Rabbi Seth Bernstein was born and raised in Indianapolis, Indiana, and is a graduate of Indiana University. He was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1977. Part of his training included a year of studies at INTER-MET, an interfaith seminary in Washington D.C. Following ordination, he was Assistant and Associate Rabbi at Congregation Rodeph Shalom in New York, NY, from 1977-1986. During that time he was active in UJA-Federation’s singles and disabled activities. He was instrumental in founding the Shadchanus Bureau for introducing Jewish singles for the purpose of marriage. He received the General Assembly’s award for his work in 1982.
Rabbi Bernstein was selected as rabbi of Bet Aviv, Columbia, Maryland, in May, 2011. He retired on June 30, 2019. In 1986 Rabbi Bernstein became the rabbi of Temple Sinai in Worcester, Massachusetts. He is trained in family therapy and hospital chaplaincy. He holds a Doctor of Ministry from Andover Newton Theological School in the areas of chaplaincy and family systems theory. His doctoral project was on the impact of serious illness on the family system at life cycle events. Since 1991, Rabbi Bernstein has served as the Jewish Chaplain at UMASS-Memorial Hospital and since its founding, has been the Pastoral Care Director of the Jewish Home Hospice in Worcester. He is a Board Certified Chaplain with the Association of Professional Chaplains and the National Association of Jewish Chaplains (N.A.J.C.). For the past two years Rabbi Bernstein served as the Chair of Certification of the N.A.J.C.
Rabbi Bernstein is the Rabbinic Founder of the H.E.A.R.T. Program in Worcester involving Temple Sinai and Emanuel Baptist Church in an after school tutorial program that received the Kuhn Social Action Award from the Union for Reform Judaism in 1995. He is the Past President of the Interfaith Coalition for the Homeless, Jewish Family Service of Worcester, the Worcester Pastoral Counseling Center, and co-President of Worcester Interfaith, a community organizing effort for Worcester and Central Massachusetts.
Rabbi Bernstein’s initiatives at Temple Sinai include a wide variety of adult education classes that he has taught. He taught 5th Grade Judaica and 7th Grade Judaism and Sexuality courses in addition to Confirmation class for 10th graders. He coordinated the effort to send a truck load of supplies to victims of Hurricane Katrina from Central Massachusetts and has been active locally and nationally with disaster relief efforts of the American Red Cross. He was active in the Worcester Clergy Police Partnership to help reduce crime in Worcester, especially involving young people. Rabbi Bernstein serves on the rabbinic cabinet of United Jewish Communities and Israel Bonds. He has been active in the mentoring and colleague-to-colleague efforts of the Central Conference of American Rabbis and currently serves as the responder to the Rabbinic Rapid Response effort to assist rabbis and their families who are in crisis. He is a member of the editorial team of the new Gates of Healing booklet to be published by the Central Conference of American Rabbis.
Rabbi Bernstein believes that The Oakland Mills Interfaith Center presents a huge opportunity. Early in his career, the Rabbi studied with clergy of various faiths in an interfaith seminary in Washington, DC. He loved the engagement. He believes that “a lot of one’s thinking is influenced by how we see each other…being in each others’ context…finding commonalities, differences, and then embracing one another. To me, it’s a very exciting opportunity to live in each other’s house.” He is looking forward to learning more about The Meeting House, becoming involved in the planning, and learning more about the different faiths who worship there.
Paraphrased from an Interview with Rabbi Bernstein: “Rabbi means teacher, and I see myself as a teacher. My teaching style is informal, and I do a lot of adult education. But I consider myself a pastoral rabbi. I like to deal with the real problems and joys in people’s lives…deaths, weddings, baby naming, illnesses. It has become more important to me, deepened my own faith, and allowed me to become more engaged with the members of the congregation. Being present in people’s lives defines me.”
Bet Aviv said farewell to Seth and Marsha in a celebration on June 2, 2019. Congregants and Friends contributed their thanks and appreciation for the time the eight years the Bernsteins have spent with us. Click here to read about the celebration and enjoy the many tributes.