Teutsch, David

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TEUTSCH, DAVID (1950– ), U.S. Reconstructionist rabbi. Teutsch was born and raised in Salt Lake City, the son of refugees from Germany. He received a bachelor's degree from Harvard University and was ordained in 1977 by Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York. In 1991 he received a Ph.D. from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania for work in organizational ethics.

From 1974 to 1979 he was rabbi of Ramat Shalom congregation in Spring Valley, n.y. From 1978 to 1980 he was on the staff of the National Jewish Resource Center (later clal). After 1980, his professional career centered on the Reconstructionist movement. In that year he became assistant director of the Federation of Reconstructionist Congregations and Havurot (later Jewish Reconstructionist Federation), serving as executive director from 1982 to 1986. In 1986 he became a dean, and later vice president, of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College (rrc) near Philadelphia. From 1990 he chaired the department of contemporary civilization. Teutsch was the fourth president of rrc, serving from 1993 to 2002. After that, he continued as a professor and director of the Center for Jewish Ethics. Teutsch also served as an organizational consultant and leadership trainer for Jewish and non-Jewish organizations.

Teutsch was one of the leading figures in Reconstructionism after the retirement of Ira Eisenstein. In addition to his organizational leadership, he was editor of the Kol Haneshamah series of liturgy, including seven volumes, beginning with Kol Haneshamah: Erev Shabbat (Sabbath eve) in 1989. This series expressed a contemporary Reconstructionist view, offering modified traditional texts along with interpretations, kavvanot (intentions or spiritual guidance), and contemporary readings. Many of the additions were by women. A central feature was a gender-neutral English translation, avoiding masculine terms such as "Lord" and "he." The Kol Haneshamah series continued with volumes including Shabbat and Festivals (1994), Weekdays (1996), and High Holy Days (1999).

Teutsch also devoted considerable efforts to Jewish ethics and practice. A major contribution to both was his articulation of values-based decision-making (vbdm), a method for reaching ethical decisions in a Jewish framework for those who do not accept the binding nature of halakhah. This framework includes articulating values (for example, kevod ha-beriyyot – respecting people; democracy; and kelal Yisrael, the wider Jewish people) that might apply, or be in conflict, in a given situation. An individual, family, or community can apply the methodology. Teutsch published a number of booklets on ethics and Jewish practice, some with commentary by rabbis and lay people, eventually to be combined in a larger publication.

David Teutsch is married to Betsy Platkin Teutsch, a Judaic artist. Together they were among the founders in 1986 of Minyan Dorshei Derekh, a Reconstructionist community within Germantown Jewish Centre, a Conservative congregation in Philadelphia. He described his vision and experience in Spiritual Community (2005).


E. Caplan, From Ideology to Liturgy: Reconstructionist Worship and American Liberal Judaism (2002); B. Hirsh, "Values-Based Decision Making: Some Second Thoughts," in: Reconstructionist, (Fall 2005); R. Langer, Review of Kol Haneshamah: Shabbat Vehagim, in: ccar Journal (Winter 1997).

[Robert P. Tabak (2nd ed.)]