Rabbi Ephraim Weiss’ passion as a rabbi is Jewish education. He believes that Jewish learning doesn’t and shouldn’t stop after Sunday school, but is something that continues every day.
“I have around 15 years of what we can say is postgraduate education,” Weiss said. “Every day, I’m learning something brand new that I didn’t know yesterday. There are always new ideas to learn, and that’s supposed to drive us further as adults the older we get.”
Weiss was recently hired as MAKOR’s permanent rabbi. He first came to the Valley with his wife and children on Thursday, Aug. 15.
“I was interested in the opportunity to help a growing community,” Weiss said. “I look for opportunities and challenges of this nature to help an organization like MAKOR take the next step.”
That excitement of helping to expand a community is something that drives Weiss as a rabbi. He said he views MAKOR as a welcoming and warm community, and that during his interviews and visits he felt the Jewish learning center’s atmosphere provided a great environment for new learning opportunities.
MAKOR was founded in Scottsdale in 2016 by Jewish Arizonans on Campus. The educational center is designed to offer programming for young professionals and young families.
MAKOR — which means “source” in Hebrew — not only serves as a hub for Jewish education, but also as a place for Shabbat holiday observances and social programming for all Jews.
“MAKOR is now at a point of expansion with a continued membership influx and seeks to develop its programming, classes and opportunities for its valued members,” the MAKOR board of directors said a joint statement. “Rabbi Weiss has a solid background of 15 years of Torah learning and is exceptionally well versed in Torah and Judaism. He has vast experience working in outreach and facilitating dynamic and motivational lectures and classes.”
Before coming to Scottsdale, Weiss worked in Jacksonville, Florida, as the dean of the Jacksonville Community Kollel. The kollel — which was the first in Jacksonville — is a center of Jewish learning, scholarship and community outreach. It offers classes, individual and small-group studies that meet the needs to those of all levels of observance, backgrounds and knowledge.
Weiss viewed his time at the Jacksonville Kollel as a great opportunity to assist the relatively smaller community with learning more about Judaism.
Originally from New York City, Weiss was previously a member of the Chicago Community Kollel before moving to Jacksonville, where he taught classes. He received his rabbinical education in Jerusalem at both the Mir Yeshiva and the Torah Ohr. He was authorized as a rabbi by Rav Zalman Nechemia Goldberg of the Jerusalem Beit Din.
Weiss also taught at the Torah Academy of Jacksonville and his wife, Kineret, founded Jacksonville Torah High School, which was the area’s first Torah high school.
For Weiss, his decision to come to MAKOR stems from his core belief that Jewish education should be easily accessible for anyone interested in learning.
“I like to say that I’m first and foremost a teacher before I’m a rabbi,” Weiss said. “I want to make sure we’re engaging with students of all different skill levels, because when people are learning they become more engaged and that leads to growth.”
MAKOR’s board of directors wrote in the provided statement that it was an honor to hire Weiss and feel he will lead the learning center’s community and “advance Makor to the Oasis for Jewry in the Valley.”
Weiss is excited to bring his experience to MAKOR and the Valley as a whole.
“My schedule is filling up very quickly,” Weiss said. “I can see that people are as excited as I am to come and when people are excited they’re motivated to grow. They’ll want to come more and they’ll want to bring their friends and that way the community grows more.” JN