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Our Clergy



Matthew V. Soffer, Senior Rabbi 

Rabbi Matthew V. Soffer lives in Durham with his wife and three children.

Rabbi Soffer was ordained as a graduate of the New York Campus of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. He served at Temple Israel of Boston since 2009, beginning as a rabbinic intern and finishing as Senior Associate Rabbi. As a Student Rabbi, he served at Main Line Reform Temple and Congregation Beth Elohim, both in New York. His work has included portfolios in Social Jusice and in outreach to and engagement of Jews in their 20s and 30s.

Among his honors are the Religious Action Center's 50 Faces of Justice, Newsweek/Daily Beast's 10 Rabbi's to Watch, and NFTY President's Award. His publications include "Global Swarming: Can We Become Worthy of Creation," CCAR Press, 2017; several commentaries and essays on My Jewish Learning, on Reform, and in The Times of Israel. His work also includes music composition and performance, comedy, and community organizing.

The topic of his Rabbinic Thesis, “Listening for Laughter: Sensing Humor in the Babylonian Talmud,” is a wonderful window on his character and style.

You can follow him on Twitter @MattSoffer and listen to his podcast, Pulpit on the Commons.

Contact Jodi Lampley at to schedule an appointment with Rabbi Soffer.

Reach Rabbi Soffer at or (919) 489-7062, ext 231.

Rabbi Robin Damsky, Rabbi-in-Residence
(July 2022—June 2024)

Rabbi Robin came to spirituality roundabout. Dancing as a child and being involved in recycling and caring for the earth as early as junior high, she was deeply connected with spirit. This continued into her adulthood when she danced professionally, learned and practiced medical massage, and grew food in many different climate zones. Later still, after her maternal grandfather’s death, she entered the study of rabbinics to honor her grandfather’s memory in her life.

Identified by Kenissa as an innovator redefining Jewish life, Rabbi Robin recently launched Limitlesss Judaism™ –a project of learning, movement, meditation, melody, art, tilling and tending that draws the lines of connection between our physical bodies, our spiritual expression and Gaia, our earth cosmos. Combining earth-based embodied practice with the rich wisdom of the Jewish tradition, her work guides us to heal and grow ourselves as we heal and grow our planet. She leads meditations with the Institute for Jewish Spirituality, and offers programming in embodied, earth-centered Judaism in collaboration with Hazon.

Rabbi Robin was ordained by American Jewish University and earned her MA in Jewish education from the Jewish Theological Seminary. She completed both the Clergy Leadership Program and Jewish Mindfulness and Meditation Teacher Training with the Institute for Jewish Spirituality. Rabbi Robin holds a BFA in dance from Ohio University in teaching, choreography and performance and is a graduate of the Swedish Institute School of Massage, in NY.

Rabbi Robin Damsky,

Read Rabbi Damksy's letter to our Congregation.

John Friedman, Rabbi Emeritus

Rabbi John Friedman retired in June 2015 after enthusiastically leading us for 35 years. He and his wife, Dr. Nan Friedman, still live in Durham and participate, actively in the life of Judea Reform Congregation. His son, Josh, and his daughter, Abby, grew up here.

Rabbi Friedman was born in Kansas City and studied at the Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion in Jerusalem and Cincinnati where he was ordained in 1976, and from where he received an honorary doctorate. After four years at Emanuel Congregation in Chicago, he came to North Carolina to serve Judea Reform. Rabbi Friedman taught and will continue to teach adults and children through our many synagogue programs.

He has received the Martin Luther King Jr. Keeper of the Dream Award, the Durham Better Human Relations Award and the Elna Spaulding Medal for Social Justice awards for his work in our community. In 1994, Rabbi Friedman was a Charles Merrill Fellow at Harvard University. In 2009, Rabbi Friedman was honored to receive the Daniel Jeremy Silver Fellowship at Harvard University. 

Rabbi Friedman has served as president of Durham Congregations in Action and the Mid-Atlantic Association of Reform Rabbis, and has been a popular speaker for many civic and religious groups. He has also served as chair of the Interreligious Affairs Committee of the Central Conference of American Rabbis and as National Chair and Co-chair of the Rabbinic Cabinet of JStreet. Rabbi Friedman has written articles that have been published in "The Journal of Reform Judaism," "Brotherhood Magazine," "Judaism," "Compass" and others. Most recently, in May 2015, he was honored as a Rabbinic Human Rights Hero by T'ruah (Rabbis for Human Rights, NA).

For the 2014-2015 academic year, Rabbi Friedman served as Marcus Center Director’s Fellow at the American Jewish Archives of the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati.  He worked on a project concerning the theology and practice of early Reform Judaism in America.

Reach Rabbi Friedman at or (919) 489-7062, ext 246.

Ezra Leventhal, Rabbinic Intern (July-August 2023)


Ezra Leventhal (he/they) is a rising fifth year Rabbinical student originally from San Jose, CA. He was born into an interfaith family and found a deep connection to Judaism in his teen years, which he began to pursue whole-heartedly in college. He graduated UC Davis in 2015 with a double major in Religious Studies and Political Science, completing an honors thesis in the Religious Studies department.

After college, he got his start in the professional Jewish world as a Jeremiah Fellow with Bend the Arc Bay Area. From there, he began working for multiple synagogues in education, administration, and justice work. Ezra began his journey with HUC in 2019, which means he is a proud member of the Year in Israel cohort sent home by the pandemic.

He moved to Jersey City in Fall 2021 and began working at Anshe Emeth
Memorial Temple in New Brunswick, NJ under the mentorship of Rabbi Philip Bazeley. Ezra is known for his work in creative education, including the creation of his own DND inspired Torah Study, in which students play through the Exodus as a fantasy adventure, help Moses build the tabernacle, solve murder mysteries in Shtetl times, and many other wacky quests. In his spare time, he loves spending time with his partner Maureen and their cats, reading and listening to media analysis, and watching enough scary movies to write his thesis on them (so far, he’s still sleeping okay).

Read Ezra's Letter to the Congregation Here. 

Rabbi James Prosnit, Rabbi-in-Residence
(September 2021—June 2022)

Rabbi James Prosnit, our Rabbi-in-Residence, teaches at Fairfield University in Fairfield, CT. He was recently appointed to be this Jesuit University's first Jewish Chaplain and serves on the staff of its campus ministry.

From 1990 until 2019,  Rabbi Prosnit was Senior Rabbi of Congregation B’nai Israel in Bridgeport, CT. He became Rabbi Emeritus in 2019. Prior to coming to Connecticut, Rabbi Prosnit served as Associate Rabbi at Congregation Rodeph Sholom in New York City and Holy Blossom Temple in Toronto.

He received his B.A. from Ohio Wesleyan University and M.A. degrees from New York University (Education) and Hebrew Union College—Jewish Institute of Religion (Hebrew Literature) where he recently served on the Board of Governors. He was ordained from HUC-JIR in New York in 1981 and received an honorary Doctorate of Divinity in 2006. 

Among numerous community activities, Rabbi Prosnit has been a Board member and chair of Bridgeport Prospers, a Collective Impact Leadership Team organized by the United Way; Connecticut Against Gun Violence and Operation Hope, a homeless shelter and social service agency in Fairfield. He was honored for his community work by Operation Hope, the ADL (Anti-Defamation League) and CONECT (Congregations Organized for a New Connecticut).

Rabbi Prosnit currently lives in Fairfield with his wife, Wendy Bloch. They have three sons (two of whom are rabbis and one a teacher at Carolina Friends School in Chapel Hill), three daughters-in-law and six grandchildren. There's a North Carolinian due in November, 2021!

Reach Rabbi Prosnit at

Sam Weiss, Rabbinic Intern
(July 1—August 15, 2021)

Sam Weiss is a fifth-year rabbinical student at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York City. He grew up in Andover, MA and graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a BA in Rhetoric. During his time at HUC-JIR, Sam has worked in a variety of educational and pastoral capacities. At the URJ Kutz Camp for teen leaders, he designed and taught an immersive text-study experience that centered around Machloket L’shem Shamayim, the rabbinic concept of “Disagreement for the Sake of Heaven.” In New York City, he has delivered sermons across denominational divides, from Beth Am-The People’s Temple in Washington Heights (Reform) to The Stanton Street Shul in the Lower East Side (Modern Orthodox). Sam worked has worked as a pastoral caregiver at the Bellevue Hospital Center and at Dorot, an interfaith social service agency that works to reduce social isolation among older adults. Most recently, Sam served as the rabbinic intern at Temple Emanuel in Andover, MA and was selected to participate in the 2021 seminarian cohort of the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics. Sam is committed to a Judaism that is at once thoughtful and heartfelt, and is thrilled to have the opportunity to learn and pray with the JRC community this summer. Sam lives in the East Village with his fiancée Erin. They have no pets, but are considering purchasing a Roomba.

Reach Sam Weiss at

Read Sam Weiss' message to our congregation here.

Thu, April 25 2024 17 Nisan 5784