Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Couple share rabbinic duties at Beth Shalom

David Weizman and Danielle Upbin lead a conservative synagogue in Clearwater.

MICHAEL HEAPE | Special to the Times

David Weizman and Danielle Upbin lead a conservative synagogue in Clearwater.

CLEARWATER — The Jewish concept of tikkun olam translates into "repair the world."

It's the driving force behind the rabbinic team leading Congregation Beth Shalom, a conservative synagogue in Clearwater.

David Weizman, senior rabbi, and his wife, Danielle Upbin, associate rabbi, are on a mission to make the world a better place.

Weizman, 50, and Upbin, 34, met at the Jewish Theological Seminary in 1997, married in 2000, and have been busy ever since trying to spread the word on kindness.

They are Pinellas County's only rabbinic couple leading the same synagogue, which they have done since 2002.

The couple, parents of three children under the age of 6, are among a growing population of husband and wife rabbi teams. Women, first ordained in the conservative movement in the 1980s, are slowly making their way to pulpits.

"We became rabbis because we believe in the relevance of Judaism today," Upbin said. "We believe in the importance of mitzvot (good deeds) in the spiritual life of Jews."

Weizman said that kindness begins at home — home being the congregational family they lead.

"If you start at home taking care of your own," he said, "it gives you a sense of responsibility you then can extend to the larger community."

In a recent letter to congregants, the couple suggested ways to help others, including visiting the homebound, providing meals for the sick and transporting elderly people to services and social functions.

Weizman and Upbin said they envision moving from the home front to the larger community and the world. They've spearheaded drives at the synagogue to raise money for world hunger and to provide aid for Darfur.

The seeds of the couple's commitment to Judaism were passed down from their families, but the paths that brought them to the seminary differed greatly.

Upbin appeared destined to become a rabbi from an early age. Raised in Manhattan, she was educated in Orthodox Jewish day schools and graduated from Barnard College in New York with a bachelor's degree in political science.

She went directly to the seminary, where she obtained a master's degree in Hebrew Letters and Ordination, as did her husband.

Weizman, a Cleveland native, spent a dozen years after high school experiencing the world, with Judaism an ever present but lesser force in his life.

In 1977, he drove west with a friend to California, where he worked as a carpenter, fought forest fires and even cooked in a country inn.

In 1989, ready to settle down, he headed back to Cleveland and entered Cleveland State University, earning a bachelor's degree in English.

"I was ready to change my life," he said.

In 1994, he entered the seminary.

The couple's spiritual influence pervades the synagogue on Friday nights and Saturday mornings. They radiate a joy that is infectious when they pray, using melodies based on the music of Hasidism, an Orthodox sect of Judaism that dates back to 18th-century Poland.

"We believe the music should express the sentiment of prayer," said Upbin, "and for us the sentiment is mostly joyful."

The two divide the synagogue tasks.

He does most of the speaking and she most of the singing. He tends to pastoral care and she oversees programming.

"What we don't have time for is exercise and quiet time together," Upbin said.

Congregants appear to value their rabbis.

"The love and humor they share is visible to the congregation," said Loni Shelef, chairperson of the membership committee and board member.

"They are committed to family life and the synagogue is like an extended family to them."


Congregation Beth Shalom

Services: Friday evenings at 6:30 p.m. and Saturday mornings at 9 a.m.

Location: 1325 South Belcher Road, Clearwater

Phone: 531-1418

For more information: Visit

Religion, Page 4

Couple share rabbinic duties at Beth Shalom 12/26/08 [Last modified: Saturday, December 27, 2008 6:25pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Shakeup on Adam Putnam campaign


    In a sign of unsteadiness for what  had  looked like a strong-out-of-the-gate Adam Putnam campaign, the Republican frontrunner suddenly fired his campaign manager and political director. Hard-charging Campaign manager Kristin Davis and political director Jared Small were two of the three outsiders to join …

    Putnam campaigning in Destin the other day as part of his 22-city bus tour
  2. Rays let early lead get away again in loss to Angels (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — As pleased as the Rays were to win consecutive series against the contending Red Sox, Indians and Yankees and to get briefly back over .500, there was a lot of talk in the clubhouse before Monday's game against the Angels that it was time to do better.

    Tampa Bay Rays third base coach Charlie Montoyo (25) high fives designated hitter Corey Dickerson (10) as he rounds third on his lead off home run in the first inning of the game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Los Angeles Angels at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Monday, May 22, 2017.
  3. Tampa man arrested for killing man in his USF-area home


    TAMPA — A Tampa man was arrested Monday in the death of man found killed at a home in the University of South Florida area last week, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.

    Kadeem Dareem Archibald, 26, was arrested Monday on a  second degree murder charge in the University Area killing of Khando Kerr. [Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]
  4. Report: Trump asked intel chiefs to push back against FBI collusion probe after Comey revealed its existence


    President Donald Trump asked two of the nation's top intelligence officials in March to help him push back against an FBI investigation into possible coordination between his campaign and the Russian government, the Washington Post reports, citing current and former officials.

    From  left, CIA Director Mike Pompeo; Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats; and National Security Agency Director Adm. Michael Rogers take their seats on Capitol Hill on May 11 before  testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on major threats facing the U.S. [Associated Press]
  5. For Gov. Rick Scott, 'fighting' could mean vetoing entire state budget

    State Roundup

    Every day, Gov. Rick Scott is getting a lot of advice.

    The last time a Florida governor vetoed the education portion of the state budget was in 1983. Gov. Bob Graham blasted fellow Democrats for their “willing acceptance of mediocrity.”