Two Modern Orthodox Moments in Houston – Rabbi Barry Gelman

Recently I was involved in two great Modern Orthodox events.

Two weeks ago the American Jewish Committee honored the four senior Rabbi Emeritus of the Houston Jewish community, Rabbi Joseph Radinsky (Orthodox ), Rabbi Roy Walter (Reform), Rabbi Jack Segal (Conservative) and Rabbi  Samuel Karff (Reform).

I had the privilege to pay tribute to Rabbi Radinsky as the current Rabbi of each synagogue was asked to speak in honor of their emeritus.

These four Rabbis were honored by the Houston Jewish community for their decades of service.

People often talk about how well the synagogues of the various denomination work with each other and how all of the denominational rabbis respect each other and work well together in Houston. It is true and the reason is it is true is because the four honorees worked very hard on it. They all respected each other and valued what each was doing for the sake of the Jewish community.

I have been to many community dinners, but this one was the most meaningful of them all. The large turnout, the outpouring of love and the deep respect expressed at the dinner was overwhelming.

I consider it a great Modern Orthodox moment as, for me, it served as a vindication of the policy of Modern Orthodox rabbis to work with Rabbis of all denominations and to recognize that non-orthodox institutions are our partners is building and strengthening Jewish life.

The other great Modern Orthodox moment was the show I just returned from. Tonight the Houston Jewish  community was treated to Musicals  and The Bible. Rav Gal Ben Meir, a very talented musician and singer who is doing shlichut in our community as a teacher, is also a lover of Broadway musicals.

Over the last year, Rav Gal, as he is known, has been producing  the show that teacher Jewish themes using some of the best known songs from popular Broadway shows.

Tonights show reviewed 11 key moments in Jewish history through the lens of songs form The Lion King, Wicked, Billy Elliot, Phantom of The Opera, Les Miserables, Oliver and others.

The show was a dream come true for Rav Gal. The narration, done by Rav Gal as well, made it clear that for years Rav Gal suppressed his desire to perform these types of songs, being told that show business, with it’s focus on fame and fortune was diametrically opposed to the inner and contemplative life of a pious Jew.

Tonight, Rav Gal proved that aspects of popular culture could be used to teach important Jewish ideas and bring people a greater appreciation of their faith. It also proved to Rav Gal that he could achieve his dream and reminded al of those present that we should reach for the stars and not let anyone crush our dreams.

Kol Hakavod Rav Gal and thank you!

2 Responses to Two Modern Orthodox Moments in Houston – Rabbi Barry Gelman

  1. Roberta Kwall says:

    What a lovely and encouraging post! In that spirit, I’d like to add a similar report. On November 7, 2012, the DePaul Law School Center for Jewish Law hosted its annual “interdenominational” event in the suburbs of Chicago. The three panelists were Haskel Lookstein, Vernon Kurtz and Peter Knobel. All three of these men (representing the three major denominations) manifested the utmost respect and affection (yes, affection) toward one another during the two hour dialogue. It was a riveting and frankly unprecedented event in this area that folks are still discussing. Rabbi Lookstein spoke candidly and honestly about the difficulty with many Orthodox refusing to dialogue with other movements and gave his personal take on the situation. Several attendees told me afterward that if he was their rabbi, they would become Modern Orthodox!!

  2. Mark Kolodny says:


    I have little doubt that these momentous events in Houston were fully realized only as a result of the conduit you provide with your open and intellectually honest leadership, which embodies the true spirit of Modern Orthodoxy – unwavering in commitment to Halacha, while living in and appreciating contemporary reality. I am proud to be a part of a “united” (in the truest sense of the word) Orthodox community.

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