Rabbi Elan Adler is a man of seemingly boundless energy for learning Torah, warmth towards all and sharing both through his teachings. With his engaging lectures and alluring personality, he is known for connecting with Jews and non-Jews alike. Rabbi Adler has been sharing his wisdom of Chapters of the Fathers with Root Source since September 2014.
Rabbi Elan moved to Israel in 2010 after serving as a popular pulpit Rabbi for 25 years in Stamford, Connecticut and Baltimore, Maryland where he brought numerous congregants closer to their Jewish heritage. While still a student at Yeshiva University, he served as an aide to Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, the prestigious institution’s leader and mentor of twentieth century American Judaism. Rabbi Adler was personally ordained by Rabbi Soloveitchik and developed a special talent for synthesizing the highest level of Torah scholarship along with the best of secular studies.
Amongst Rabbi Adler’s many talents, he is often asked to officiate at life-cycle events, offers keen insights for individuals, couples and families through his counseling practice, and shares practical tools for polishing character and manners through courtesy, kindness, compassion and, of course, humor on his Derech Eretz Show.
Breaking Israel News sat down with Rabbi Elan Adler to gain more insight into this fascinating man.
BIN (Breaking Israel News): You were born in Israel to Hungarian Holocaust survivors. You left Israel for America at the tender age of 6½. What brought you back to Israel after so many successful years in America?
Rabbi Adler: After the events of 9/11 and seeing the Twin Towers crumble, my wife was clear that it was time to move to Israel. It took 9 years of preparation but we succeeded in July 2010. During that process, we visited Israel 2-3 times a year with the children. With each trip we all felt a greater and deeper pull towards the land.
BIN: Your family remained Sabbath-observant in Providence, Rhode Island at a time, after World War II, when many Jews were leaving Torah observant lives. What kept your family and your beliefs strong during those post-holocaust turbulent years?
Rabbi Adler: My mother and her mother were extremely religious women. They would pray three times a day, studied the Torah regularly and were devoted believers. My father was actually much less religious. However, with my grandmother living with us, the two women of the house were very religiously connected. I believe that kept our home strong.
BIN: You have quite an unconventional higher education. We were fascinated to learn that you attended Providence College, a private, coeducational, Dominican-run, Roman Catholic university for a year. That is quite a leap for a yarmulke-wearing, Orthodox young man. What can you share from that year?
Rabbi Adler: Interestingly, I felt very at home in Providence College. One of the reasons is that many many people wore yarmulkes… OK, skullcaps! There were some 3000 students who were used to seeing religious figures in skullcaps so I did not stick out at all. The Fathers were always very respectful of me. My year at Providence was a wonderful time. Ironically, after Providence College I transferred to Rhode Island College. There were about 10,000 students and I was the only person that I am aware of who wore a skullcap!
BIN: Do you consider your time at Providence College Divine preparation for you teaching non-Jews at Root Source?
Rabbi Adler: There were two events which I consider preparation for my teaching at Root Source. The first is that I attended public school for grades 7 and 8. The school had 1500 students from culturally diverse backgrounds. This was an eye opening experience for someone who had only attended private Jewish school. When I got to Providence College, I was more mature and deeply understood that the world is a big place and much more varied than the Orthodox Jewish world. I became aware that my purpose might also be bigger.
BIN: Why did you pick Chapters of Our Fathers to share on Root Source?
Rabbi Adler: I have taught Chapters of Our Fathers several times in the past and absolutely love the entire series. When studying this topic, I feel like I am getting the best of life’s lessons from very important people. The information is practical for living life in the best and fullest way. They offer good life strategies which are always timely. Although I have my previous notes, I am always researching new commentaries to share. This keeps Chapters of Our Fathers exciting, not only for the listeners but also for me as well!
BIN: Over the many years that you served as a pulpit rabbi, you met many famous people, such as former President Jimmy Carter, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, attorney and author Alan Dershowitz, and more. What insights can you share from meeting so many dignitaries?
Rabbi Adler: Firstly, when not in the spotlight, all people are the same. We pretty much have the same needs, desires and wishes besides, perhaps, the fame. I think one of my greatest lessons from meeting these famous people happened when preparing to meet President Bill Clinton. Before hand, I spent a few minutes assuring that I looked immaculate and would have something meaningful to say in the very short time that we had together. Afterwards, I realized that I had prepared myself more spiritually and physically for meeting President Clinton than for standing in front of God when I pray. That was kind of topsy/turvy. Now, I try to be more conscious of before whom I stand when I pray.
BIN: Do any other special experiences stick out in your mind?
Rabbi Adler: Cardinal William Henry Keeler and I were very close friends. The Cardinal actually spoke both at my Rabbinical indoctoration and farewell dinner in Baltimore. We spent many years working on interfaith activities, building bridges between various communities and creating open communication forums. It is wonderful to have such a positive relationship with such a special person.
BIN: Thank you so much for your time and for sharing such a wonderful series on Root Source.
Rabbi Adler: Thank you! It’s a pleasure.
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