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Shapiro, Rami M. 1951-

Shapiro, Rami M. 1951-

PERSONAL:

Born April 26, 1951, in Springfield, MA; son of Archie Jack and Shirley Shapiro; married Deborah J. Flanigan, February 17, 1951; children: Aaron Herschel. Education: University of Massachusetts, B.A., 1973; McMaster University, M.A., 1974; Hebrew Union College, 1983; Union Graduate School, Ph.D., 1985. Religion: Jewish. Hobbies and other interests: Storytelling, writing, performing guitar music, reading.

ADDRESSES:

Office—Temple Bet Or, 11715 S.W. 87th Ave., Miami, FL 33176-4305. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Ordained a rabbi, 1981. Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton, OH, rabbi, 1979-81; Temple Beth Or, Miami, FL, rabbi, 1981—. Also serves as director of One River Foundation, Murfreesboro, TN, and adjunct professor of religious studies at Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, TN. Simply Jewish Fellowship, director; What Would a Mensch Do? Project, director; Sh'ma Center for Jewish Meditation, director.

MEMBER:

Central Conference of American Rabbis, Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, National Association for Preservation of Storytelling.

WRITINGS:

(Translator and editor) Wisdom of the Jewish Sages: A Modern Reading of Pirke Avot, Bell Tower (New York, NY), 1995.

Minyan: Ten Principles for Living a Life of Integrity, Bell Tower (New York, NY), 1997.

The Way of Solomon: Finding Joy and Contentment in the Wisdom of Ecclesiastes, HarperSanFrancisco (San Francisco, CA), 2000.

(Translator and author of introduction) Proverbs: The Wisdom of Solomon, Bell Tower (New York, NY), 2001.

(Translator and author of annotations) The Hebrew Prophets: Selections Annotated and Explained, SkyLight Paths Publishing (Woodstock, VT), 2004.

(Translator and author of annotations) Hasidic Tales: Annotated and Explained, SkyLight Paths Publishing (Woodstock, VT), 2004.

Open Secrets: The Letters of Reb Yerachmiel Ben Yisrael, Monkfish Book Publishing (Rhinebeck, NY), 2004.

(With Michael Smith) Let Us Break Bread Together: A Passover Haggadah for Christians, Paraclete Press (Brewster, MA), 2005.

The Divine Feminine in Biblical Wisdom Literature: Selections Annotated and Explained: Translation and Annotation, SkyLight Paths Publishing (Woodstock, VT), 2005.

The Sacred Art of Lovingkindness: Preparing to Practice, SkyLight Paths Publishing (Woodstock, VT), 2006.

(Translator and author of annotations) Ethics of the Sages: Pirke Avot—Annotated and Explained, SkyLight Paths Publishing (Woodstock, VT), 2006.

Author of the blog Rabbi Rami. Contributes a column, "Roadside Assistance for Your Spiritual Journey," to Spirituality & Health magazine; contributed to the book Meditation from the Heart of Judaism, 1998.

SIDELIGHTS:

Poet, liturgist, and essayist Rami M. Shapiro was born April 26, 1951, in Springfield, Massachusetts. He earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Massachusetts and then went on to earn graduate degrees from McMaster University and Hebrew Union College before ultimately earning his doctorate from Union Graduate School. In 1981 Shapiro was ordained a rabbi. Prior to his official ordination, he served as a rabbi at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. Following his ordination, he became the founding rabbi at Temple Beth Or, in Miami, Florida. He also serves as senior rabbi at Metivta in Los Angeles, California, which is a Jewish center for contemplation. In addition to the religious and doctrinal aspects of his work, Shapiro is very interested in storytelling and the ways in which story can be used to communicate and to better understand one's faith. He is particularly intent on making connections between scripture and everyday life. His innovative use of story, poetry, and religious writings has led to his reputation as one of the most creative individuals currently working in the American Jewish community, and prayers he has written are used in services in many temples across the country.

Shapiro is the author, editor, or translator of a number of books. His works include Wisdom of the Jewish Sages: A Modern Reading of Pirke Avot, for which he served as translator and editor, Minyan: Ten Principles for Living a Life of Integrity, The Way of Solomon: Finding Joy and Contentment in the Wisdom of Ecclesiastes, Proverbs: The Wisdom of Solomon, as translator and the author of the introduction, The Hebrew Prophets: Selections Annotated and Explained, as translator and annotator, Hasidic Tales: Annotated and Explained, again as translator and annotator, Open Secrets: The Letters of Reb Yerachmiel Ben Yisrael, Let Us Break Bread Together: A Passover Haggadah for Christians, which he wrote with Michael Smith, The Divine Feminine in Biblical Wisdom Literature: Selections Annotated and Explained: Translation and Annotation, The Sacred Art of Lovingkindness: Preparing to Practice, and Ethics of the Sages: Pirke Avot—Annotated and Explained, which he translated and annotated.

Minyan refers to the number of Jewish men required to be present in order to have a quorum—the number necessary to proceed with any religious service—which happens to be ten. In his book Shapiro sets out to explain the reasoning behind the need for minyan, attempting to make the theory clear both to Jews and non-Jews, men and women. He links the number to ten spiritual practices, all of which are designed to link a person more closely to God and a spiritual life conducted according to God's will. He then discusses each practice individually, including sections on meditation, repetition, inspirational reading, attention, generosity, kindness, dream interpretation, ethical consumption, self-perfection, and the keeping of the Sabbath. In a contribution for Publishers Weekly, one reviewer noted of Rabbi Shapiro that "his in-depth focus on Jewish spiritual traditions revitalizes our understanding of the practice of minyan within the Jewish tradition."

Hasidic Tales is part of a series of books released by SkyLight Paths Publishing Company, each of which is an annotated version of a religious or otherwise spiritual text from a range of religions. In this book Shapiro clearly shows his love of narrative and the storytelling tradition, something he considers an important aspect of the Jewish faith and its followers' ability to remember the past and carry the lessons of its roots on into the future. Graham Christian, reviewing the volume for Library Journal, declared it "an excellent introduction and anthology of exemplary tales from the Hasidic tradition."

The Sacred Art of Lovingkindness discusses ways in which a person may learn to be more loving and kind. Shapiro stresses the fact that it is possible to start small, with just one tiny act of kindness, emphasizing that this small beginning will eventually snowball into a vast improvement in one's life. He advocates making a conscious choice to be kind instead of cruel, to choose to act from love instead of from fear. He bases his premise on Talmudic readings in which it is said that by saving a single life one saves the world, because everyone is interconnected. So by extension, if one is kind to just a single person, that kindness will inexorably spread.

In Ethics of the Sages, Shapiro has collected a series of wise phrases and sayings, quoting rabbis from some of the earliest recorded days of Judaism. These works are typically published together as the Pirke Avot. Shapiro has made these sayings more accessible by providing clear notes and commentary for each aphorism on the opposite page of the book. The volume also includes brief biographies of each rabbi quoted, a glossary, remarks to clarify the choice of translation, and a list of other works that readers might find useful as a supplement. A reviewer for Internet Bookwatch found the book to be a "modernized compilation of pithy sayings that vastly transcend their era."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

AZ Daily Star, November 30, 2007, "BRIEF: Mystical Scholar, Rabbi to Preside at Sacred-Activism Workshop Today."

Internet Bookwatch, February, 2007, review of Ethics of the Sages: Pirke Avot—Annotated and Explained.

Library Journal, March 1, 1998, Bernadette McGrath, review of Meditation from the Heart of Judaism, p. 93; January 2004, Graham Christian, review of Hasidic Tales: Annotated and Explained, p. 123.

Parabola, summer, 2002, Cynthia Bourgeault, review of Proverbs: The Wisdom of Solomon, p. 92.

Publishers Weekly, August 18, 1997, review of Minyan: Ten Principles for Living a Life of Integrity, p. 86.

Reviewer's Bookwatch, January, 2006, Able Greenspan, review of The Hebrew Prophets: Selections Annotated and Explained.

Sarasota Herald Tribune, January 11, 2007, "Loving Kindness: Rabbi's Message to ‘Hidden Saints’: Live Both for Yourself and for Others," p. 1; January 11, 2007, "Rabbi Shapiro to Lecture on Healing, Compassion," p. 2.

Tikkun, January-February, 1998, "Simply Jewish," p. 31; March-April, 1998, "Simply Jewish: Diaspora Judaism Matters," p. 76; March-April, 2007, review of The Sacred Art of Lovingkindness: Preparing to Practice, p. 81.

ONLINE

HarperCollins Web site,http://www.harpercollins.com/ (February 9, 2008), author profile.

Jewish Lights Publishing Web site,http://jewishlights.com/ (February 9, 2008), author profile.

Spirituality and Practice Web site,http://www.spiritualityandpractice.com/ (February 9, 2008), Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, "Living Spiritual Teachers Project."

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