Author Archives: guest

Acts of Loving Kindness

Dear Rabbi Orenstein,

Over our many years together at Beth El, you have always encouraged our mutual interest in music and art.  The program assembled for your birthday celebration attests to your desire to always be (in the presence of) surrounded by beautiful music. Love of music is, after all, an “Orenstein tradition”.

Your artistic talent, on the other hand, has not been primarily expressed in the form of physical paintings, but rather by the way you paint pictures with your words.  Your ecumenical ability and skill in bringing people of diverse interests and faiths together attests to your desire to always promote peace and harmony in a world in desperate need of more transparency, enlightenment, and especially acts of loving kindness.

As one of many of former congregants of yours, rest assured that your efforts will be forever appreciated by those whom you have touched.

Our love and best wishes!

Erv and Harriett Katz

By: Erving and Harriett Katz

Our Guiding Light

Dear Rabbi Orenstein,

You have always been the special guiding light for our family. From the first time that I heard you over twenty years ago, I have always been mesmerized to listen to you speak or teach, regardless of the subject. Always your messages were fascinating with gems of knowledge along with a strong dose of compassion, sprinkled throughout with humor. There is no one like you. Our entire family cherishes you and we were so fortunate to have all three of our children bar or bat mitzvahed under your care and guidance. We pray for you daily and wish you a wonderful birthday.

Bob, Ligaya, Aviva, Ari, and Alexandra

By: Woog Family

Dear Rabbi

Beth El was our home away from home for 27 years, and its heimish atmosphere emanated from you.

You guided our children, Emily and Ari, for their b’nai mitzvah, and you set an example to all of us about scholarship and tradition and especially tolerance and understanding.

We will always treasure our memories of your leadership and friendship, and are happy to celebrate your 77th birthday with you and Sylvia.

Your special day will be filled with beautiful music. May all of your days be celebrated with sweet melodies and elegant harmonies.


Wilma & Marty Steinberg




By: Marty & Wilma Steinberg

Understanding the Scriptures

Dear Rabbi Orenstein:

I’ve never called you Jehiel.  I never dared.  I’ve always been in awe of you.  For me you represent the path to Jewish knowledge through intelligence and study.  Before we had our first lesson you told me to study the first six lines of Genesis.  I never told you but I spent a whole month reading everything I could find on those six lines.  When I study with you I use every bit of intelligence I can find to understand the lesson.  You know so much and I try to understand all I can. 

But being in awe of you hasn’t kept me from fighting tooth and nail when I disagree.  I like to think that I’m following the example of the great scholars, arguing exhaustively just to understand.  Not caring who was right but what was right.  Just to know what the scriptures really say.  Your knowledge is exhaustive but I’ve understood a good deal of it.  When I thank you at the end of each lesson you always say that I taught you.  How I taught you I don’t know but I’m grateful that you’ve had the humility to receive whatever I had to offer.

What you’ve offered me is an appreciation for the brilliance of the Jewish scriptures.  You know things I never would have guessed — Hebrew puns, internal rhymes and letter repetition leading to the next verse.  I’m sure I haven’t understood all the subtleties but I’ve come to appreciate the genius that has gone into these texts.  I believe that’s your most enduring gift to me: an appreciation for how wonderful the scriptures really are.  That may be just the beginning but I’m grateful for the start.  Thank you again and again.

Peter B

By: Peter Barnett

David Schwartz

Rabbi Orenstein —

In the early ’90s I accompanied my late grandparents to Rosh Hashana services at Cong. Beth El, and that’s where I heard you give a sermon which went so deeply into my heart and mind that it has – and continues – to change me.  Discussing the story of Hagar leaving the dying child Ishmael in the desert, you focused on the words, ‘God heard the child “ba-asher hu sham” ‘.  You spoke from such a heartfelt place about God’s care and compassion and closeness to us, no matter where we’re at — and that’s just what I needed to hear right then.  I absorbed and started to use that understanding.

Some time later, when I began 12-step recovery, “ba-asher hu sham” was aleady “programmed” in me, and I took it even deeper, into my daily recovery process, where it fruited by giving me endless hope and self-acceptance.  Shortly thereafter, I adopted it into my extended meditation on laying tefillin, and it is literally alive and active within me every single day.  On Shabbat and holidays I often do the meditation even without the tefillin, because it is so “juicy”!  Thank you so much for your lasting gifts of the heart and soul.

As an afterthought:  Communicating with you around your conducting my grandmother’s 2010 funeral was such an inspiring thing because I was able to realize how you used speeh and language and intention to make me and my family feel better, to feel acknowledged with your compassion and attention and care.  And I’ve started to think that part of the beauty and depth of your words is the place of caring connection that they’re coming from, like maybe the old song: “‘Tain’t What You Do It’s The Way That You Do It; ‘Tain’t What You Say It’s The Way That You Say It.”  There are precious few people in my experience who live and speak this way; you seem to be one of them.  As the late Rabbi Albert Lewis (as made famous by Mitch Alboum) might have said, perhaps this is your glory.

Happy birthday!

With appreciation,

David Schwartz

By: David Schwartz

Your presence

Dear Jehiel, We thank you and Sylvia for being a part of our lives.  You inspire us by your example.  You have made many passages in our lives more meaningful by your presence.  We are privileged to call you our Rabbi and our friend.  We embrace you both.

By: Ruth and Aaron Bernstein

Breaking the Fast

Jehiel entertains at the Lebersfeld-Orenstein Yom Kippur break fast, a tradition that has lasted for 40 years and counting.


I have known Rabbi & his family ever since he arrived in South Orange.  One of the first times he engaged me, he asked that I perform the Cohen function at a pidyon ben.  While he could not preside at my wedding ceremony, Sylvia and he attended and he was on the bimah at Beth El for the Bar Mitzvahs of Debbi’s and my three sons.  He delivered moving eulogies when my parents passed away. I especially enjoyed sharing the bimah with Rabbi the one year I served as president.  Sylvia, Rabbi, their children and extended family have been such an important part of our lives.  No one deserves a happier birthday than Jehiel.  With love from Debbi, Jason & Illana, Daniel & Allison, Brian & Lana and Max.

By: Max & Debbi Lebersfeld


Dear Rabbi Orenstein,
There is little the Sender family can add to all the accolades posted. Like all who have had the privilege and pleasure of knowing you, we have learned from you, laughed with you, looked up to you — but not too far up, because despite your learning and accomplishments, you were never separate from us, your congregation. To our children, you are their rabbi — and the image of what a congregational rabbi can be. You are also the rabbi who lead us on our first trip to Israel. We owe so much to you! Happy Birthday, and refuah shlemah.

With love, Marianne, Stuart, Rachel, Josh, Michael and Ben Sender

By: Marianne & Stuart Sender

In Honor of you

Hi Rabbi Orenstein,

I was sorry to read in the Jewish News of your affliction but think this is a wonderful way to honor you on your 77th Birthday. As you might recall, I taught at SSDS in West Orange many years ago. I still recall how well you listened to what I told you prior to my wedding about myself and my beliefs and how you wove it into your words to me.

I am still a teacher but I also work at Overlook Hospital in their Palliative Care department. If I can be of any assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me. As Gemilut Hasidim, I visit the sick and try to bring comfort or at least some distraction.

I wish you a happy birthday surrounded by your loving family.


By: Debra Tambor

What a rabbi should be

Rabbi Jehiel Orenstein is the paradigm of what a Rabbi should be.  He is a man of exceptional intelligence, wit and wisdom with great sensitivity and compassion.  Rabbi Orenstein has the most extraordinary sense of his self-worth, which makes him the perfect pulpit Rabbi.  A man of such self-confidence and such a sense of the love and respect Congregation Beth El has for him that he could always comfortably welcome the best voices and the best scholars to share his bema.  And he shared his bema with pride, respect and love because of his love for his congregation.

Happy birthday Rabbi.

With love, admiration and respect.

Marion and Murray Mohl