie Madoff Era (December 2008)
The Governor and Jacob and Laban (December 2008)
Thanksgiving Welcome (November 2008)
Post Election Day Thoughts (November 2008)
Nediv LevThe Willing Heart (October 2008)
On Rabbi Gertel's Honorary Degree from JTS (December 2007)
Stand Up When You Read This Column (May 2006)
Ushpizin (November 2005)
Kal = 130 (October 2005)
The Synagogue that Built Itself (September 2000)
Gratitude:  The Festivals and the Yizkor Service (Fall 1988)

Sat, June 15 2024 9 Sivan 5784