Michael Weisser has been the rabbi and spiritual leader of the Free Synagogue of Flushing (FSF) since September 2008. His focus on the Jewish value of “welcoming the stranger” continues Free Synagogue’s tradition of embracing freedom, diversity, and its surrounding community. Rabbi Weisser also has participated in the planning and execution of the Queens Unity Walk, which brings together people of various faiths for a day of learning. He is currently involved in the creation of an interfaith council that will serve the ethnically and religiously diverse borough of Queens. Recently, Rabbi Weisser was among those chosen to deliver an invocation at New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Interfaith Breakfast.
Prior to his arrival at the FSF, upon his return from a rabbinic posting in New Zealand, Rabbi Weisser taught spirituality and meditation in Nebraska. In New Zealand, he served as Rabbi of Beth Shalom Synagogue in Auckland. Previously, he served the Congregation B’nai Jeshurun in Lincoln, Nebraska for many years, and he taught in the Philosophy and Religion Department of the Nebraska Wesleyan University for 11 years. One of his courses, entitled “Christian & Jewish Heritage,” was one of the most popular elective courses offered at Nebraska Wesleyan University.
During Rabbi Weisser’s service in Nebraska, the Grand Dragon of the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan threatened him and his family. The rabbi’s response was to reach out to the one behind the threats. He ultimately befriended the klansman and was instrumental in his change from a life of hate and bigotry to one of love, tolerance, non-harmful behavior, and conversion to Judaism. The book, Not By the Sword: How a Cantor and His Family Transformed a Klansman was written about these events by Kathryn Watterson. The University of Nebraska Press is reissuing the book in 2012.
Rabbi Weisser studied at the Hebrew Union College—Jewish Institute of Religion and the Rabbinical Academy of America – both in New York City. He is ordained as a Rabbi and Cantor and certified as an educator. Rabbi Weisser has been actively involved in interfaith activities for many years and has received numerous awards for his work in this area. Among the many awards he has received are:
• Person of the Year -- Lincoln Interfaith Council
• Man of the Year -- ACLU Nebraska
• Ecumenical Person of the Year -- United Methodist Church, Nebraska Annual Conference
• Person of the Year – NAACP Nebraska
• Honorary Doctorate -- Hebrew Union College in recognition of interfaith & interethnic work
• The Government of New Zealand -- Official delegate at the “Dialogue for Religious Harmony and Cooperation”
• Yogyakarta, Indonesia Citation for Interfaith Understanding -- Consul General of Indonesia
• National Peacemaker -- Pax Christi awarded May 2012
Executive Director Alan J. Brava
Dear members of Free Synagogue of Flushing, By the time you receive this letter from me, I will have been serving as your Executive a Director for close to 2 months.
You may ask, "What does an Executive Director do?" What in a broad sense are the responsibilities?
The Executive Director bears direct responsibility for all operational aspects of our synagogue, other than the worship, adult education and pastoral aspects overseen by our clergy and educators. Even as to these areas, however, the Executive Director must serve as a collaborative resource to assure a consistent and intense focus on the needs of our members.
At a tactical level, our Executive Director hires and supervises all administrative staff, administers all financial activities of the Congregation, coordinates all programming except those programs overseen by other members of the Senior Staff, reviews and approves all member-directed communications and non-member marketing, plays an integral role in fundraising and development, and oversees all aspects of our physical facilities (including maintenance, repair and new construction) and technology.
It is at the strategic level, however, that our Executive Director must truly excel. Membership recruitment and retention are the lifeblood of our congregation, and the Executive Director is often our first public face, in collaboration with the rabbi, to potential members, financially distressed or disgruntled members, and the external community. The Executive Director attends the monthly meetings of our Board and our Executive Committee and is expected to be an active participant in their policy discussions and strategic planning; the same is true with respect to the weekly Staff meetings and the weekly meeting with the Rabbi and the Board President.
It sounds pretty exhaustive. No? Well, with the cooperation and teamwork of the other staff and the Executive Committee and Board, many of these duties and responsibilities can and should be shared.
The goal is to create members who feel like "stock holders" of FSF. My successes are yours and similarly, your successes are mine. Together we share in all that transpires at our synagogue.
Personally, for me it is an honor to serve this congregation. To be part of a long rich history that is close to reaching 100 years of serving the Jewish community is both exciting and filled with awe.
I have an open door policy. My office us a place to come visit, have a meeting, share a discussion and a cup of coffee and get to know each other and each other's needs and desires.
The future is bright. I believe in miracles. Each and everyday that we awake and get out of bed we thank God for our lives and for that basic fact that our bodies function to allow us to do His work.
I invite ALL of you to join with me, the Rabbi and the lay leadership to rebuild our synagogue financially, spiritually and most importantly, the rebuilding of relationships so that we all can go from strength to strength. Alan J. Brava Executive Director, Free Synagogue of Flushing