(23F2) Old Wine in New Bottles: 2,000-Year History of the Rabbinate (20 Dec 2023)

December 20th, 2023, 8:00 pm - 9:15 pm

A recording of this class is at https://youtu.be/0B0DUytwJsk.

The original title of “Old Wine in New Bottles: Rethinking the 21st Century Rabbinate” was changed when Rabbi Lance Sussman, Ph.D. expanded the scope of the class content.  

Visit www.LanceJSussman.com to contact Rabbi Sussman or to see or purchase any of his books. 


Early in the 19th century, a modern rabbinate began to emerge in Central Europe and then the United States, spawning a new type of rabbinic school as well as professional religious organizations.  By the end of the 20th century, feminism, mysticism, and technology were radically reshaping the rabbinic office.  Rabbi and scholar Lance J. Sussman, Ph.D., will share his insights, research, and experiences to report on the state of the rabbinate at the beginning of the twenty-first century.

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Lance J. Sussman’s career as Senior Rabbi at Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel in Elkins Park, PA, from 2001-2022, coincided with the tumultuous first two decades of the 21st century.  His work at KI began shortly after 9-11 and ended in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Between those two momentous bookends, numerous significant developments occurred both in the United States and Israel. Now, as an active Rabbi Emeritus, he continues to write, teach, and serve the community at large.

Rabbi Sussman, Ph.D., has the distinction of being both a rabbi and a scholar.  A specialist in American Jewish History, Sussman is the author of a number of books in his field, including the seminal biography Isaac Leeser and the Making of American Judaism (1995). Along with Jonathan D. Sarna and Paula S. Nadel, he served as an editor of New Essays in American Jewish History (2010). A prolific writer, Sussman has published significant articles on a variety of topics including modern Jewish life and Jewish art.  Most recently, he published Portrait of an American Rabbi: In His Own Words (2023), a collection of his sermons and writings from the last twenty-one years.

In addition to his pulpit work, Sussman has taught at Princeton University, Binghamton (SUNY) University, and Hunter College, among others, and he has also served as Chair of the Board of Governors of Gratz College. A popular speaker, Sussman has been a scholar-in-residence, given hundreds of community lectures, and participated in the creation of a number of television documentaries.

Sussman is a serious scholar with a sense of humor, and some light-hearted lecture titles include “How Lox Became Jewish: A History of the American Jewish Deli” and “Walk Softly and Carry a Big Schtick: Teddy Roosevelt and the Jews.” He currently serves as the Memoirs Section Editor of the Southern Jewish Historical Society’s Journal and is working on a book on Jews, law, and the American Revolution.

For decades, Sussman has been involved in communal and national activities. He is currently serving as the Vice President of the North American Board of Rabbis, Vice President of the Philadelphia Board of Rabbis, and Senior Scholar of Roots of Reform Judaism.  He was the founding President of the Cheltenham Area Multifaith Council and has also been involved in museum work in Philadelphia and Binghamton.