36 Under 36: Rabbi Ethan Tucker, 33

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Jewish Week, Friday, April 3, 2009
by Randi Sherman


Since being awarded the Grinspoon Jewish Social Entrepreneur Fellowship in February 2008, Rabbi Ethan Tucker has been busy using the $100,000 at his disposal to realize his dreams, and continuing to work on the projects that made him worthy of the award in the first place.

Rabbi Tucker has been known for his ability to transcend the affiliation boundaries of Judaism since his establishment of Kehilat Hadar, an independent prayer community, in April 2001. As the son of Conservative Rabbi Gordon Tucker and Hadassah Lieberman, seamless shifting between denominations became one of this Riverdale rabbi’s signatures.

"My entire life has been spent in different Jewish communities with the constant being an observant Jewish environment with learning and tradition," Rabbi Tucker said. "Movements were never the focus. I feel my training and adult religious life reflect that."

In the past year, Rabbi Tucker co-organized an international conference of independent minyanim at Brandeis University, gathering 80 leaders from the U.S., Canada and Israel, through Hadar, the organization he started that combines consulting for independent minyanim and a beit midrash. The educational branch, Yeshivat Hadar, has also had a banner year, doubling in size this past summer, and come this fall, becoming a full-year program. One hundred applicants are vying for the yeshiva’s 50 spots.

In an effort to further assist his community of independent minyanim, Rabbi Tucker is preparing for the public launch of his online halacha think tank, halakhah.org. The site will tackle topics selected by Rabbi Tucker and a colleague at Hadar, offering independent minyanim the arguments and source material to develop community norms for their heterogeneous groups. The site "is revising halachic and Jewish law as a normative discourse with broad appeal and application," unearthing rabbinic rulings throughout the ages on everything from the use of musical instruments on Shabbat to whether someone who isn’t fasting can lead prayer on Tisha b’Av. Readers will be able to further the discussion by posting comments. Look for it this fall.

Secret passion: The "unbelievable" hot chocolate at Schakolad Chocolate Factory in Stamford, Conn., "the most amazing hot chocolate in the entire world." What readers should know about him that isn’t on his resume: "I’ve watched ‘The Princess Bride’ at least 50 times."