Rabbi Akiva Weiss: Director of Jewish Life
Updated: Oct 26, 2021
By Raphael Englander
How would Rabbi Weiss describe the role of Director of Jewish Life?
The Director of Jewish Life’s role is to get the school community excited and passionate about Judaism. He wants to “help people see how fun Judaism can be and how awesome our school is in all of its wondrous ways,” whether it is building the sukkah or celebrating the arrival of a new school Torah.
Why did he want the position?
As Director of Jewish Life, Rabbi Weiss has an opportunity to give more to the school. As a teacher, he taught students and shared his experiences with the next generation of Jewish leaders. However, in this new role, he can shape the curriculum to allow for even more meaningful programming.
If Rabbi Weiss could only focus on one aspect of your new role, what would it be and why?
The position is multi-faceted and there are so many different components that it is not really possible to focus solely on one aspect. That said, the major theme that Rabbi Weiss would like to focus on is “to get students and the school, staff and faculty, involved in Jewish life.” He is committed to bringing Jewish life to the school community in a way that is as vibrant and rich as possible.
How did he spend your summer?
Rabbi Weiss started to get involved with cycling over the summer. He is going to complete the sixty-five mile bike ride from the Benjamin Franklin Bridge to the Jersey shore in honor of one of his firefighter friends who died in the line of duty. Rabbi Weiss serves as a volunteer firefighter in both Bala Cynwyd and Narberth and enjoys playing ice hockey in his free time. He also loves to invite students over for shabbat and discuss their weeks together, building community.
When he thinks about what Judaism means to him, what first comes to mind?
There are two components of Rabbi Weiss’s personal relationship with Judaism that stand out, prayer and learning torah. Whatever is happening at the moment, no matter how the day is going or what current events are affecting the world, prayer ground Rabbi Weiss in the present. Learning torah is similar as well. When studying, he always makes sure to see how what he is studying can be applied to the real world, believing that if one cannot apply it practically it is easy to lose its meaning. In fact, this makes studying torah difficult for Rabbi Weiss because sometimes he can get stuck on a certain passage thinking about its personal relevance.
What did Rav Will bring to the Barrack community that Rabbi Weiss would like to work to maintain?
Rabbi Weiss is close with Rav Will and was always impressed with his connection to the student body, knowing every student. This is something Rabbi Weiss admired about his friend and is working towards as well though he struggles with names so it might take a while!
What are his plans as Director of Jewish Life?
Rabbi Weiss wants to take Rav Will’s vision, carry it through, and make it even bigger. For example, this year, the school will build a sukkah that is massive, to create a space able to fit the entire community. Also, Rabbi Weiss would like to know how the students feel about Rav Will’s tradition of having caramel apple lollipops available to eat in his office. Is this something he should continue?
Is there anything else he would like to say?
Rabbi Weiss’s office is open to anyone and everyone, any time of day, to talk and engage as Director of Jewish Life. He wants to know how he can help each student to better connect with Judaism. He hopes he will be successful in this endeavor because he loves these conversations and wants to know what he, and the school, could be doing better.
Photo Credit: JBHA