Rabbi David Edleson, since his ordination by Hebrew Union College in 1990, served 25 years as the rabbi for the Hebrew Association of the Deaf, creating vibrant services and teaching Torah in American Sign Language. He also served as the Director of Operations for the New York Society for the Deaf, overseeing a full-service agency while also providing direct clinical pastoral counseling.  While in rabbinical school, David was a founding member of TaMaR, the Reform Zionist Youth Movement, and Hineinu, the rabbinic/cantorial student organization that was pivotal in the successful fight for ordination of GLBT clergy in the Reform movement. He was an active service leader at Congregation Beth Simhat Torah, and provided chaplaincy services to gay men with AIDS during the height of the epidemic in that city, where he was also active in ACT-UP.   Now living in Vermont, David has followed his love of teaching into the college classroom, serving as a dean of students at Middlebury College and teaching in its Dept. of Religion.  He now teaches ethics, literature, and comparative world religion at the Community College of Vermont.  An avid lover of nature, gardening, and music, David lives with his life-partner of 33 years, Tim, and his standard Poodle, Mr. Proust, in Lincoln, VT.

 

Rabbi David Edleson, since his ordination by Hebrew Union College in 1990, served 25 years as the rabbi for the Hebrew Association of the Deaf, creating vibrant services and teaching Torah in American Sign Language. He also served as the Director of Operations for the New York Society for the Deaf, overseeing a full-service agency while also providing direct clinical pastoral counseling.  While in rabbinical school, David was a founding member of TaMaR, the Reform Zionist Youth Movement, and Hineinu, the rabbinic/cantorial student organization that was pivotal in the successful fight for ordination of GLBT clergy in the Reform movement. He was an active service leader at Congregation Beth Simhat Torah, and provided chaplaincy services to gay men with AIDS during the height of the epidemic in that city, where he was also active in ACT-UP.   Now living in Vermont, David has followed his love of teaching into the college classroom, serving as a dean of students at Middlebury College and teaching in its Dept. of Religion.  He now teaches ethics, literature, and comparative world religion at the Community College of Vermont.  An avid lover of nature, gardening, and music, David lives with his life-partner of 33 years, Tim, and his standard Poodle, Mr. Proust, in Lincoln, VT.

FROM THE RABBI

All of us struggle.  All of us wrestle with questions of identity and faith, connection and independence, and it is in recognizing our shared experience and shared humanity that real connection and community becomes possible.  As a gay man during the worst times of the AIDS epidemic, I myself found it impossible to fully connect to my Judaism, and so I understand doubt and anger, and do not judge anyone for their personal beliefs and choices they make about their Jewishness.  However, I want to invite you to the Bethlehem Hebrew Congregation so that you can engage your struggle and your seeking in a welcoming, open-minded community. But life is too great a gift to be focused only on struggle.  I believe that Judaism offers a great treasure of ‘life-hacks’, that, if we are open to them, can enrich our busy, stressed lives, so I invite you to explore those with us as well.  Indeed, our tradition “is a tree of life to those who hold her close, and all her pathways are peace.”

My work as a rabbi is to help people find their own unique way to be Jewish, and to help them feel competent, comfortable, and connected in our gatherings and rituals.  Here are a few of the ways that I, as the rabbi of BHC, can offer to you: 

OPEN AND ENGAGING STUDY

Judaism teaches that study and intellectual wrestling is holy, creating a gate through which the numinous may enter our lives. Keeping our minds active and engaged makes our lives better, and as long as the intention is to learn together, all voices are welcome and there are no taboos.   

GROUP SINGING AND CHANT

Group singing is universal in human culture, and a source of great joy and connection; yet in our busy, home-centered American lives, we don’t sing together nearly enough. Judaism has a wealth of songs and chants, and I do my best to teach songs so that people at all levels feel included and welcome.  

HEARTFELT PRAYER AND JEWISH MEDITATION

Whether you are a skeptical humanist, spiritual seeker, or deeply religious, meditation and prayerful moments help us connect to what we value most. As a rabbi, my job is to help us find meaning in our ancient prayers, as well as enjoy newer approaches such as Jewish meditation or “Nature Torah.” We all need more moments of luminous peace. 

SACRED TIME

A.J. Heschel famously claimed that Judaism builds cathedrals in time, not in space.  The spiral of our holidays, especially Shabbat, helps us connect with our ancestors, while also offering tremendous tools to set boundaries against the stress and exhaustion of our always-plugged-in, busy lives. 

LAUGHTER

Laughter, like the Sabbath, has kept the Jews alive.  To me, laughter is holy, and no community can blossom without a sense of humor. In the Talmud, God is said to have laughed at our love of argument.  We have descended from laughing ancestors; laughing at ourselves and with one another helps us be happier, nicer people. 

PASTORAL COUNSELING

We all suffer and we all sometimes need help and guidance to get out of the patterns that so often run our lives.  I have training and experience in clinical pastoral counseling, and want to work with individuals and families to offer insight and comfort, and to explore ways that Jewish traditions might help them create a happier life connected to others. 

Come try us out, or make an appointment to speak with me personally.  Welcome.