YM&YWHA of Washington Heights & Inwood

Meet Ezra Weinberg

What do a Rabbi, a ukulele and pickles have in common? Meet Ezra Weinberg! New to the Y, Ezra (a Y Nursery father) directs our Jewish Caravan program, coordinates our Nursery Electives and Birthday Party programs, and plays an integral, educational role in both our After School and Camping programs. An ordained Rabbi, Ezra looks forward to bringing his gifts and love for Jewish education to the Y. I sat down with Ezra to ask him a few questions to get to know him better.

Tell us a little bit about your professional history – I have been most at home professionally in the Jewish Camp world having spent over twenty five years in Jewish overnight camps spanning different countries and Jewish movements. This has included many different positions including camp director and director of spirituality.  Most recently I worked at Eden Village Camp –a Jewish farming and environmental camp in Upstate New York.  This coming summer, Camp Yomawha is my newest challenge. It will be my first day camp since I was a day camper myself at the JCC in Scranton PA.         

How has your position as a rabbi helped you professionally? Can you share some of your experiences – Becoming a Rabbi five years ago unleashed for me a strong love of ritual, but also gave me the authorization to bring more ritual, both traditional and experimental to the Jewish world.  Ritual is especially important in working with youth who appreciate marking time. Specifically, through using music, games or focused activities, my experience is that young people appreciate the experiential aspect of a collective moment to acknowledge that the moments in our lives matter. 

We hear you are a musician, can you elaborate? – I consider myself a ritual musician. I play guitar and ukulele for the purposes of getting others to sing. My favorite holiday is Shabbat because every meal is ripe for an epic sing-along.

Why did you choose to become a Jewish educator, and how would you describe your education style? – Jewish camp turned me into a Jewish educator before I even knew I was interested.  It is at its best when it involves creative physical activity, out of the box thinking, and provocative questions about how we live our lives. Jewish education taught me to appreciate both the simple and complex challenges that face us and not to take anything for granted.  Jewish education is the key to making our history and ancient texts come alive.  But the greatest gift was that it helped me understand and ‘get’ that the Jewish story is my story.   

What is your favorite food? – Depends what I’m in the mood for.  Sometimes I like to nibble, sometimes I like to devour.  I love sour pickles and Middle Eastern olives. I’m also mildly obsessed with medjul dates these days.  

Who are some of your mentors and “heroes”, both personally and professionally? – Weird Al Yankovic is one of the true geniuses of our time.   

If there is one thing you want kids and parents to take away from your programs, what would it be? – Don’t be caught or stuck on one way of thinking, even and especially about big things like G-d and religion. And if Jewish learning isn’t both serious AND fun, you are doing it wrong. 

Who is your favorite biblical character and why? – I like characters who make major mistakes and reveal serious character flaws and then later on find a way to redeem themselves. Jacob’s son, Yehuda, comes to mind. His courage and humility to approach his brother Joseph after his earlier transgression shows a lot of guts.  I also appreciate anyone in the bible who seeks forgiveness from his fellow human. I also feel drawn to Aaron & Miriam, the siblings of Moses, for their roles in bringing the divine into the human realm.      

Can you share one secret/talent about yourself? – I can beatbox (and secretly try to at least once a day)

Interview conducted by Ari Lewis, Marketing Director.

About the Y
Established in 1917, the YM&YWHA of Washington Heights & Inwood (the Y) is Northern Manhattan’s premier Jewish community center — serving an ethnically and socio-economically diverse constituency — improving the quality of life for people of all ages through critical social services and innovative programs in health, wellness, education, and social justice, while promoting diversity and inclusion, and caring for those in need.

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