He’s there for other people during the most joyous and the most difficult moments of their lives. That’s one of the most important reasons that Rabbi Abe Friedman of Anshe Emet Synagogue is a Jew you should know, according to nominator Zach Seeskin.
“While a national conversation continues concerning the decline of young adult involvement in synagogue life, we have seen Abe build and lead a dynamic and growing young adult community at Anshe Emet,” Seeskin said.
Under Abe’s guidance, Anshe Emet’s Young Adult Division (YAD) offers a flexibly priced young adult membership, and since Abe joined the clergy team in 2010, Shabbat services and dinner attendance each week have grown to more than 100 young adults. In addition, Abe is known for coordinating the synagogue’s popular Tikkun Leyl Shavuot, which brings together five congregations of all denominations for a night of Jewish learning.
Rabbi Abe also has unique artistic and musical talents in addition to community building. He has wowed Anshe Emet with his incredible rapping talent, his alter-ego EEJ Aluminum rocked their Purim party, and he portrayed Vashti in the “Gangnam Purim Style” Purim spiel. Excuse us while we go check YouTube...
Rabbi at Anshe Emet Synagogue
On the side:
Guitarist, DJ, husband and father
Married 11 years to Rebecca Krasner
How do you give back?
Teach Torah on the El. I remember seeing subway preachers when I lived in New York, and they fascinated me. It seems like such an intense and vulnerable way to connect with people, and for me there is nothing more powerful than a human connection made through study. The idea of bringing Torah out into the most public arena, offering an opportunity for connection with God, with oneself, with me and whomever else was there, to whomever happened to board the train—that seems thrilling and scary at the same time.
Celebrity doppelganger/who would play you in a movie:
Owen Wilson, I hope.
How do you Jew in Chicago?
Lunch at Milt’s, of course! Anshe Emet is our primary community, and our family is also very involved at Chicago Jewish Day School and Moadon Kol Chadash/Gan Gani, where our children, Odelia, 6, and Azriel, 2, are enrolled and at Ramah Day Camp – and where Odelia loves her first summer as a camper.
I have always loved learning and teaching Torah—it’s one of the passions that drew me to a career as a rabbi—and I am especially connected to the Hasidic tradition. I love pretty much any music, but especially metal, post-punk, electronic music, jazz and older country music. Since coming to Chicago I have developed a strong yoga practice.
Chicago's Jewish community in 10 years:
I think we’re starting to see a profound Jewish renaissance in the city proper, and not just in Lakeview. There are new clergy at both synagogues in Hyde Park, independent minyanim on the North Side and in Wicker Park/Bucktown, new learning communities like SVARA, and growing numbers of young Jews living inside the Loop. On top of that, there is a strong culture of collaboration among the established North Side synagogues. I believe in the next decade we’re going to see strengthening of the community in Hyde Park, and probably also the emergence of one or two more Jewish neighborhoods elsewhere in the city. I think Chicago has the potential to stand up to New York as an “it” destination for young Jews while also offering stable communities for people who want to stay long-term and raise their families in the city.
Me in 10 years:
Teaching Torah and working with others to build open, welcoming Jewish communities. I have no idea if I’ll be in a synagogue at that point or some other context—it’s an exciting time to be a rabbi, with a lot of new possibilities open, and I won’t even begin to guess what the future might look like; but learning, teaching and being in community are at the core of who I am and the work that I do.