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 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
Founder and Spiritual Leader
Rabbi and revivalist Dan Ain 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 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 created, 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. He was appointed head Rabbi at Congregation Beth Sholom in San Francisco in July 2018, and now resides in San Francisco with his wife and children.
Alana Joblin Ain
Writer, Co-Founder and Rebbetzin
Writer, teacher 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 - which explores questions of faith, family, seasonal shifts, ambivalence, disbelief, rituals and connectedness - can be read on The Forward and her Torah commentary can be found on My Jewish Learning.
She is a co-founder of Because Jewish, along with her husband, Rabbi Dan Ain. They live in San Fransisco with their two children.
When Rabbi Ain announced his move to San Francisco in March of 2018, Wendi along with Mike Greenhaus planned and produced the 2018 High Holiday services. She is excited to see what the new year has in store for the Because Jewish, and will move into a volunteer role to help ensure the organizations continuation.
Wendi Weinman joined Because Jewish in 2016 after close to a decade at the venerable 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. .
The Friday Night Jam Producer & Host
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 son, 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
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.
Reb Daniel Brenner
High Holidays 2018 & Friday Night Jam Co-Host
Rabbi Daniel Brenner, named by Newsweek Magazine as one of America's most influential rabbis, has played key roles in some of the most creative organizations in the religious world, including CLAL-the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, Auburn Seminary, Birthright Israel, and Moving Traditions, where he currently serves as the chief of education. Brenner's latest Jewish cultural arts project, Klezmer Aerobics, was featured as a select pick in the Weekend Arts section of The New York Times.
Cantor Zachary Konigsberg has been on the Jewish scene in NYC for the last decade. He has officiated, blessed and chanted at hundreds of services large and small. He is the grandson of the late legendary Cantor Jacob Konigsberg. In addition to serving congregations around New York City, Zachary works one-on-one with families, serving many unaffiliated Jews, and is inspired by the opportunity to collaborate with these families to create unique and meaningful life cycle occasions. Zachary resides in Brooklyn with his wife and children.