‘Rabbi For The Future’ – Rabbi Daniel Schwartz

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Rabbi Daniel and Elana Schwartz with Jenna and Avi
Rabbi Daniel and Elana Schwartz with Jenna and Avi

Shir Shalom’s “Rabbi Daniel” to be celebrated on his 10th year.

When Daniel Schwartz came to Temple Shir Shalom in West Bloomfield as a rabbinic intern, both he and the congregation knew their relationship was bashert — meant to be.

The following year, after Schwartz was ordained at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati, he moved right into a position at the 1,000-member Reform congregation in West Bloomfield.

He joined Rabbi Dannel Schwartz, who founded the temple in 1988, and Rabbi Michael Moskowitz, who has been there since 1995.

Rabbi Daniel and Elana Schwartz with Jenna and Avi
Rabbi Daniel and Elana Schwartz with Jenna and Avi

Next weekend, Temple Shir Shalom will celebrate Daniel Schwartz’s milestone with “Rabbi Daniel’s Israel Odyssey 10th Anniversary Celebration.”

The festivities start Friday evening, March 9, with a special Shabbat service at the temple. On Saturday night, there will be a gala soiree with cocktails, dinner, live music and more. The celebration will end Sunday morning with a tribute to the rabbi at Shoresh, the temple’s religious school. The temple is also publishing a tribute book in the rabbi’s honor.

Rabbi Daniel Schwartz admits there was initially some confusion because his name is so similar to that of his colleague, Rabbi Dannel Schwartz. He credits his administrative assistant, who was able to avoid mix-ups, and likes to tease Moskowitz that he is surrounded by Rabbis Schwartz. Most of the congregants refer to him as “Rabbi Daniel.”

Schwartz, 39, grew up in St. Louis and got his undergraduate degree from Oberlin College. In his senior year at HUC-JIR, he met Shir Shalom’s leaders at a Union for Reform Judaism convention in Houston; soon afterwards he was hired as a rabbinic intern. He led services once a month and on the High Holidays.

“When he wasn’t at temple, people started asking, ‘Where’s the new rabbi?’” said Moskowitz. “That’s what we needed to make happen. He would be the rabbi for our future, for our kids.”

Those who know him best cite Schwartz’s energy and enthusiasm.

On his third official day on the job, he took a group of temple teens to Israel. “He hadn’t even set up his office yet,” Moskowitz said.

“Rabbi Daniel works well with congregants of all ages and makes everyone feel welcome,” said the temple’s president, Josh Sherbin of Bloomfield Hills. “He has a thoughtful mindset and joyful sense of humor, and he really lives the ethos of tikkun olam (repairing the world). He’s very relationship-based.”

Rabbis Daniel Schwartz, Dannel Schwartz and Michael Moskowitz
Rabbis Daniel Schwartz, Dannel Schwartz and Michael Moskowitz

Schwartz has been a mainstay of the temple’s “Tikkun-Olam-a-thon,” a Sunday in January when many of the temple’s families engage in a social action project, and he works with a group that volunteers at a shelter in Detroit. He helped restructure the school curriculum to make it more camp-like. He also started the temple’s annual Chicken Soup Cook-Off, with amateur and professional chefs competing in several categories. Leftover soup is donated to area soup kitchens. 

Moskowitz said Schwartz has become a true partner and a close friend who “without a doubt has made me a better rabbi, but even more, has made me a better person.”

Andre Douville, the temple’s executive director, said Shwartz is “very sincere and kind.” It’s a testament to Shir Shalom, he added, that both Schwartz and Moskowitz have been there since they were ordained. For many rabbis, that first pulpit is a stepping-stone to a larger or more prestigious congregation.

Rabbi Daniel was introduced to his wife, the former Elana Averbuch, by people from the temple and from the Fleischman Residence, where she worked at the time. They married in 2014 and have two children, Jenna, 3, and Avi, 2. The rabbi regards Detroit as home and says some of his closest friends are Shir Shalom members.

Schwartz has ambitious plans for the future, including an adult mission to Israel and a family camp experience. He’ll also be closely involved in a building plan that will allow the temple to house its Shoresh religious school, which now meets in another building.

Tickets for the March 10 gala dinner are $118 and can be purchased on the temple’s website. Reservations must be made by March 1.