Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Rabbi Daniel Schaefer to Leave Georgetown, Search for Replacement Commences

Rabbi Daniel Schaefer, the interim director for Jewish Life, will leave Georgetown University at the end of the Spring 2024 semester.

Schaefer announced his departure to his childhood synagogue Congregation Mishkan Israel in Hamden, Conn., during Shabbat Feb. 2. As interim director for Jewish Life, Schaefer led Shabbat services, organized Jewish community events and engaged in interfaith dialogue on campus since his arrival at Georgetown in August 2022.

Although Campus Ministry offered Schaefer the position of full-time director for Jewish Life, Schaefer said the opportunity to return home and spend time with his family was difficult to turn down.

“Last year, I was approached by my childhood synagogue to see if I had interest in returning to become the rabbi,” Schaefer told The Hoya. “And I wasn’t ready to think about it, but this year, they approached me again, and it just was such a unique opportunity that was too hard to pass up.” 

“It’s the synagogue I grew up in that my family has belonged to for four generations and shaped my Judaism and made me love Judaism,” Schaefer added.

After Rabbi Rachel Gartner stepped down in Spring 2022 following the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, which left students virtually at home, the university hired Schaefer to help rebuild Jewish Life on campus.

Zach Samuel (SFS ’26), who serves on the board of the Jewish Students Association (JSA) and works for the Office of Jewish Life, said Schaefer’s impact on the university’s Jewish community has been sizable. 

Georgetown University Center for Jewish Civilization | Rabbi Daniel Schaefer will leave Georgetown at the end of the Spring 2024 semester to join his childhood synagogue Congregation Mishkan Isreal in Hamden, Conn.

“Rabbi Daniel has led an incredible transformation of Jewish Life over the past couple of years, welcoming Jewish students of every background, perspective and level of practice into a warm and welcoming community,” Samuel wrote to The Hoya. “His sincerity, morals and kind disposition are apparent to all those who have had the honor to work with him.” 

At Mishkan Israel, Schaefer will reunite with Rabbi Herb Brockman, the congregation’s rabbi emeritus who served as a mentor throughout his youth — an opportunity Schaefer said is particularly appealing.

“I had one rabbi, Herb Brockman, for basically my whole life, who was somebody who cared about social justice, was incredibly knowledgeable of Judaism, but overall, was a very warm, caring mensch,” Schaefer said. “Whenever I would see him in my 20s, and I would be trying to figure out what I want to do with my life, he’d see me with a book of Jewish philosophy or Jewish mysticism and encouraged me to pursue rabbinical school.”

Schaefer said proximity to his family factored heavily into his decision. His father remains an active volunteer at the synagogue, and his nieces and nephews are nearing the age of bar and bat mitzvah, offering Schaefer a special opportunity to preside over their ceremonies.

At Georgetown, the search for a new rabbi has commenced, with the goal of selection by the end of the semester, according to Schaefer. The university will conduct listening sessions for Jewish students and other stakeholders during candidate selection.

Fr. Mark Bosco, S.J. thanked Schaefer for his work at Georgetown in an email to members of the university community.

“He has fostered a welcoming, dynamic and supportive Jewish presence at Georgetown through one-on-one rabbinic counseling, and leading Shabbat and High-Holiday services throughout the year,” Bosco wrote in the email. “I am immensely grateful for Rabbi Daniel’s contributions to Georgetown’s vibrant Jewish Community.”

Associate Director for Jewish Life Deb Silver, who arrived at Georgetown alongside Schaefer in August 2022, will continue in her current role to provide continuity.

Samuel said Schaefer’s work ethic and love for Georgetown have shone through throughout his tenure.

“I am grateful and amazed that Rabbi Daniel was able to make such a positive impact in such a short time at Georgetown,” Samuel wrote.

“Although he will be dearly missed in the ‘GUish’ community, we are excited for Rabbi Daniel to continue his work at his home synagogue, where I’m certain his dedication and positivity will be deeply appreciated,” Samuel added.

Abigail Assadi (CAS ’26), a JSA board member and the vice president of the Campus Ministry Student Forum (CMSF) Executive Board, a student-led panel that oversees religious affinity groups, recalled meeting Schaefer for the first time at New Student Orientation and immediately being impressed with his soft-spoken manner.

“I walked up to him with my parents, and my family and I are pretty short, so it was funny to look up at him and he was a big presence, physically,” Assadi told The Hoya. “But then when I introduced myself, he was just so kind and welcoming and calm and kind of chill and just a tranquil, calming presence.”

Assadi said Schaefer’s leadership skills were especially apparent.

“The Jewish community has faced a lot of challenges, and he’s been kind of that leader by example,” Assadi said. “I think he embodies servant leadership since he empowers others to be leaders. He kind of stands behind the scenes, but we couldn’t do anything without him.”

Despite moving on, Schaefer said he will look back at his time at Georgetown fondly.

“I will miss our students the most,” Schaefer said. “Everybody here is so bright and dedicated and hardworking. And I think the Jewish community has just been such a warm and positive place that I feel really lucky to be a part of it.”

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Daniel Greilsheimer
Daniel Greilsheimer, Senior Sports Editor
Daniel Greilsheimer is a sophomore in the SFS from Port Washington, N.Y., studying regional and comparative studies with minors in journalism and environmental science. He is the former Senior Opinion Editor and is still a huge fan of Costco (he's been to locations in seven U.S. states and territories). [email protected]
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