Rabbi Michael Bernstein


Rabbi Michael Bernstein received his ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary in 1999 andserved as the senior Rabbi at Congregation Bnai Jacob in Longmeadow, MA from 1999-2004, and at Congregation Beth Am Israel in Penn Valley, PA from 2004-2008.

Rabbi Bernstein has a special interest in developing programs that combine meaningful approaches to Jewish thought and actions with ethical directives inherent in our tradition.  He has taught Introduction to Judaism and Living our Judaism adult education courses focused on creating meaningful and relevant family experiences in the home for people from all backgrounds.  Rabbi Bernstein led a six-week course on the “Meaning of Prayer” to make services and prayer more accessible to all congregants. He also taught weekly Talmud and weekly Torah portion classes.

 

Understanding that the involvement and education of our teens is critical, Rabbi Bernstein created a vision for a new education directive in NESS (Nurturing Excellence in Synagogue Schools). Rabbi Bernstein developed and taught the confirmation class curriculum at his last congregation ensuring the continuity of Jewish education for teens after Bar/Bat Mitzvah. As part of that post Bar/Bat Mitzvah experience, Rabbi Bernstein led an annual trip for teens attending a program called Panim el Panim in Washington, DC. Panim el Panim is a program of intensive multi-day leadership seminars presented by PANIM: The Institute for Jewish Leadership & Values, which educates, inspires, and empowers Jewish youth to a lifetime of leadership, service, and advocacy on behalf of the Jewish people and society at large.  PANIM is training the next generation of Jewish leaders through advocacy training, community-service, leadership training and social entrepreneurship.

 

At his first congregation, Rabbi Bernstein created a religious school structure, developing the first Shabbat morning Hebrew school program in the region, as well as an innovative paired learning (chevruta) study program for both afternoon religious school and high school students. 

 

In addition to his dedication to innovative and meaningful Jewish education within the synagogue, Rabbi Bernstein has been an active outreach, educational and pastoral resource within the larger Jewish community as well as outside of the Jewish community. 

 

At the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership (CLAL), Rabbi Bernstein developed and facilitated programs designed to challenge students from different rabbinical institutions across all denominations to address issues of concern to the contemporary Jewish community. 

 

While at his last congregation Rabbi Bernstein taught a class on the meaning of psalms at a local BaptistChurch

 

As a chaplain at the Springfield College Campus Ministry and SpiritualLifeCenter in Springfield, MA, Rabbi Bernstein served as an advisor and resource to Jewish students, faculty and administration on campus regarding matters of faith and spirituality.  He was the liaison between Jewish students and administration on issues of concern to the Jewish community, and represented the college and the SpiritualLifeCenter at campus and community-wide events.

 

Rabbi Bernstein taught “Ethics of Jewish Living” for the Springfield Melton Program.

 

He served as a part-time chaplain at a nursing home as part of an inter-denominational pastoral care program.

 

As the Director of Religious Services at Camp Ramah New England, in Palmer, MA, in 1996, Rabbi Bernstein organized and implemented daily prayer services for over 700 campers and staff while serving as resource for questions of religious practice and education.

 

Rabbi Bernstein’s extensive teaching experience outside of the synagogue includes:

 

Conservative Yeshiva, Jerusalem, Israel: Taught “Face to Face with the Talmud” to adult yeshiva students, and served as a guest lecturer for series of elective courses.

 

Goodblatt Academy, Philadelphia, PA: Taught in a community adult education program offering introduction courses in Judaism.

 

“Downtown Torah Study,” Philadelphia, PA: Taught 8-session modules of mid-day weekly Talmud classes in the heart of Philadelphia's business district

 

Alliance for Jewish Education, Springfield, MA: Served as an instructor for several community-wide classes including Biblical Interpretation (parshanut),“Returning to Places We’ve Never Been”  (Stories of Teshuvah),  and “Finding Holiness in Contemporary Sexuality”.  In addition, he conducted weekly sessions for “Downtown Torah Learning” studying passages from the Talmud with area professionals.

 

Jewish Theological Seminary of America, New York, NY: Served as a Beit Midrash Rabbinic Mentor, where he guided rabbinical and graduate students studying in the JTS text resource center; he served as a Teaching Assistant where assessed coursework and served as resource for a class on Jewish Law Codes for 2nd and 3rd year rabbinical students; and he was a Teaching Assistant in a Havruta Program where he guided study groups in a weekly Introduction to Talmud class for JTS-sponsored community education program.

 

Kaminer Family Foundation Distance Learning Program (KFF): Served as a Section Instructor facilitating online discussions and answering questions for participants in an online adult education Talmud course through the MeltonCenter of the Jewish Theological Seminary. 

 

Rabbi Bernstein has received the following Rabbinic and Academic Honors:

 

Rabbi Bernstein was chosen to participate in the 2003-2004 inaugural program of the Synagogue: Transformation and Renewal, Professional Education for Excellence in Rabbis (STAR PEER) program, which seeks to enhance and enrich Jewish life by fostering new and exciting approaches to synagogue leadership. 

 

He received a STAR Innovation Grant for his synagogue to develop a weekend retreat program to explore “leadership as a community practice” in 2005.

 

Michael Klebanoff Fellowship, Awarded for study toward Doctorate in Jewish Philosophy at JTS in 1998-1999.

 

Gerson D. Cohen and Rabbi Benjamin Plotkin Fellowships, Awarded for study toward Doctorate in Jewish Philosophy at JTS in 1997-1998.   

 

Aaron Friedenwald Prize, Awarded by JTS faculty in Spring 1995 for best essay in the field of Jewish Theology.

Phi Beta Kappa Society, Elected Spring 1993

Rabbi Bernstein is a graduate of WesleyanUniversity, with a Bachelor of Arts (with High Honors) in Humanities.  

 

Rabbi Bernstein attended a year-long full time study program in traditional Jewish texts at the Pardes Institute in Jerusalem.

 

In the year before coming to Gesher L'Torah, Rabbi Bernstein served as a Senior Educator Fellow in the Melton Centre at HebrewUniversity in Jerusalem. Continuing his commitment to making a deeper impact on more people through new and more effective ways of teaching, during the Melton program Rabbi Bernstein studied the latest approaches to Jewish education.  Specifically, he was involved in the exploration of innovative programming, the development of a framework for making tradition and text more accessible and personally engaging to people from all experiences, and participating in an intensive program to train educators in new ways to teach students and adults about the Holocaust.  

 

He has been the spiritual leader of Congregation Gesher L'Torah since 2009.