Rabbi Steve Morgen, Associate Rabbi

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Rabbi Steve MorgenBorn and raised in Tucson, Arizona, he grew up in a family that was active in the Reform Temple in Tucson. While earning his bachelor’s degree at the University of Arizona, Rabbi Morgen became active in the campus Hillel House, dancing in the “Yaelim” Israeli dance troupe and serving as President of Hillel, among other leadership roles.

Before going to law school, Rabbi Morgen went to Israel to study for one year: six months at the WUJS Institute in Arad and six months at the PARDES Institute in Jerusalem. The WUJS Institute is a program for college graduates providing an introduction to Israeli life, culture and geography. The program includes an intensive Hebrew language ulpan, and extensive touring of Israel. PARDES is a unique co-educational Orthodox Yeshiva where men and women of different backgrounds learn Jewish texts together.

After the year in Israel, Rabbi Morgen studied law at the UCLA School of Law, earning his J.D. in 1983. While at UCLA, he lived for a year and a half in a Jewish student “co-op” house called the Westwood Bayit. Students who lived there shared not only the cooking and cleaning responsibilities, but also led Kabbalat Shabbat services for the house and guests, invited other students to attend Shabbat dinners after the service, built a community sukkah, celebrated the Passover Seder together, and studied all night on Shavuot. Rabbi Morgen also participated in a Talmud study group at the Law School sponsored by the Hillel House.

While working as a corporate/securities lawyer in Los Angeles, Rabbi Morgen also became active in a Havurah called the Library Minyan at Temple Beth Am. He occasionally delivered sermons for the minyan, and studied Talmud by telephone during his lunch hour with friends.

He took a year off from his legal practice in 1987-88 to go back to Israel and study again. This time he went to the Conservative Movement’s Bet Midrash in Jerusalem. It was during this year that he met his wife, Diane Dorf, who was studying to be a Cantor at Hebrew Union College.

Rabbi Morgen returned to the practice of law in Los Angeles, and attended many of the sessions of the 1993 Rabbinical Assembly convention in LA (which was held in a hotel just next door to his law office). He decided shortly thereafter to attend Rabbinical School at the University of Judaism in Los Angeles, went to Israel for a third year – once again at the Conservative Bet Midrash – and finished Rabbinical School at The Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York, in May 1998.

During his studies at JTS, he participated for two years in an interseminarian program where seminary students from all denominations of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam met to explore each other’s traditions and discover similarities as well as differences. He also wrote two action papers for United Synagogue: one on “Courtesy and Civility” and one on “Organ Donations”. He also worked extensively on the text for a CD-ROM on Kashrut for the Conservative Movement. The CD-ROM, includes detailed information about the laws of keeping kosher, a variety of sources arguing why one should keep kosher, and some information about how to get started.

Rabbi Morgen accepted a position as Rabbi at Congregation Beth Yeshurun upon graduation, and has lived in Houston since July 1998. He became associate rabbi in 2002. Cantor Dorf and Rabbi Morgen have one son, Daniel Isaac Hillel, who was born in August 1997 and who attends the Day School at Beth Yeshurun.

Rabbi Morgen coordinates Adult Education programs at Beth Yeshurun and runs the Conversion Program for those interested in joining the Jewish faith and people. His community involvement includes outreach in interfaith activities, teaching in Jewish and non-Jewish venues, Israel advocacy, participation on the Community Relations Committee, the Horvitz Scholar in Residence Committee, the Houston Kashrut Association, and serving as board member of the Jewish Federation, ADL, and Interfaith Ministries of Houston.

 

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