Feb 28, 2011
Rabbi Ze'ev Smason is the spiritual leader of Nusach Hari B'nai Zion
, one of the largest orthodox congregations in St. Louis. Raised in Los Angeles, Rabbi Smason graduated from UCLA with a degree in Political Science. He then pursued rabbinical studies for 8 years in Jerusalem, receiving ordination from Rabbi Noach Weinberg and Rabbi Avrohom Kupshitz. He continued his post-graduate studies while lecturing on Torah, Philosophy, Ethics, and Current Issues.
From 1988-97 Rabbi Smason was the associate director of Aish HaTorah Center of Jewish Studies of St. Louis
; from January 1998, through June 1999, he served as Associate Rabbi and Family Educator of Nusach Hari B'nai Zion before being chosen by the membership to assume the pulpit of the synagogue. An eleven-year member of the RCA, Rabbi Smason was elected to the RCA's Executive Committee in 2010.
Rabbi Smason has developed a wide range of original classes and programs that have been extremely well received by Jews of all educational and religious backgrounds. "I don't know many Jews who, when asked, state that they would like to become Orthodox," Rabbi Smason says. "I do know many Jews, however, who want to grow and become better Jews. Such people will be met with a very warm welcome at Nusach Hari B'nai Zion."
Having himself been raised in a loving home with positive Jewish values, but not a traditionally observant one, Rabbi Smason relates well to the issues and concerns of secular and unaffiliated Jews who want to learn more about their heritage, but are unfamiliar with many practices and rituals of traditional Judaism. "Jewish education in the past has emphasized the 'what' but often neglected the 'why.' Our programs at Nusach Hari B'nai Zion, for both members and non-members, will help fill that missing gap," Rabbi Smason says.
When newly installed as rabbi, Rabbi Smason introduced Home Study Groups, Weekly Learning Sessions, and Shabbat and Holiday Learners' Services as the first tier of new programs introduced to the congregation. In partnership with other members of the congregation who share Rabbi Smason's vision of Nusach Hari B'nai Zion being a true 'Outreach Shul,' the volume of new creative programming has recently increased at a dizzying pace. Synaplex Shabbat, Rabbi-Ride-Around, Kosher Chili Cook-Off and a Community Pizza Cafe are just some of what's new at the synagogue. Rabbi Smason's thoughtful weekly column Beyond Twelve Gates
is featured on The Foundation Stone
, Jewish in St.Louis
, and distributed by email to over 1000 readers.
Despite the economic down-turn and unfortunate trends of downsizing and disappearing synagogues, Nusach Hari Bnai Zion broke ground in July of 2010 on the site of its new building, scheduled to open in May or June of 2011. Rabbi Smason, who has been active in fundraising and planning the new facility, says, 'our goal is to create a new kehilah, not simply to build another synagogue, as worthy as that goal might be."
Rabbi Smason is married to Chani Siegel from Chicago. They have been blessed with 9 children and 4 grandchildren.