Rabbi Gabe Greenberg assumed the role of executive director at Penn Hillel on April 1, and had served as interim executive director since Jan. 1. But in a sense, he’s been preparing for the job for years.
“Taking this position felt like just an incredibly exciting opportunity,” Greenberg, 39, said. “As someone who is passionate about the Jewish future and about Jewish education, Penn Hillel is the place to do those things. The community of alumni and parents are just very supportive and diverse, and this just feels like a great situation to step into.”
Greenberg is the grandson of a pulpit rabbi, and has tried his hand at congregational life himself — five years at Congregation Beth Israel in New Orleans — but has spent the majority of his professional life in Hillel. Prior to his time in New Orleans, Greenberg was the senior Jewish educator at the Hillel of University of California, Berkeley, and has been at Penn Hillel since 2019. He was originally brought on as the director of the Jewish Renaissance Project and Rabbinic Innovation Fellow.
“Gabe has demonstrated strong leadership skills and brings a passion for educating and engaging all students around traditional and unique expressions of Judaism,” Hillel International President and CEO Adam Lehman said in a press release. “We look forward to supporting his efforts to sustain and grow the Penn Hillel community and build on its rich tradition of inspiring young Jewish leaders.”
The Newton, Massachusetts, native studied history at Wesleyan University, later traveling to Israel with the Pardes Institute and Yeshivat Hamivtar. Greenberg was ordained at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah in the Bronx, New York. In the Big Easy, he served on the boards of the Federation of Greater New Orleans, the Jewish Community Day School of New Orleans and the Rabbinic Council of New Orleans.
Today, Greenberg lives in West Philadelphia with his wife, Abby Streusand, and their three children. Though the majority of his time in Philadelphia has been spent in quarantine, he’s found working with the students at Penn Hillel to be a fruitful, energizing experience.
“Penn students are incredibly driven, incredibly motivated, eager, passionate to learn, to grow, to build and to be successful,” he said. “And it truly feels, in a non-exaggerating way, that at Penn Hillel, every day, we are helping grow and support the next generation of American-Jewish leadership.”
Greenberg replaces Rabbi Mike Uram, a nationally recognized leader in Jewish education who left Penn Hillel after 17 years in December to become the chief vision and education officer of Pardes North America. Greenberg said he didn’t know he would replace Uram when he assumed the interim role, but that he’s grateful to have been selected.
“Our rigorous, comprehensive search process confirmed that Rabbi Gabe is the perfect person to continue Penn Hillel’s strong legacy and to lead the organization’s next exciting chapter,” Leora Zabusky, chair of the executive director search, said in a statement.
In terms of his vision for Penn Hillel, Greenberg is still working out what the post-Uram world will look like. He’s diplomatic on the subject.
“I look forward to building upon the legacy that Mike Uram and Jeremy Brochin before him and other fantastic Penn Hillel directors before them have built, and doubling down on our commitment to serving and supporting every Jewish student at Penn regardless of their background, affiliation or knowledge base,” Greenberg said.
Penn Hillel, according to Greenberg, is “one of, if not the, preeminent Hillels in the world,” and he has big shoes to fill.
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