Seekers of Meaning 3/29/2024: Rabbi Joel Soffin, author of “The Mitzvah on Your Forehead”

On this week’s episode of the Seekers of Meaning TV Show and Podcast, Rabbi Joel Soffin discusses his new book, The Mitzvah on Your Forehead: A Rabbi’s Journey to Improve the World.

In The Mitzvah on Your Forehead, Rabbi Joel E. Soffin presents life stories that invite the reader to follow his journey as he shares his experiences and insights into family, community, and social action worldwide. Luminaries in the Jewish world as well as inspirational leaders from all walks of life provide commentary on each of his essays. From discussing personal ethical decisions to relating experiences such as those with Rwandan genocide widows and Ethiopian Jewish immigrants, the stories and essays in this book are thought-provoking, entertaining, and inspirational. Rabbi Soffin contends that each one of us has a unique mitzvah “on our forehead,” a special calling or ability to make life better for others. Here, you’ll discover many of them and perhaps, ultimately, your own. In a world where there is so much chaos and pain, this book is a helpful reminder that we all, both individually and collectively, can find ways to be of service in making the world a better place.

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About the Guest

Rabbi Joel E. Soffin

Rabbi Joel E. Soffin has been a life-long social activist, addressing the needs of the poor and the vulnerable in many places around the world. He initially studied economics and has a PhD pending at Yale.

In 1971, he began his studies for the rabbinate at Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion in New York City where he was ordained in 1976. Three years later, he became the Rabbi of Temple Shalom in Succasunna, NJ. While there, he developed a long series of social action projects, rescuing and resettling Vietnamese boat people and Soviet Refuseniks, supporting the Argentinian Jewish community of Mendoza and the Zvenigorodka community of Ukraine and providing over a million meals to Ethiopian Jewish children waiting to make aliyah to Israel.

Rabbi Soffin also created the Adult Mitzvah Corps of the Reform Movement and the teen Bonim Banim – Building Youth projects, organizing weeks of Jewish Religious Living in New Orleans and several other American cities, including home building and restoration projects.

Upon his retirement from Temple Shalom in 2006, generous donors enabled him to create Jewish Helping Hands to continue his important social action work around the world, especially in East Africa and Israel. He often serves as a teacher, mentor and Scholar-in-Residence. 

He has been at the Barnert Temple in Franklin Lakes, NJ, since 2006, serving as Sabbatical Rabbi, Torah and Talmud teacher.

In his recent book, The Mitzvah on Your Forehead, he and some of his fellow travelers reflect on his personal and professional experiences and the lessons he has learned along the way. . Rabbi Soffin attributes his passion for social action and all of Jewish life to his mother, Sarah Soffin, may she rest in peace. He has been married to Sandy for more than fifty-five years. They have two sons and six grandchildren.

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