Ex-Carpool Line Terrorist to Speak

Grenade-throwing days are recalled in this sweet write-up. :)

Featuring Rabbi Daniel Brenner

The Jewish Federation’s 2010 Annual Campaign will officially kick-off on Sunday, February 21, 2010 during The Main Event featuring special guest speaker Rabbi Daniel Brenner, Executive Director of Birthright Israel Next, who was recently named by Newsweek Magazine as one of the 50 most influential rabbis in America.

Brenner’s speech entitled “Going Retro? The Next Generation's Search for Jewish Authenticity” will be both eye opening and inspirational. His remarks will address the future of Jewish life in America, what the next generation will bring to the table and how we as a Jewish community can connect and engage them. Rabbi Brenner will surely leave us looking at ourselves and our community in a new light.

The Federation is especially pleased to be bringing Rabbi Brenner to our community because he was born and raised in Charlotte and was educated at the Hebrew Academy before attending Charlotte Latin and graduating from Meyers Park High School. Daniel is the son of Dr. Saul and Martha Brenner, long time members of Temple Israel.

The highly popular Federation annual event is chaired by Kevin Levine and Louis Sinkoe, who have assembled a fantastic Steering Committee of community leaders to help promote the event. “Louis and I are honored to chair the Main Event and are excited and pleased that Rabbi Daniel Brenner accepted our invitation to be our guest speaker! Having Daniel, who is our contemporary, return to his hometown to address our community is a tribute to the strong Jewish upbringing and values instilled in him by his parents, the Hebrew Academy and Temple Israel. From my days at the Hebrew Academy and Temple Israel, I remember Daniel as an energetic, talkative, and boisterous kid! He has come a long way from throwing magnolia seed “grenades” during carpool line. His views and stories will entertain and inspire us all,” remarked Kevin Levine.

The Main Event will be held at Temple Israel at 7:30 p.m. and a sumptuous dessert reception will follow the program. Event tickets are $25 per person and can be purchased online at www.jewishcharlotte.org or by calling the Federation office at 704-944-6757.

In the Spring of 2007, Daniel Brenner was hired by the Birthright Israel Foundation to launch a wide-reaching effort to engage the over 200,000 North American program participants and their peers in Jewish communal life. Birthright Israel NEXT, the project has grown into a national organization with professionals working in twelve cities, peer-driven programs that are attracting over 50,000 participants, and a robust training program for emerging leaders. It is now the largest effort to foster Jewish cultural, intellectual, civic, spiritual, and philanthropic life for young adults ages 22-32.

Brenner’s rabbinic path has focused on working across boundaries. Prior to working for Birthright Israel, Brenner worked outside the Jewish world, directing an educational center at Auburn Theological Seminary, a historic Protestant institution on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. In this capacity, Brenner launched America’s first doctoral level program for clergy that work in the context of religious diversity, created an educational curriculum for Face to Face/Faith to Faith, Auburn’s international youth leadership program. He also developed Evolution, DNA and the Soul, a popular program of science education for religious leaders with Columbia University. At Auburn, Brenner was at the epicenter of the successful effort to stop anti-Israel divestment in the Presbyterian Church and his efforts in this debate garnered him a Simon Rockower Award for Excellence in Jewish Journalism.

Before his work at Auburn, Brenner served for five years on the faculty of CLAL: The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership in New York City where he pioneered programs that forged bonds between leaders of different Jewish denominations and co-authored (with help from Joseph J. Fins, M.D., Chief of Medical Ethics at Cornell's New York-Presbyterian Medical Center and Rabbi Tsvi Blanchard) Embracing Life and Facing Death: A Jewish Guide to Palliative Care. In his preface to the book, Senator Joseph Lieberman praised the work as a "transcendent contribution" to Jewish life.

Brenner is also a prolific playwright - his fifth professionally produced play premiered at New York City's Vital Theater. Brenner holds a B.A. in philosophy from the University of Wisconsin and both M.A. and rabbinic degrees from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. He lives with his wife Lisa and their three children in Montclair, New Jersey.

According to 2008 Main Event speaker Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, “Daniel Brenner is a wide-ranging scholar whose intellect has traversed so many fields, and whose heart encompasses the whole Jewish world, and the non-Jewish world as well. How wonderful it is for the community of Charlotte that he is a native son, and that he is returning to share with you his hard-earned wisdom.”