Rabbi Matt Zerwekh is the rabbi of Temple Emanu-El in Oak Park.
Ordained at HUC-JIR in Cincinnati, Zerwekh is a product of the Detroit Jewish community and grew up at Temple Emanu-El, which has situated him uniquely to help reinvigorate the congregation he has credited with helping to forge his earliest Jewish identity.
Under his leadership, Temple Emanu-El has grown in size and prominence in the community while undertaking important projects to update and modernize the congregation’s physical prayer and gathering spaces.
As the pandemic arrived and congregations moved online, Zerwekh led the temple in quickly pivoting to online worship and learning opportunities in mere days, offering daily online kids’ story times, classes, and gathering opportunities to help provide normalcy and structure for his community during a fraught time.
Zerwekh has strived to “pray with his feet” since he began his rabbinate.
Since arriving in Detroit, he has continued this work, from marching in the Dexter/Davison neighborhood of Detroit with the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church during the summer protests in the wake of the death of George Floyd, to coordinating a night of learning about immigration, which welcomed more than a dozen rabbis from various denominations to share one bimah to teach what Jewish law teaches about welcoming the stranger, to delivering an opening blessing for the Detroit NAACP’s Freedom Fund dinner.