David Russo

Rabbi David Russo

Not many rabbis can say they finished their rabbinical studies remotely because they were sought out for a full-time position even before receiving their ordination. But that's exactly what happened to Rabbi David Russo, who continues to serve as a rabbi at Anshe Emet Synagogue.

A former International President of USY, counselor at Ramah, leader of a summer program for the American Jewish World Service, graduate of JTS, and recipient of the Wexner Graduate Fellowship, "David Russo has injected a new level of 'awesome' into the Chicagoland Jewish community," according to Benjamin Singer, a friend and 2012 Double Chai honoree who nominated David this year.

"A Renaissance Rabbi who takes Jewish prayer and learning seriously," David is reinvigorating Judaism in many arenas. He launched the "Shabbat is Awesome" program to bring together kids and families for Shabbat afternoon board games, sports, learning, and volunteering, and ended up drawing in 20- and 30-somethings, too. He has recommitted Anshe Emet to social justice work, and serves on the ritual Policy Committee at Chicagoland Jewish Day School-and still finds time to speak out for affordable housing, health care, and economic justice through his work on the governing board of the Lakeview Action Coalition.

And let's not forget his love of sports. Important words from Singer: "You will never meet another rabbi with David's level of athleticism-from hoops to Ultimate to softball, David is the rabbi to beat!"

Rabbi David Russo


Pays the bills:
Rabbi, Anshe Emet Synagogue

On the side:
Sports, Jewish learning, action movies

Relationship status:

Describe yourself in 10 words or less:
Passionate, energetic, caring, Canadian, sporty

Celebrity doppelganger:
David Schwimmer, Adam Sandler

How do you Jew in Chicago?
Working with Anshe Emet Synagogue, I strive to create a warm and welcoming atmosphere for the Chicago community within the context of meaningful, traditional, and inspiring Jewish practice. I focus on working with our outstanding youth community, while also engaging adults and families as well. We do everything from Tuesday night lounge nights for teens, to Shabbat is Awesome games and hangouts on Saturday afternoons, to adult education classes, and more! Also, I work to partner with other Jewish communities and organizations, like Lakeview Minyan, the Center for Jewish Genetics, Camp Ramah in Wisconsin, Chicago Region of USY, and many more!

I care deeply about developing Jewish communities that are simultaneously traditional and egalitarian. I feel fortunate that Anshe Emet is a synagogue that strives to create a community that takes Jewish law and tradition very seriously, while integrating significant contemporary concerns like considering men and women to equally count in a traditional minyan, or welcoming in families of the LGBT community. It is my hope and dream to help develop this community for the future.

How do you give back?
Giving tzedaka, participating in direct service volunteering, striving to learn about and take action on systemic issues in our society through organizations like Lakeview Action Coalition, helping both friends and strangers emotionally and spiritually when they approach me.

Fill in the blank: If time and money were limitless, I would:
Continue following my passion of developing traditional-egalitarian Jewish communities, particularly by trying to create more micro-communities that promote learning and praying in this framework. I'd also probably try to find time to travel and spend time with my wonderful family and extended family.

Chicago's Jewish community in 10 years:
Dynamic, inventive, and diverse

Me in 10 years:
In Chicago, with my amazing family and wonderful friends, serving as a spiritual leader for Jews who seek to observe Torah in a way that is traditional while speaking to their values as 21st century Jews.