He’s still got about a week before he officially steps into his role as Temple De Hirsch Sinai’s director of congregational learning, but participants at an early childhood educators’ conference earlier this week certainly got a taste of what’s to come.
Rabbi Daniel Septimus spoke animatedly about this week’s Torah portion — of the man Korach and his followers who challenged Moses — and brought the story into the context of the evening.
“Rather than lash back, he demonstrates confidence in his leadership,” Daniel told the educators. “We should model good behavior as Moses does for us.”
This young associate rabbi was right at the point in his career where he could have found a pulpit in a smaller city and served out his career there or used it as a stepping stone to lead a congregation the size of the one where he has spent the past four years. But Daniel, 32, decided to step off that track and head in a direction he knew he should go. His new role means he will be taking a holistic approach to educating his congregants.
“It’s always been a passion of mine, teaching and learning, and learning to really create innovative programs,” he says. “Last year, in particular, I began to think about a position like this because this is kind of a new thing in the education world.”
The temple’s board agreed, and asked him to step in as the new director. The team that runs the temple’s religion school will stay in place, and Daniel will put more of an emphasis on early childhood and adult learning to round out the synagogue’s offerings — and unite them where possible.
When Daniel arrived in Seattle fresh from his training in 2007, he and his wife Amanda settled in South Seattle.
“We really love living in Columbia City,” he says, “we’re proud of the fact that we’re in one of the most diverse areas of the country.”
From the start, this new rabbi began building a program for people in his age group, something that had long been a challenge for the city’s oldest Reform congregation.
“His starting The Tribe has far surpassed any historic success we’ve had,” says Larry Broder, Temple De Hirsch Sinai’s executive director. “He’s brought new members to the congregation, he’s brought a vitality and a zeal for more to the congregation and to that community of young folks.”
Emily Alhadeff, a life-long Temple De Hirsch Sinai member and one of the other 10 Jews under 40 we recognized, agrees.
“He’s such a wonderful asset to his community,” she says. “We’re so lucky to have him.”
Four years can bring a lot of changes to a person’s life, and Daniel is no exception. For one, he now has two children.
“Fatherhood is unbelievable,” Daniel says. “There’s nothing better than watching your kids growing up.”
Becoming a parent has meant changes in his professional outlook as well.
“Certainly early childhood is more on my radar than it was before,” he says.
Though Daniel says it hadn’t occurred to him when he received his ordination that he could step off the typical rabbi track and focus on building an education program, it also feels right to him.
“That’s where my passion is,” he says.