Skip to main content

Strassfeld, Michael


STRASSFELD, MICHAEL (1950– ), U.S. rabbi and educator. Born to a rabbinic family, his father Meyer Strassfeld was an Orthodox rabbi in Dorchester, Massachusetts, who moved to a Conservative synagogue in Marblehead. A graduate of Brandeis University (B.A. 1971, M.A. 1972), Strassfeld was influenced by American anti-establishment "counterculture" in the late 1960s. He was active in the havurah (Jewish religious fellowship) movement as part of a Jewish counterculture, cultivating personal involvement and knowledge as alternatives to the passivity and superficiality of Judaism as practiced in the conventional American middle-class synagogue. Between 1973 and 1980, while a member of havurot in Boston and New York, he co-edited the three volumes of the highly popular The Jewish Catalog, a do-it-yourself guide to Jewish living designed to make Jewish knowledge and havurah-style practice accessible to Jews disaffected with the conventional synagogue. Between 1979 and 1982 he served as chairperson of the National Havurah Committee, the coordinating body of independent havurot in North America.

In 1982 Strassfeld assumed the first of a series of positions in Congregation Ansche Chesed in New York City, a run-down synagogue amenable to experimenting with innovative practices in order to survive. He opened the synagogue as a venue for several havurah-inspired minyanin (prayer quorums) accommodating different prayer styles, and applied insights derived from the Jewish counterculture to the congregational setting.

His realization that the synagogue as the central institution of American Jewry could be a venue for innovation in Jewish life led him to pursue rabbinical studies. In 1991 he was ordained by the Reconstructionist movement, which had cultivated havurot and a participatory spirit of innovation since its inception as a distinct denomination in the early 1960s. From 1991 to 2001 Strassfeld served as rabbi of Congregation Ansche Chesed. In 2001 he became rabbi of the Society for the Advancement of Judaism in New York, a congregation known for its creative approach to Judaism since its establishment by Mordecai M. Kaplan in 1922.

Strassfeld has been active in infusing elements of the ecstatic worship and intimate community associated with Ḥasidism into American Jewish life. The resulting synthesis, known as "neo-Ḥasidism," draws from the egalitarianism of the havurah while recognizing a role for the "rebbe," or charismatic spiritual leader. Neo-Ḥasidism originated in the late 1960s as a motif differentiating the Jewish counterculture from "establishment" Judaism of that time. In his books and teaching, and especially by assuming the rabbinate of an urban congregation, Strassfeld has embodied the principle of introducing neo-Ḥasidism into the mainstream of contemporary American Judaism.

His major publications include A Book of Life (2002); A Night of Questions: A Passover Haggadah, co-editor J. Levitt. (2000); The Jewish Holidays (1985); A Shabbat Haggadah, editor (1981); The Third Jewish Catalog, co-editor S. Strassfeld (1980); A Passover Haggadah, editor (1979); The Second Jewish Catalog, co-editor S. Strassfeld (1975); The Jewish Catalog, co-editors R. Siegel and S. Strassfeld (1973). He has also contributed articles to Jewish periodicals, notably Response, Shma, and Tikkun.

[Peter Margolis (2nd ed.)]

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Strassfeld, Michael." Encyclopaedia Judaica. . 26 Mar. 2019 <>.

"Strassfeld, Michael." Encyclopaedia Judaica. . (March 26, 2019).

"Strassfeld, Michael." Encyclopaedia Judaica. . Retrieved March 26, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.