Along with an infectious laugh and a soulful voice, Rabbi Moshe Waldoks — Reb Moshe — brings many years of deep and eclectic experiences to his role as Temple Beth Zion’s spiritual leader. Educated in a Yiddish-speaking yeshiva and holding a doctorate in Jewish intellectual history, Reb Moshe taught at Wellesley, Hebrew College and Brandeis before receiving smicha, or post-denominational ordination, by his mentors, Rabbis Zalman Schachter-Shalomi z’l, Arthur Green and Everett Gendler.
Although grounded in the wisdom of these remarkable rabbis, Reb Moshe is temperamentally inclined to experiment. For example, his spiritual practices have been influenced by his meditation teacher, Sylvia Boorstein (author of That’s Funny, You Don’t Look Buddhist: On Being a Faithful Jew and a Passionate Buddhist). To help integrate meditation practices and Jewish prayer, in 2005 Reb Moshe founded Nishmat Hayyim: The Breath of Life Jewish Meditation Community.
One of the hallmarks of Reb Moshe’s career has been his activities as a bridge-builder across cultures and faiths. Participating in a groundbreaking encounter with Polish Catholicism in 1988 as a guest of Krakow’s Cardinal Macharski, Reb Moshe and his colleagues confronted the age-old anti-Semitic teachings of the pre-Vatican II Polish Church. This encounter was especially poignant, as Reb Moshe and his group from the anti-defamation league, led by Lenny Zakim, toured Auschwitz with the Cardinal. Almost all of Reb Moshe’s maternal relatives were murdered at Auschwitz, and it seemed virtually impossible that a grandson of a Polish Jew murdered by the Germans would be accompanying a Catholic cardinal to the place of their destruction. This trip led to Reb Moshe’s active, ongoing Jewish-Catholic and Jewish-Christian Dialogue in the Boston area.
In 1989, Reb Moshe was instrumental in arranging the first meeting between the leader of Tibetan Buddhism, the Dalai Lama (which means, literally, Ocean of Wisdom) in a Buddhist monastery here in the United States. This encounter led to the historic “Jew in the Lotus” trip to Dharamsala, India in the fall of 1990 and Reb Moshe’s continued involvement in Jewish-Buddhist Dialogue.
In recent years, Reb Moshe has been active in creating a center for Jewish-Muslim Relations in Boston and has initiated and supported TBZ’s affiliation with the Greater Boston Inferfaith Organization. In addition, Reb Moshe is an active member of the Brookline Clergy Association. In 2008, Reb Moshe was chosen by Newsweek magazine as one of the top 25 pulpit Rabbis in the United States.
A storyteller and stand-up comedian (he is co-editor of The Big Book of Jewish Humor), Reb Moshe has used humor to animate our once-diminished shul. “I’m a real advocate of joy,” he has noted. His joyful congregants agree.
Since 1998, Reb Moshe has transformed our congregation from a few dozen (mostly-elderly) members, to a vibrant and diverse community of nearly 600. Based on his unique talents and TBZ’s remarkable growth, Reb Moshe has become a much-sought lecturer on evolving Jewish culture and spiritual renewal.
With his wife, Anne, and their three daughters, Reb Moshe infuses our community with spirit, song, laughter and learning.