After 10 years as one of the Bay Area’s most visible and activist pulpit rabbis, Menachem Creditor announced today he would be stepping down as spiritual leader of Berkeley’s Congregation Netivot Shalom, effective end of June 2018.
Creditor, 41, said he is leaving the Conservative shul to devote more time to the social justice and pro-Israel causes near and dear to him.
“Over the last couple of years, the kind of work I’ve been doing as a rabbi has led me into national conversations and other ways of being a leader in the American faith community,” he told J. “My work is calling me beyond the parameters I had before. As any rabbi grows, they think about how they can best serve the world.”
Among the projects the Boston native has worked on is addressing America’s epidemic of gun violence by co-founding Rabbis Against Gun Violence, a network of 1,600 rabbis across the country. He is also a founding member of One America Movement, a national interfaith initiative that facilitates collaboration through community service projects.
My work is calling me beyond the parameters I had before.
The rabbi devoted much time and energy to what he describes as “trying to bridge the progressive American community and the Zionist ideology that motivates so much of my Jewish identity, so as to foster a healthier dialogue between the American Jewish community and Israel, and to help Israel nurture its best self.”
Creditor was one of several rabbis to walk out on then-candidate Donald Trump’s speech to AIPAC last summer, and in February of this year, along with several other rabbis, he was arrested in front of Trump Tower in New York, protesting the Trump administration’s immigration policies.
At the time, he wrote on a Facebook post, “This is what Judaism looks like: marching for justice. This is what prayer looks like: putting your body where your words are. This is what Torah looks like: righteous people doing good.”
In a Sept. 8 letter to congregants, Creditor wrote, “I look forward to sharing of my own transformational process with the Netivot Shalom community. I can anticipate that some parts of this coming year might, at times, pose challenges. But I also believe it can be filled with many moments of joy and celebration. I assure you that I will be present through all of these moments; I will work hard in assisting in any way that I am asked.”
Creditor is gratified by the positive change that has marked his tenure.
“In a climate where synagogues struggle for members, we have grown from 290 to 420 households,” he told J., adding that when he arrived in 2007, “we were struggling financially because of the weight of the mortgage, and we managed to refinance and stabilize the shul’s home here. This year we are now the home of [after-school Jewish education programs] Edah and Berkeley Midrasha. So we’ve brought an enormous amount of educational power into the framework of Netivot Shalom.”
In a letter to fellow congregants, Netivot Shalom president Josh Gressel said Creditor had “shaped our congregation profoundly, and his leaving is not just another event in the cycle of synagogue life. It is deeply significant, and we are grateful that he has given us a full year to process it and prepare for our next chapter.”
Though he said he does not know where his next chapter will take him, Creditor said, “I have enduring gratitude for all the support and love I’ve received over the years at Netivot Shalom.”