About Debra Orenstein

The calling of my rabbinate is to help people make meaningful connections between the Jewish tradition and their own lives and callings.
– Rabbi Debra Orenstein

Rabbi Debra Orenstein is renowned as a teacher and scholar-in-residence across North America, regularly speaking at synagogues, universities, and conventions. She is the spiritual leader of Congregation B'nai Israel in Emerson, New Jersey, and has taught in the rabbinical, graduate school, undergraduate, conversion, and continuing education programs at the American Jewish University in Los Angeles, California.

She received her training at Princeton University (A.B. summa cum laude), University of Judaism (B.H.L.), The Jewish Theological Seminary of America (M.A. and ordination), The Neighborhood Playhouse, and The Meisner-Carville School (Two-year Program). She completed an internship in pastoral psychiatry at The Jewish Theological Seminary.

Rabbi Orenstein is the author or editor of five books, including the award-winning Lifecycles book series: Lifecycles 1: Jewish Women on Life Passages and Personal Milestones, Lifecycles 2: Jewish Women on Biblical Themes in Contemporary Life, and the forthcoming Lifecycles 3: Jewish Women on Holy Days and Communal Celebrations. She co-authored From Generation to Generation, a collection of sermons and Bible commentaries, with her grandfather, Rabbi Israel Mowshowitz. She has also written essays for The Jewish Journal of Los Angeles, The Women's Prophets Commentary (2004), Etz Hayim Humash (2001), and The Tallit (forthcoming), among others. Debra's rabbinate represents both the inherited tradition and its flexibility in every age. A seventh generation rabbi, she is also an alumna of the first entering class at The Jewish Theological Seminary to include women.

A frequent guest on radio and television, Rabbi Orenstein has appeared on dozens of media outlets, including as a repeat guest on WOR Radio, New York; Jewish Television Network; Good Day LA (Fox Television); and KABC Radio, Los Angeles. She was the spiritual leader of Congregation Makom Ohr Shalom in Tarzana, California for 14 years before returning to her home state of New Jersey. She also "worked her way through rabbinical school" as an actress, and has appeared in a handful of films and numerous stage productions.

In March 2011 the New Jersey Jewish Standard newspaper did a cover story on Debra and the blend of innovative and traditional work she is doing at B'nai Israel in Emerson, NJ.

Debra has been blessed to become a wife and mother. She is pictured above (in 2007) with husband Craig Weisz, son Emmett and daughter Hannah Mathilda. For an essay on the spiritual meaning of the stuffed toy in Emmett’s hand, click here.

About Zalman Schachter-Shalomi

Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi is widely recognized as one of the world’s most important spiritual teachers. Ordained by the Lubavitch Yeshivah of Brooklyn, Reb Zalman became the “Father” of Jewish Renewal, influencing all Jewish movements and other world religions.

A prolific author and speaker, Reb Zalman's best-known works include Jewish With Feeling: A Guide to Meaningful Jewish Practice (with Joel Segel, Riverhead Books); Paradigm Shift (with Ellen Singer, Rowman & Littlefield); From Age-Ing to Sage-Ing (with Ronald S. Miller, Grand Central); and First Steps to a New Jewish Spirit: Reb Zalman's Guide to Recapturing Intimacy and Ecstasy in Your Relationship with God (with Donald Gropman, Jewish Lights).

One of the foremost authorities on Hasidism, Reb Zalman is at once a member, a pioneer, and a scholar of that world. He is Professor Emeritus of Religion both at Naropa University and at Temple University. He serves as the Rabbinic Chair of Aleph: Alliance for Jewish Renewal and is the Founder and President of The Spiritual Eldering Institute.

Reb Zalman has been a friend, teacher, and close colleague of such diverse luminaries as the Dalai Lama, Ram Dass, Rabbi Shlomo Carlbach, Brother David Steindl-Rast, and Timothy Leary. Through prayer and meditation, counseling and mentoring, movement, song, storytelling, and scholarship, he offers transformational wisdom to students and seekers from all over the globe. In tandem with his ecumenical work, he has brought tens of thousands of Jews back to Judaism and to a fresh discovery of the mysticism and meaning of their inherited tradition. Learn more at www.rzlp.org.

A note about RabbiDebra.com and ShareWonder Media

For those of you ordering CD's - and I hope it's all of you - you are about to hear something truly wonderful. I’m excited for you. I first heard Debra speak some 15 years ago at an all-night study session for Shavuot, the holiday that commemorates God giving the Torah at Mt. Sinai. I came planning to stay for a couple of hours to “check out” all the talk I had been hearing about Rabbi Debra. No doubt, she was charming. I had met her socially on a few occasions. But what else did she have to offer?

I was not prepared for the impact her teaching had on me – intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. I ended up staying and studying all night. Our numbers dwindled from well over 100 to just over 10 by the time of 6 am morning prayers. Outside in the sun, I stood in a circle of strangers I had not known the night before. Now I related deeply to them, to God, and to myself. Rabbi Debra had led me to this place. She was the “real deal.” She had gotten through my critical shell and helped me to make my own discoveries, to get excited about my Judaism, to connect with community, and to feel my own soul – not just hers – at work in the world.

After that, I attended her services and classes. I contributed my time and expertise to her ministry and to recording her words, always with the idea of bringing her teachings to a wider audience.

ShareWonder Media grew out of this experience and my desire to share Debra's teachings with you. I invite you to listen to these CD's and the wonderful teachings of the eminent Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi. These audio releases have been edited from live recordings and were delivered at High Holiday services to several hundred people. As Rabbi Debra introduces prayers, explains holy texts, offers her own commentaries, and answers questions offered spontaneously from congregants, I think you will discover both her great transformative power and, more deeply, your own . . . Oh, and by the way, she is now my wife.

- Craig Weisz
President, ShareWonder Media & RabbiDebra.com
View Craig Weisz's profile on LinkedIn