What We Do
Emotional, intellectual, mind-firing-on-all-cylinders exploration of God and faith and Judaism in this crazy modern world we live in. We explore through ritual, we explore through Bible study, we explore through delta blues, we explore through art, we explore through meditation. We explore through offering ourselves to something greater than ourselves.
We aim to unsettle you. We aim to challenge you. We accept no easy answers.
We build community without justification. We connect not with screens, but with scrolls. We collectively investigate what is most important in our lives. We uncover the joyous and the sacred hidden by our plodding routines. We bring food to the new parents among us. We bring comfort to the grieving among us.
We do all this through Judaism, or hand-in-hand with Judaism, or walking just a little bit ahead of Judaism, but peering over our shoulders, to see if it’s still there behind us, which it always is. Why through Judaism? Because we’re Jews, or we’re married to Jews, or we’re interested in Judaism. Because Jewish.
Who We Are and What We Want
We grew up in orthodox households and evangelical households and hippie neo-Buddhist households. We know what heightened spiritual experience is, but we don’t know where to find it. We get it at concerts, sometimes. We get it through probing conversation, occasionally. We get it through art, when we find the time.
But we want a place where we can connect with others in the vitality and meaning that is Judaism at its very best. A place where we are pushed. A place where we are challenged. A place where we are listened to.
Because we want to be called. We want to try. We want to talk about God, even if we don’t know where God is. We want to meditate in silence. We want to sing at the top of our lungs. We want to come closer to the source. We want to be unsettled. We want to transcend our everyday lives. Together.
To bring Judaism into the now. To make it as moving as music, as uplifting as art, as unsettling as literature, as rich as ritual, as comforting as community, as compelling as good conversation. And to use those art forms, and many others, to make Judaism sudden and powerful for us, right now.
Rabbi Dan Ain
Rabbi and Founder
Preacher and connector, Rabbi Dan gathers those who are open to being reached. He finds holiness in honest conversation, in the spaces where people can say what they really think and allow others to do the same. His latest project Because Jewish creates opportunities for our religious perspectives to be in genuine dialogue with our artists, our musicians and our everyday lives.
The Times of Israel says: "Because Jewish represents the zeitgeist of Jewish Brooklyn, circa 2016. Its raison d’être is to offer community and presence amidst the racing speed and technological isolation of the here and now."
For the past decade, Rabbi Dan has been curating these offerings around New York City at the 92nd St Y (as Director of Tradition and Innovation), Brooklyn Bowl, (le) poisson rouge and as the rabbi of The New Shul. He's hosted Friday night dinners with comedians and cosmologists, klezmer brunches with composers and analysts, and conversations with groups of friends looking for ways to talk about God on their own terms.
The High Holiday services he leads, with blues musician and cantorial singer Jeremiah Lockwood of The Sway Machinery, is an example of finding meaningful ways to worship in the 21st century – creating experiences that speak to people living in today's world using the language, lessons and music of the past.
A Conservative rabbi, Rabbi Dan is a CLAL Resident and was ordained at The Jewish Theological Seminary in Morningside Heights.
Alana Joblin Ain
Writer, Co-Founder and Rebbetzin
Writer, mother and Rebbetzin, Alana Joblin Ain holds an MFA in poetry from Hunter College, where she has also taught creative writing and literature. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, Dossier Journal, Crab Orchard Review, Quarterly West, and the anthology Mothering Through the Darkness, among other publications. Alana's Ask the Rebbetzin column can be read on The Forward and her torah commentary can be found on My Jewish Learning. Alana is a co-founder of Because Jewish, along with her husband, Rabbi Dan Ain. They live in Brooklyn with their two children. Click here to be directed to Alana's page on our site.
Wendi Weinman joined Because Jewish after almost a decade at the 92nd Street Y where she was a Marketing Director and worked closely with Rabbi Dan creating unique and meaningful gatherings that celebrated music, culture and art alongside ancient and modern Jewish perspectives. Wendi has spent her career cultivating talent and creating community through producing, planning and publicizing events. Her years as the Director of A&R at the legendary Capricorn Records gave her insight into what makes people come together and the power of music to create community. Wendi's additional experience includes, Founder of Milktwist Productions and as a publicist with clients including adidas, Universal Music and The Johnny Mercer Foundation. She is the Board Vice President of Friends of Tranquility Camp, a Jewish camp where her nieces are now third generation campers. Wendi has lived on the island of Manhattan for the past twenty years and has spent half of that time asking herself why she doesn't live in Brooklyn.
The Friday Night Jam
Mike Greenhaus is a writer, blogger and self-described “live music geek.” He is the editor-in-chief of Relix, the longest-standing print magazine dedicated to improvisational and independent music. Additionally, he edits the daily newswire for Relix.com and its sister site Jambands.com and is the vice president and co-founder of Relix Media Group.
A former college radio DJ, Mike has spoken on panels at the South by Southwest and CMJ music conferences, helps oversee Relix’s official video channels, co-curates the collaborative “Brooklyn Is Live” event series and serves on the Young Patrons Board for City Parks Foundation. He has written for Spin, Paste, American Songwriter and a variety of other outlets, and penned the introduction to noted music photographer Jay Blakesberg’s book, Jam.
A native New Yorker and Skidmore College graduate, Mike lives in New York City with his Southern-transplant wife, and has proudly seen a concert in all five boroughs (including Staten Island). You can follow him on Twitter at @greenhauseffect and Instagram at @greenhauseffect3
High Holiday Music Director
Jeremiah Lockwood’s music career began with over a decade of apprenticeship to the legendary Piedmont Blues musician Carolina Slim, playing in the subways of New York City. He also trained under his grandfather Cantor Jacob Konigsberg and performed in his choir. Jeremiah’s band The Sway Machinery seeks inspiration from diverse realms of experience related to the cultural geography of New York City. The Sway Machinery has played around the world, including stints at legendary music festivals like Montreal Jazz, Roskilde, and perhaps most notably, Festival au Desert in Timbuktu, Mali. In addition to leading The Sway Machinery, Jeremiah toured for years as guitarist in the popular world-beat band Balkan Beat Box and has scored numerous film and video projects.
Jeremiah was a recipient of the 2007-8 Six Points Fellowship for Emerging Jewish Artists, was 2010 Artist-in-Residence for the Forward and was a 2011 Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra Composer Fellow. Jeremiah is currently working on a PhD in Education and Jewish Studies at Stanford University. His solo guitar and voice record, entitled LOCKWOOD, was released in the Fall of 2014 on System Dialing Records. The new Sway Machinery LP, entitled Purity and Danger, was released in the spring of this year to critical acclaim.
The Unorthodox Haggadah
Nathan Phillips is an Emmy-winning creative director and best-selling author focused on interactive narratives and comedy jokes. In 2015, his work was featured at Sundance and the International Documentary Festival. It won The World Press Photo Contest and most importantly made it to the front page of Reddit (twice). He’s appeared on CBS This Morning with Charlie Rose, The Queen Latifah Show, The Martha Stewart Show and a whole lot of NPR programs.
He’s collaborated on interactive art projects shown at MOMA, The Museum of Contemporary Art in LA, The Whitney and The New Museum. He performs regularly as a comedian all over New York, and most notably at the Edinburgh Comedy Festival in SEX YOU (I’m Gonna), an improvised one man show in which he tried and failed to get people to have sex with him onstage.
His best-selling book “The Unorthodox Haggadah, A dogma-free Passover for Jews and Other Chosen People” is available everywhere including “Walmart”, a Jew-Free store supposedly located in the suburbs. Nathan is the founder of The Oratory Laboratory, New York’s leading speechwriting company and he currently works at the Google Creative Lab.
Born 1949, Archie Rand is an artist from Brooklyn, New York. Rand’s work as a painter and muralist is displayed around the world, including in the collections of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Bibliothèque Nationale de France in Paris, and the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. There have been over 100 solo exhibitions of his work. In 1974, he completed murals for the 13,000 square foot interior of B'nai Yosef Synagogue in Brooklyn, a monumental three-year project.
Among his pioneering explorations, his latest work The 613 is surely one of his most ambitious feats yet. Without any idea where the work would be exhibited, Rand began transforming each and every one of the 613 mitzvahs, or commandments, into its own breathtaking painting, a series that took five years to complete. Each of the gorgeous and perplexing panels features a vibrant, unexpected image that brings forth the heart of its law and commands our eyes to linger. Rand is startling and original in his rich color choices, bold characters, and extraordinarily expressive approach. The New York Times describes the paintings as "rendered in the style of comics and pulp fiction book jackets, a dash of Mad magazine, a spoonful of Tales of the Crypt, some grotesques, some superheroes, always action, emotion, drama."
Archie has published collaborative work with poets Robert Creeley, John Ashbery, Clark Coolidge, David Plante, John Yau, David Lehman and Jim Cummins. He was awarded, among numerous honors, the Achievement Medal For Contributions to the Visual Arts by the National Foundation for Jewish Culture and he received the Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship. Formerly the Chair of the Department of Visual Arts at Columbia University he is currently the Presidential Professor of Art at Brooklyn College, CUNY. His home and studio are located in Brooklyn.
Saturday Morning Music Director
Avi Steinhardt, LCSW is a Brooklyn based pianist who plays improvisational interpretations from the Great American Songbook. For the better part of a decade, Avi has been exploring the essence and depth of these tunes with Jazz Improvisation master, Connie Crothers, with whom he has dedicated himself to the pursuit of spontaneity.
In addition, Avi has a private Gestalt Therapy practice in Brooklyn, where he sees individuals and couples, kids, teens, and adults. These two aspects of Avi's work have an unarticulated but undeniable connection and flow between them - in their need for a deeper type of listening, in their reverence for this very moment, and their mutual suggestion that there is a type of holiness to be found in many unexpected corners of our lives.
Volunteer and Booster
Becky Voorwinde is an involved member of the Because Jewish community. She enjoys coordinating with other Brooklyn volunteers who, like Becky, dream of creating a spiritually and intellectually enriching local Jewish community to raise their families. Professionally, Becky serves as the Executive Director of the Bronfman Fellowships, a pluralistic Jewish leadership program. Becky's experience includes work in the Corporate Responsibility Group at Ernst & Young LLP and at a non-profit human resources consultancy, Diversity @ Work in Melbourne Australia.
Becky graduated Summa Cum Laude from Barnard College with a B.A. in American Studies. Her thesis focused on the 1968 New York Teachers' Strike and its impact on Jewish identity.
She is a member of the Engaging Interfaith Families Committee at UJA Federation of NY and serves on the board of JPro, an advocacy and education organization for employees of Jewish non-profits. Becky resides in Brooklyn with her husband Michael and two young daughters.