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About Dov Gartenberg

Rabbi Dov Gartenberg is the Convener and Director of Panim Hadashot-New Faces.

From Israel to SE Alaska

I picked up a young man named Joel in the University District who was loaded with gear. As it turned out he was on his way to Southeast Alaska to work as a counselor on a wilderness program for troubled teens. The teens, he told me, were there involuntarily. He knew he was in for an emotionally challenging experience.

When Joel found out that I was a rabbi, he shared with me that he had just gone to Israel on the Taglit-Bitrthrite program. At 32 he had just barely met their new age limit. It was his first time going. He hoped to persuade his sister to go as well.

I asked Joel what led him to go to Israel. It turns out that Joel was the son of a Jewish father and a Catholic mother. He then told me a story about his upbringing in Texas and the struggle of his parents to decide what would be his religious heritage. Up until 3rd grade he attended an Jewish day school where he learned Hebrew and all things Jewish. During third grade a struggle between his parents led to his moving out of a Jewish day school and to enrollment in a Catholic parochial school. The rest of his childhood was spent in Catholic schools and frequent stints as an altar boy at the church.

I asked him what his religious identity was now as an adult. He said that because of his experience, he was not identified with any religion. His decision to go to Israel was met by his Jewish part of the family with excitement, but the trip did not lead to any clarity about his identity.

I shared with him my experience of being Jewish in Southeast Alaska. He would be spending his time in a remote SE Alaska community. It was unlikely that he would find much Jewish life where he was going. He accepted that with a certain awareness that being Jewish was for the most part a private identity for him. He didn't need a synagogue or a Jewish community to be Jewish. I thought to myself that he would be right at home in Alaska, where many people leave their former identities behind.

Traditional Jewish identity is a "singular identity". Before modern times a Jew was Jewish through and through. His or her Jewishness permeated every aspect of his or her being. A singular identity describes a person whose identity is deep and all encompassing. That's a pretty good description of my Jewish identity. Being a rabbi has intensified my personal Jewish identity. Being Jewish permeates who I am as a person, my outlook, and my personal choices.

In our times we live with multiple identities. If there is a Jewish component it was only one of many identities that shapes us. The purpose of modern Jewish education and Jewish communal effort in our context is to raise the "ranking" of Jewish identity among the many competing identities that make up who we are. (I thank Donniel Hartman for these concepts.)

When I drive a Lyft I don't function as a Jewish educator. But the moment I mention that I am a rabbi, I realize that for some of the people I encounter, that I become a symbol of Jewish identity and commitment. I have discovered that when I reveal that I am a rabbi, the Jewish connection of that person is activated. They open up with all sorts of unexpected connections as well as the contradictions within their personal identity. That is why I seem to have so many interesting encounters in the confines of my Subaru. Joel reminded me of the reality of so many Jews today. Driving a Lyft has opened this world to me.

Note: I always change the names and some features of the story to protect the privacy of my riders. But my tales are always based on real encounters. RDG

The Lyfter Rebbe considers becoming an Ubermentsch and all the complications that involves.

Based on the advice of other Lyft drivers, I decided to become an Uber driver as well. In effect, adding Uber doubles my chances for getting rides. While I only do rideshare driving only 10 hours a week, this helps to make this time more profitable and busy. I drive Lyft and Uber to supplement my income while I work to make my true passion, Panim Hadashot-New Faces, more sustainable. 

The burning question, of course, for the Lyfter Rebbe is what to do with the fact that I also now drive an Uber. The obvious moniker for this fact is "Ubermentsch".  This is a term, coined by Friedrich Nietzsche, in Thus Spoke Zarathustra. The Wikipedia article adds,  "The German prefix über can have connotations of superiority, transcendence, excessiveness, or intensity, depending on the words to which it is attached.[4] Mensch refers to a human being, rather than a male specifically. The adjective übermenschlich means super-human: beyond human strength or out of proportion to humanity.[5]". 

Oy, this is more than I bargained for. My personal life aspiration has been to be a Mentsch.  Now that I also drive an Uber, I simply want to mentsch who drives and Uber. But Ubermentsch is a convenient moniker and it helps in marketing my blog pieces, so I'll add it to my new identity as a rabbi who drives rideshare. Actually, come to think of it, Rideshare Rabbi has a nice ring to it.

I want to share with you a poignant story of a rider I recently helped to her destination.  In Seattle, we are experiencing the demise of the Alaska Way Viaduct, pictured below, (courtesy of the Seattle PI and This has snarled traffic all over the region and has added time to my rides. On the other hand, it gives time to longer and deeper conversations.

Pictures of the Viaduct: and

 I picked up a woman in Newcastle and drove her to Amazon in downtown Seattle. Over the 50 minute ride I learned that Laticia (not her real name) had a very demanding job doing logistics at Amazon. Most of the people I have met who work for Amazon, live in Seattle neighborhoods, especially just north of downtown. Laticia lived in an apartment in Newcastle, a suburb on the Eastside where rents are generally more affordable. Laticia is 38 and has never married. The reason she lives in the suburbs is that she takes care of her aging mother and autistic brother who live with her in her Newcastle apartment.  Amazon has moved her to three locations in the last few years. Each time she moved her mother and her brother with her.

Laticia's description of her brother revealed characteristics of my own autistic son, Mori.  She described how her brother has an enormous appetite and would eat all day if he could. He loves his routine and gets disoriented if it changes. We talked about caring for an autistic person and its challenges. Laticia and her mother have been reluctant to seek services, partly because they move every couple of years and partly  because they want to keep their son/brother at home. I asked Laticia if she was able to date or seek a partner. She told me that she had given up on that for herself, since taking care of her mother and her brother left her no time to even date. Besides, she said, her reality would not be attractive to a man.

As a father of an autistic child I have reflected a great deal on the sacrifices a parent of a special needs child requires, especially as the child moves into adulthood.  I have been extraordinarily fortunate to have gotten my son services that allows him to have very stable housing and care. Those services have enabled me to have enough independence to live my own life, to form lasting relationships while remaining devoted to my son.  I am especially happy to be back in Seattle where he lives in a group home, to visit him frequently, and to enjoy his shining presence.

I felt great respect for Laticia's devotion and for the tremendous sacrifice that her sense of responsibility to her family had brought to her life. I told her so. As she left my car, I felt great admiration for her but I also felt my heart break hearing her story.

A key part of our Home Shabbat Experience that Panim Hadashot offers is the presence of a 'Shabbat Animator'.  A Shabbat Animator "animates"-brings alive the experience of Shabbat at home.  Rabbi Dov Gartenberg is our lead Shabbat Animator. He has a mastery of Shabbat table music and folksongs. As a rabbi has has great knowledge of Jewish texts and culture. He has over 30 years of experience working with large and small groups. He has also hosted hundreds of Shabbat meals at his table.

Panim Hadashot-New Faces is in the process of training new Shabbat Animators. Panim Hadashot just received an Ignition Grant from the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle to train new Shabbat Animators who can be available to lead Home Shabbat Experiences. Stay tuned to announcements and profiles of our new Shabbat Animators. If you are interested in becoming a Shabbat Animator, contact Rabbi Dov Gartenberg.

Panim Hadashot, the Hebrew term that is our name, means new face or new faces. The term originates in the Talmud and refers to a ancient wedding tradition of inviting guests to celebrations from beyond the immediate circles of family and friends.

Panim Hadashot seeks to refresh this ancient Jewish tradition by asking hosts to invite "new faces" to a Home Shabbat Experience.

Who are New Faces?  New faces may be people new to Seattle, new acquaintances, people you don't know well, who you would like to know better, or a stranger you have met just living your daily life. 

Or you can ask Rabbi Dov Gartenberg, the Convener of Panim Hadashot, to invite a few 'new faces' from folks he knows, who have expressed interest in coming to Shabbat home gatherings.

Inviting new faces to share in a Sabbath meal is an authentic Jewish way of hospitality. By sharing our bounty and the joy of our holy days with new faces, we expand our life experience and create vibrant intersections in our life journeys.

The Passing of Two Great Israelis

The great Israeli author, Amos Oz, passed away on Friday. Here is a link to his appraisal in the New York Times. I had heard him speak both in Israel and Seattle and was a reader of his books and a supporter of his activism. Israel has played a central role in my life starting from childhood, becoming a central passion in my life after I spent my junior year abroad in 1974-75. Amos Oz was one of the hosts of the Hebrew language who opened the door for me to come in. (Agnon and Amichai were the others.) His observations about the "Matzav" (the current political moment) in Israel were always perceptive and extraordinarily eloquent. He seemed to never give in to despair and always shared his love of Israel and Israelis no matter what was going on in the country.

I love the last quote brought by the New York Times Appraisal:
“I like being Israeli. I like being a citizen of a country where there are eight and a half million prime ministers, eight and a half million prophets, eight and a half million messiahs. Each of us has our own personal formula for redemption, or at least for a solution. Everyone shouts, and few listen. It’s never boring here.”

Oz conveyed the uniqueness of "Israeliness" not only in his writing, but in his very being. He himself was never boring or complacent. He knew in his bones the preciousness of the existence of Israel and never took it for granted. "Ilan Gadol Nafal- a great tree has fallen." wrote David Grossman quoting an old Jewish expression. All the forest shudders from his loss.


A less well known Israeli passed away today. His name was Tzvika Levy. A Kibbutznik like Oz

He served as a combat soldier in the Paratroopers unit in the regular army and reserves and was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel after he was appointed to oversee the lone soldiers in the kibbutz movement. Lone soldiers are soldiers that come to Israel from abroad to enlist to the IDF in order to help defend our country. These soldiers are called "lone" since they come alone, and have nowhere to live, no way to make money, and no family nearby. Tzvika's goal was to take care of all those soldiers. Eventually he found and supported a loving home for more that 20,000 of them. He is considered a hero by them, by their friends and families and by this entire country.

Tzvika Levy, Who Cared for Lone Soldiers

I was told about Tzvika by an Israeli friend. Immediately, I recognized that he was a practitioner of hospitality, but on a huge scale. I lead an organization that emphasizes Jewish hospitality practices, In learning about Tzvika and his passionate commitment, I am again inspired by what empathy and compassion can do in the world. May his memory be for a blessing and may his acts of hospitality for the lone soldiers of the IDF resonate for years to come.

We are happy to announce our Out of the Box Panim Hadashot Home Shabbat Experiences for January-February 2019.  This is a unique service of Panim Hadashot that gives you an opportunity to host a great Shabbat experience in your home or community room. Invite a group or friends, family, and acquaintances for a Shabbat gathering at your home. Chose one of the two experiences below you would like to bring to your home. If you would like to host one of these Home Shabbat Experiences, please make a request on our Contact Us page. Learn how easy it is to host a Home Shabbat Experience by clicking HERE

A Home Shabbat Experience with the Heart of Shabbat Ensemble last year

Home Shabbat Experience #1

New Songs of the Jewish People

Rabbi Dov and members of the Heart of Shabbat Ensemble introduce some of the new Jewish music being created including niggunim (wordless melodies), melodies from the Jewish Orient, and new compositions for Jewish prayers and expressions. You will be enthralled by their beauty and experience the joy of singing together with others. We advise prospective hosts to plan to have at least 10 guests with more the better.  Recommended donation to Panim Hadashot: $200. 

Home Shabbat Experience #2

Torah from the Wilderness: Home Torah Study and Conversation

Bring a choice group of friends and acquaintances to your table for some rich Torah from the Book of Exodus which is read in the synagogue during this time of year.  Rabbi offers an interactive study session in your home with texts, stories, and insights out of Jewish tradition, This Home Shabbat Experience is ideal for small groups of around 7 or more people. Recommended donation to Panim Hadashot: $54 (3 x 18 Chai).

The Lyfter Rebbe ferries a Jew wondering whether to raise his daughter as a Jew.

To support Panim Hadashot as we grow, I drive a Lyft part time, taking all sorts of people to all sorts of places around Seattle. I do this a few hours each week, usually early in the morning to avoid traffic. I call my Blue Subaru Outback the Blue Mishkan. As a Rabbi who emphasizes the Mitzvah (the commandment) and Ma'aseh Tov (the good deed) of Hospitality, (Hachnasat Orchim), driving a Lyft is an opportunity to refine this practice in the digital age.

Last week, I picked up a young man with a Russian sounding name. I found out that he worked at a high tech company, was married, and had an 18 month old daughter. I also learned that his wife and he were into Latin dancing. I learned all about the Salsa and Latin dancing scene around Seattle. It's a pretty robust sub culture, especially favored by millennials. Millenials are reviving once dying cultural practices like Contra and Ballroom dancing. Want to feel young, go dancing!

The young man asked what I did and I told him I was a Rabbi. He told me he was Jewish, but not at all connected to Jewish culture or religion. His parents always call him before a holiday to remind him what holiday is coming, but that is the extent of his knowledge and awareness of Jewish life. He told me that he is thinking deeply with his wife, who is of Asian descent, how they want to raise their daughter. He is thinking seriously about giving his daughter a connection to her Jewish heritage, but does not know how to do it. He finds synagogues unwelcoming and overwhelming. The conversation had to end when I dropped him off at work. I gave my Panim Hadashot card and invited his family to a Community Shabbat Gathering. I hope I will meet him again at some Panim Hadashot event.

It still surprises me how many Jewish riders come aboard the Blue Mishkan. I have only begun to drive Lyft since after the holidays, but every week I have several Jewish riders who are excited to discover a Rabbi driving their Lyft. My non-Jewish riders are often simply curious to learn about what a rabbi does, since most have never met one before. What is most exciting is how interested everyone is in Panim Hadashot and how encouraging everyone is about what I am doing. The interest and ideas I get from my riders gives me new energy and encouragement.

I hope you enjoy the tales of the Lyfter Rebbe. I will continue to post these tales in this blog in 2019. If you are taken with these tales and the work of Panim Hadashot, please consider becoming a subscriber in 2019. By subscribing you help Panim Hadashot thrive and keep my Lyft driving commitment in balance with my work for Panim Hadashot. You can easily and securely signup to subscribe online at

Shalom, Rabbi Dov Gartenberg, Convener and Executive Director of Panim Hadashot-New Faces.

Bringing People Together Through Shabbat Hospitality

Find out how the Fall Campaing for Panim Hadashot Fall is going.
Bringing People Together Through Shabbat Hospitality

Panim Hadashot Fall Fundraising Campaign December 23rd Update

The Fall Campaign for Panim Hadashot is a three month effort to raise funds for the 2019 year. The funds you donate provide a "parnassah" (livelihood) for our Executive Director, Rabbi Dov Gartenberg, funds our rental expenses at WeWork Lincoln Square, provides funds to compensate our musicians who play for the Heart of Shabbat Ensemble, and help cover other expenses we accrue fulfilling our mission: bringing people together through Shabbat Hospitality.  

Our Campaign Objectives
  • Objective Number 1: Signup at least 54 monthly subscribers or annual donors above $180 between October 1st through December 31st, 2018.
  • Objective Number 2: Achieve a revenue flow from subscriptions of at least $4000 a month to sustain Panim Hadashot over 2019.  

Our Current Standing

  • Twenty nine households have become subscribers or have given annual donations equivalent to our monthly subscriber levels. We would love to get another 25 subscribers/annual donors by the end of the year. 
  • We have achieved a monthly revenue flow of $3164 as of today.  We are closing in our our targeted revenue flow to $4000 a month for 2019.

Please support Panim Hadashot-New Faces.  Below are three ways to contribute. Choose the one that works for you. 

 1. Monthly Subscription

Become a monthly subscriber, sending a regular contribution automatically each month. Subscription levels start at $15 a month and go up from there. Monthly subscriptions provide regular cash flow to Panim Hadashot to compensate staff and pay for ongoing hospitality programs.

2. Annual Donation

Give an end of year gift of $180 or more. Annual Subscribers over $180 receive the same benefits as monthly subscribers.  Click on the link to donate.

3. Donation by Mail

We also honor the traditional way of support with a check via snail mail. Drop a check in the mail to our mailing address: Panim Hadashot | 115 N. 85th St. Suite 202, Seattle, WA 98103.    All subscriptions, donations, and gifts are tax deductible.

Thank you in advance for your support.

Community Shabbat Gathering with the Heart of Shabbat Ensemble this Fall

8 Questions and 8 Dipping’s of the Hanukkah Seder by Rabbi Dov Gartenberg

A Hanukkah Oil Lamp Menorah Suspended in the Air in Jerusalem


1st Dipping:

What was the miracle of Hanukah? A Debate within Judaism

A piece of winter bread dipped in extra virgin olive oil

Effect: Tasting olive oil, the central food of Hanukkah

2nd Dipping

How was Hanukah a war of cultures?

A piece of Greek pita dipped in almond oil.

Effect: A culinary mixing of cultures

3rd Dipping

What was the cause of the Jewish revolt against Antiochus?

A piece of flatbread cracker or lavash dipped burnt almond oil

Effect: The searing taste of persecution.

4th Dipping

Why did some Jews choose to die for God?

A piece of rosemary bread dipped in a mixed oil with chives, roasted onions, sage leaves.

Effect: An initial pleasant taste with a distinct and long lasting aftertaste.

5th Dipping

Why did other Jews choose the path of resistance over martyrdom?

A piece of dark rye dipped in a mixed oil of cardamom and sumac oil

Effect: A sour taste

6th Dipping

Theme: Were the Maccabees heroes or zealots?

A piece of roasted garlic bread dipped in a mixed oil with cinnamon, cumin, fresh green chiles

Effect: Delayed burn from the chiles.

7th Dipping

What is the Historical Legacy of Hanukah?

A piece of Challah dipped in the mixed oil of bitter lemon with rose water.

Effect: Scent is good. Not as bitter

8th Dipping

Theme: What are the Modern Lessons Hanukah for Our Times?

A piece of sweet, fruity bread dipped in a fruity extra virgin olive oil.

Effect: A rich fruity taste


A Modern Travelers Hanukkah Menorah with an Ancient Feel


The Questions posed are in this series of blog posts are part of Rabbi Gartenberg's Hanukkah Seder. For a copy, write to him at

Question for the 8th Night:  What is the historical legacy of Hanukkah?

Dipping for the 8th Question: Dip a piece of sweet, fruity bread into a fruity extra virgin olive oil.

Effect: A very rich and fruity taste suggesting Hanukkah's rich and contemporary legacy.

Text for Discussion 

"In this time, too, many universal cultures - Marxism and Communism, triumphalist Christianity (and Islam) certain forms of liberalism and radicalism, fascism, even monolithic Americanism have demanded that Jews dissolve and become part of humankind. All these philosophies have claimed that Jews can depend on their principles and structures to provide for Jewish rights.

The Maccabee revolution made clear that a universalism that denies the rights of the particular to exist is inherently totalitarian and will end up oppressing people in the name of one humanity. Universalism must surrender its overweening demands and accept the universalism of pluralism. Only when the world admits that oneness comes out of particular existences, linked through overarching unities, will it escape the inner dynamics of conformity that lead to repression and cruelty."

Rabbi Irving Greenberg

Commentary for Discussion

Instead of "universalism", read "white supremacists".  This text, written over twenty years ago, did not foresee the dramatic culture clash between the white supremacists and minority cultures? Does the story of Hanukkah give us more insight into how to create a pluralist and tolerant culture in America and beyond?   Another provocative question is how to understand Hanukkah in Israel, the third Jewish commonwealth? How does the majority Jewish Israeli culture treat minorities and other particular cultures?