For over thirty years, Rabbi Lester Bronstein has represented Bet Am Shalom’s communal personality with his blend of scholarly insight, wit, and compassion in his teaching and his interpersonal relations.
Since arriving at Bet Am Shalom in 1989 with his wife, Cantor Benjie Ellen Schiller, the rabbi has been a catalyst for our spiritual development and congregational growth. His searching intellect never overwhelms his ability “to connect” – to create an intellectual and haimishe backdrop for our congregational life. He takes personal joy in our s’machot. He provides heartfelt warmth during moments of need. He encourages our questions and participation.
Guests who attend our services readily observe his inspirational gifts. When, for example, Rabbi Bronstein stands “panim el panim’’ (face to face) with a Bar or Bat Mitzvah to explain the Biblical verse he has chosen for the honoree, his down-to-earth encapsulation of the young teen’s talents, gifts and doubts adds a meaningful personal twist to the universal rite of passage that touches both the family and congregation.
Reconstructionist Judaism seeks to adapt traditional Jewish study and prayer to contemporary needs while encouraging serious encounters with ancient texts and rituals. Rabbi Bronstein supports this by encouraging critical questioning from adults and children in the search for Jewish spirituality as well as asking them to honor tradition through study and practice.
He believes that an integral part of Jewish practice is an engagement with the State of Israel. To that end, he has led numerous congregational trips to Israel and hopes to lead many more.
Beyond Bet Am Shalom
In addition to serving our diverse community, Rabbi Bronstein is a leader in local and national Jewish and civic circles. His inspirational qualities and those of his wife (and our cantor) Benjie Ellen Schiller were viewed worldwide when they represented the Jewish community in a televised multi-faith memorial service at New York’s Riverside Church a few days after the attacks of September 11, 2001.
For over twenty years, the rabbi and cantor performed with Beged Kefet, a musical ensemble dedicated to new Jewish spiritual compositions and the promotion of dignity for the elderly and disabled. Rabbi Bronstein was a founding member of the Coalition for the Advancement of Jewish Education (CAJE). He has recorded Torah commentaries for the Reform movement’s Torah Tapes series as well as musical renditions for the Reconstructionist movement’s Kol Haneshamah home prayer book. His articles appear in numerous books and periodicals.
He is immediate past president of the New York Board of Rabbis and an active member of the White Plains Religious Leaders Association. He serves on the following boards: T’ruah – The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights; Plaza Jewish Community Chapel; Hiddush – For Religious Freedom and Equality in Israel; and the J Street Rabbinic and Cantorial advisory committee.
He is a past president of the Westchester Board of Rabbis and past chair of the Westchester UJA Rabbinic Roundtable. He was national chair of the Jewish Federation of North America Rabbinic Roundtable and a long-time board member of the UJA-Federation of New York. He served for many years on the boards of the philanthropic group Myriam’s Dream and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association.
The rabbi regularly studies in Israel at the Shalom Hartman Institute. He is an alumnus of the Institute for Jewish Spirituality program for rabbis. Rabbi Bronstein is renowned for his weekly study group with White Plains rabbis from four different streams of Judaism. The group has met regularly for over twenty-five years.
A native of Houston, Texas, Rabbi Bronstein has a Bachelor’s degree from Yale University and a Master’s in Education from Boston University (where he also became a die-hard Red Sox fan). Before entering the rabbinate, he was Educational Director at Congregation Beth El in Sudbury, Massachusetts, working with Rabbi Lawrence Kushner; and Educational Director in Commack, New York with Rabbi Mark Winer.
Rabbi Bronstein was ordained in 1987 at Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion in New York. Before joining Bet Am Shalom, Rabbi Bronstein was Assistant Rabbi of Temple Shaaray Tefila in Manhattan under Rabbi Harvey Tattlebaum.
He lives in White Plains with his wife, Cantor Benjie Ellen Schiller. They have three adult children, a granddaughter, and a grandson.
Contact Rabbi Bronstein at firstname.lastname@example.org or 914-946-8851.