Rabbi Peter H. Schweitzer was a leader of The City Congregation for Humanistic Judaism since 1992 when he joined the congregation a year after its founding. For the next fourteen years he offered his services to the congregation as a volunteer, while working as a clinical social worker for Jewish Board of Family and Children's Services in Brooklyn. In 2006 he was hired as the congregation's rabbi, where he served until 2018, when he retired and became rabbi emeritus.
In his new book, “Dear Uli! - A rare glimpse at a German Jewish family through the letters they wrote their son, sent alone to America at age 16, and the new lives they built,”(published by Xlibris). Rabbi Schweitzer unveiled a treasured family collection of more than 750 letters to narrate the lives of his German Jewish family under the Nazi regime, and their anguish, fear and optimism.
Rabbi Schweitzer is a recognized leader of Humanistic Judaism. He was a member of the Editorial Board of the journal Humanistic Judaism and a former president of the Association of Humanistic Rabbis. He contributed the Humanistic perspective to Moment Magazine's "Ask the Rabbi" column and wrote a column called "New Jewish Rituals" for Jewish Currents magazine.
Rabbi Schweitzer was ordained in 1979 from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and went on to serve a congregation in Indianapolis. But doubts arose as he questioned the message he was espousing. He left the rabbinate and returned to New York City where he found new interests in the publishing business and then social work.
Even though he left the rabbinate, he continued to foster and study Jewish identity. For 25 years, he amassed one of the most significant collections of Jewish Americana, with more than 10,000 items and artifacts, which he donated to the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia in 2005.
In 1992, when he first learned about Humanistic Judaism, he realized that he had found a home again. "Humanistic Judaism was not a choice in my youth," Rabbi Schweitzer said, "otherwise it would have been very compelling. But now we can raise our children in this movement and also find a meaningful identity for ourselves. Equally important, today we have our own rabbinic institution. Young people can choose this route and not take the long away around that I did."
Rabbi Schweitzer received his B.A. from Oberlin College, his ordination from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and his M.S.W. from New York University. He resides on the Upper West Side in Manhattan.
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