Rabbi Seth comes to us from four years of service to Congregation Mount Sinai, in Brooklyn Heights, NY – where his energy and warm, engaging manner endeared him to his congregation, much as they did to those who met him during his visit to Williams in April. He was known at Mount Sinai for his dedication to the local interfaith alliance, his skill as a designer and facilitator of education programs, and his innovative outdoor Shabbat services “Under the Bridge.” Working with two neighboring congregations of other faiths, he started an inter-religious text study, and convened a weekly “Tuesdays with Talmud” discussion that drew participants from all religious perspectives, including many lawyers and judges. He also created a monthly study group to consider ways to incorporate humility, patience, loving-kindness and respect into the process of personal growth. His congregation is known as one that is welcoming to people from a wide spectrum of Jewish traditions.
Seth’s interests in inter-religious dialogue and pluralism have shaped his education – from his undergraduate major in religion at Columbia to a Master’s in Buddhist Studies at Harvard Divinity School to his rabbinical studies and ordination at Hebrew College. He completed a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, and has offered liturgical leadership and presentations on spirituality and social justice as a guest on the campuses of Tufts, Boston College, and Amherst.
Seth will be building on the legacy of Cantor Bob Scherr, our beloved Jewish Chaplain from 2004 until his retirement this past January, and Rabbi Rachel Barenblat ’96, who has served with great distinction as Interim Jewish Chaplain this past semester. We express our sincere thanks to Cantor Bob and Rabbi Rachel for their tireless service to our Jewish community and to the campus at large – and to the hard-working students, faculty and staff who served with us on the search committee: Evan Ringel ’17, Marisa Flignor ’19, Rachel Levin ’19, David Vascones ’18, Prof. Laurie Heatherington, Prof. Edan Dekel, and Colin Ovitsky of the Center for Learning in Action.
Rabbi Wax will join the team in the Chaplains’ Office, which includes Fr. Gary Caster (Catholic Chaplain since 2007), Sharif Rosen (Muslim Chaplain since 2015) and Rick Spalding (Chaplain to the College since 2000). His appointment comes at a moment of important transition, as Rick prepares to complete his service to Williams in December 2017. Fr. Caster, Chaplain Rosen and Rabbi Wax will work closely with Steve Klass, Vice President for Campus Life, to initiate a nationwide search for a new Protestant Chaplain, at a time when interest in spirituality is on the rise, inter-religious collaboration is essential, and life on campus is shaped by concerns for the lived experience of equity, respect and dialogue. That search will be announced soon, and all members of the community will be welcome to contribute their ideas.
We hope you’ll find an early opportunity to reach out to welcome Seth and his family to Williams. And we look forward to announcing a festive occasion in early fall when we can introduce Seth to the campus and celebrate the newly-constituted team in the Chaplains’ Office.
Alexandra Garbarini ’94, Professor of History, and Rev. Rick Spalding, Chaplain to the College – Co-Chairs of the Search Committee