A memoir of becoming, To Build a Brave Space takes the reader on one rabbi’s journey of self-discovery and intellectual evolution from a free-spirited liberal teenager to the leader of a large suburban congregation, through several national and global crises and countless personal experiences.
When I was a boy, I told my mother I wanted to become a rabbi on a motorcycle. This was a joke in our family for many years. As a young man, despite my love of Israel and a strong spiritual and cultural connection to Judaism, I would not have believed that my own childhood prediction would become a reality. And yet, for over twenty-five years, I have served large synagogue congregations and shepherded hundreds of families through unspeakable tragedy, unfettered joy, and complicated times in our country’s history.
This book is a reflection on where I came from and how I got to my current place as the Senior Rabbi of a Temple, B’nai Jeshurun of Short Hills, NJ. Not only have I grown and changed professionally from my early days of rabbinical school, but my philosophy on how to lead a community and how to bring people together during trying times has evolved over many years of trial and error. My hope is to inspire other clergy and people in general to find a way to help their communities thrive, even during our current climate of fractured politics and overt hostility among one another.
“An inherently interesting, insightful, informative, entertaining, well-written, and ultimately inspiring life story, To Build a Brave Space: The Making of a Spiritual First Responder by Rabbi Matthew D. Gewirtz will be of special appeal to readers with an interest in Contemporary Judaic Memoirs.”
-Midwest Book Review