Rabbi Akiva Herzfeld

Shaarey Tphiloh | Portland, Maine | 34 years old
Orthodox | Yeshivat Chovevei Torah

“I cannot drive to the synagogue I served as rabbi for 10 years. It is about 15 miles from my home in Falmouth, Maine. I slipped on the ice outside that synagogue on December 13, 2009, and sustained a traumatic brain injury. I will most likely never be able to work as a rabbi again. My former congregation didn’t know what to do with me and my two kids (I am a single mom), so they didn’t do anything. But I still need to say Kaddish for my mother, who died when I was 15. There is only one Reform synagogue in town, the one I served. Rabbi Herzfeld is Orthodox, but he opened his shul’s door, heart and mind. He suggested I lead the Kabbalat Shabbat at his shul and say Kaddish for my mother. My children, who aren’t comfortable with Orthodoxy after attending Orthodox public schools during a sabbatical in Jerusalem, stood with me. After the service Rabbi Herzfeld said, “I want you to know that I do not believe women should lead worship with men present. But one of us had to be uncomfortable. Why should it be you and not me?” He can’t repair my broken brain, but Rabbi Herzfeld brought healing to my broken heart.”


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