Rabbi Ariel Greenberg-Platt is Beth Israel’s newest director of education and engagement.
The 33-year-old Baltimore native attended Dickinson College for her undergraduate studies, majoring in psychology. She went on to the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) where she majored in Jewish thought and was ordained as a Conservative rabbi in 2015.
Greenberg-Platt always found human behavior fascinating. She was a great listener, known among her friends as the person to come for advice.
“I started being able to instinctively figure out solutions to challenges and things like that,” Greenberg-Platt said. “So I wanted to explore that on a deeper level.”
Greenberg-Platt had originally intended to become an FBI profiler, but in order to become one, one would have to get a masters in something else. She then planned to try to become a speech pathologist because she connects well with other people.
However, one day everything changed.
“I’ve always felt connected to my Judaism. I have always loved celebrating the holidays with my family,” Greenberg-Platt explained. “I always felt connected in that way. But it never really occurred to me to become a rabbi. I started playing around with the idea. Once the idea was in my mind, I would talk to my friends about it. They would say, ‘You’d actually be wonderful at it. You have the spiritual pieces and you love connecting with people.’”
Her first steps on her journey to becoming a rabbi were living in Israel for a year and applying to rabbinical school. In order to excel, Greenberg-Platt had to study Hebrew to catch up with her classmates.
After finishing at JTS, Greenberg-Platt began her professional career by serving as the director of congregational learning for Congregation Agudas Achim, a Conservative synagogue in San Antonio, Texas. After two years, she and her husband David realized that they wanted to move home to Baltimore to start a family.
The term “Jewish connection coordinator” was coined by her and used next in her career path. Back in Baltimore, Greenberg-Platt worked in a wide variety of places within the Jewish community.
“I love to build community and connections. I’m just trying to empower people to explore their Judaism,” she said.
This role allowed Greenberg-Platt to engage with people of all ages throughout the greater Baltimore Jewish community through original individualized programming and through many different organizations, including Krieger Schechter Day School, Goucher University Hillel, Rosenbloom Religious School and the Bykota Senior Center. In addition, she created meaningful moments for individuals and families alike through performing life cycle events such as baby namings, B’nei Mitzvah, weddings and funerals.
Greenberg-Platt’s new position at Beth Israel follows the initiative of “trying to build up the Jewish toolbox of life for all the students that walk through the experiential learning and different programs.” In addition to her work there, she is starting two new initiatives. The first one is called #dojew, which will highlight celebrations and the idea that not everyone’s view of Judaism is the samem but it is all worth exploring. There will be weekly videos with a piece of Torah or a ritual connected to holidays to give people a chance to try different ways of observing. She wants to encourage the community to post pictures or videos of their experiences and how they do traditions.
The second initiative is “Shabbat in the Park,” which takes Shabbat outside of the synagogue. This will eventually turn into “Shabbat on the Go.” Cantor Jen Rolnick and she are planning to create a Shabbat experience in people’s homes around the community.
Greenberg-Platt and husband David have a daughter named Hailey.