Rabbi Edward Friedman has been the spiritual leader of Temple B’nai Israel since 2016. He brings to the position many years of experience in a variety of congregations, a deep knowledge of Jewish tradition, as well as a strong and melodious voice to chant the prayers and read the sacred texts. Come join us on Shabbat to hear Rabbi Friedman’s words and melodies.
The rabbi was born and raised in Connecticut and received a strong Jewish education in the Conservative congregation in which he grew up, Congregation Rodeph Sholom of Bridgeport. In his youth, he attended Camp Ramah in Connecticut, was active in various programs for young people in the synagogue and took advantage of a number of supplementary opportunities for Jewish learning through the synagogue and the Jewish Theological Seminary’s Teachers’ Institute. From an early age, he learned to lead services, read Torah, haftarah, and the megillot, and to sound the shofar. Cantor David J. Leon, z”l, trained him in many of these skills. His childhood rabbis, Harry Nelson, Sheldon Weltman, Sanford Hahn, and Israel Stein, all of blessed memory, encouraged him in his studies over the years. His love of Judaism led inevitably to his career choice in the rabbinate.
Rabbi Friedman is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania with a B.A. in Religious Thought. He continued his education at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America from which he received a Master’s degree and ordination. He also spent two of his academic years studying in Jerusalem both in college and Seminary and has gone back to visit Israel on a number of occasions. In 2002, the Seminary awarded him an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree in recognition of over 25 years of service in the rabbinate, Over the years, Rabbi Friedman has taken advantage of various supplementary education opportunities in the communities he has served. Most recently he completed a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education at Good Samaritan Hospital in Downer’s Grove.
Following his ordination, he began his career in Dallas, Texas, where he met his wife Janice and her then four-year-old son, Aaron Levy. After seven years as Assistant, then Associate, Rabbi in Dallas he went on to serve as senior rabbi in a number of other congregations including synagogues in Northampton, MA; Charleston, SC; Bloomfield, CT; Manchester, NH; and Andover, MA. Prior to coming to Aurora, he served as rabbi in Freehold, NJ, at Freehold Jewish Center.
He has taught in a number of community Hebrew School programs aside from his responsibilities to his own congregation, was principal of the Charleston Community Hebrew School for a time, and also taught at the College of Charleston as an adjunct professor during the vacancy of the Judaic Studies position. He also held a part-time chaplaincy position for the VA Hospital in Leeds, MA. He has worked preparing Bar and Bat Mitzvah students since he was a teenager and has prepared candidates for conversion to Judaism since Seminary days. He has been invited to speak on Judaism for various churches and college classes.
The rabbi has been active in many community organizations and has presided over several rabbinic and interfaith clergy and lay associations in different cities through the years. He has coordinated the Greater Carolinas Association of Rabbis annual Interfaith Institute at Wildacres Retreat Center in North Carolina for more than 20 years. In Aurora, he serves as a chaplain for the Police Department and is a registry chaplain at the Edward Hospital in Naperville as well.
Rabbi Friedman is the author of two chapters in the volume The Observant Life published by the Rabbinical Assembly. They are the chapters on caring for animals and relating to people with disabilities. He has also published several articles in Jewish periodicals in the past, including an article in Conservative Judaism on an alternative method of conversion for people whose disabilities prevent use of the mikveh, as well as a short piece in Sh’ma on his grandfather’s tefillin. He is currently working on studies based on Jewish prayer. You can see some of the most recent prayer essays on this website under “Words from the Rabbi.” and they appear also on the Temple’s Facebook page.
The rabbi is a voracious reader of both Judaica and secular literature. His large library collection includes not only Hebrew works and various Judaic texts, but also among the secular volumes is a full collection of the works of Mark Twain and many volumes about that famous author.
His wife Janice is a multi-talented individual. She is an ordained Interfaith Peace Minister as is the rabbi, and she has worked for many years as a disability rights advocate, was a store owner for a time, and also has sung professionally, and acted in community theater. She is a professional photographer and has many other artistic skills to her credit. Their son Aaron is a professional musician, song writer, and music teacher, currently teaching guitar and piano in Geneva, IL. He also has completed a Master’s degree in Psychology.
Feel free to contact Rabbi Friedman at the synagogue and he would be glad to meet with you. He is more than willing to arrange times to teach on a variety of topics with individuals or groups whether or not they have chosen to become Temple members.
ABOUT OUR CONGREGATION
Committed to Contemporary Jewish Life
Although the congregation officially formed in 1904, the first permanent building in downtown Aurora was constructed in 1927. The present structure on the far west side of the city became Temple B'nai Israel's home in 1961.
Congregants are of diverse ages, from young families to households with teens and college students, from singles and couples to senior citizens. Currently we have about 100 members. Because individual congregants’ affiliations reach from Reform to Conservative to Traditional, we often provide more than one service to help meet their spiritual needs.
Services are held for all holidays. Shabbat services are offered every Friday evening and Saturday morning. We provide a traditional service every Saturday morning. Shabbat Chaverim’s Reform service is held monthly, led by Rabbinic Aide, Cindy Michelassi. Both of our prayerbooks, the Conservative Siddur Lev Shalem used on Friday nights and Saturday mornings as well as the Reform Mishkan T'filah, used at the Chaverim service, have a full English translation, many passages transliterated in English letters, and side notes.
All of our services are egalitarian, we count all Jewish adults to the minyan, and both men and women may participate fully in our services. We are happy to welcome guests of all traditions and backgrounds to participate in our worship and fellowship afterwards.
Throughout the year, we offer a wide variety of family and adult learning opportunities as well as social experiences. From holiday celebrations, Hebrew classes, Bar Mitzvah training, speaker events, Friday night dinners, social events, movie night, Shabbat on the Road, and our annual community seder. You'll always find something enriching to do on our busy monthly calendar.
Temple B’nai Israel is a congregation that welcomes the diversity of Jewish beliefs and practices into our synagogue life. We are delighted to include families and individuals of varying backgrounds and identities who wish to share in the joy of Jewish tradition. We happily welcome non-Jewish partners, guests, and spiritual seekers of different traditions, to join in all synagogue activities. For over a century, we have brought together people from the cities and towns of the western suburbs of Chicago for prayer, study, fellowship, community service, and fun.
It is our hope that you can find your niche in the diversity of our community where we offer:
Different services that follow Reform, Conservative, and Traditional rituals for Shabbat and Festival gatherings throughout the year
Jewish learning, Torah study, Hebrew, and other educational opportunities, in our meeting spaces, library and classrooms
Commitment to fostering interfaith relations and support of social action and community efforts
A place where our ongoing social gatherings are a significant element of our identity as a Jewish community
A full-time rabbinic presence to guide us through life-cycle events and in our daily lives, to teach us Torah, and to lead our worship services
In these and in many other ways, we seek to offer opportunities to relate to the Divine and to our people, each in our unique way.
WHERE ARE WE LOCATED
Temple B'nai Israel takes pride in our community involvement — get in touch with us today to learn more about our services, classes and facilities.