rabbI arI Fridkis
Contact Rabbi Fridkis via SMS
-or- iMessage (Brief Text or Emergency)
Area Code 917 + Tel 617 3615
Ari Fridkis, Rabbi of The Temple of Universal Judaism since 2012 is a warm and uplifting leader, teacher and speaker here at TUJ. With his innovative mind, TUJ has found a new presence and direction in New York Jewish life. A proponent of creativity and use of vernacular in molding Shabbat and holiday services, he believes modern Jewish life and liturgy must forge a spirituality that fits modernity’s rapidly evolving science and philosophies.
A student of American Jewish History & Community at Brandeis University – the foremost college in that field – Rabbi Fridkis received a BA, Magna cum Laude with Highest Honors in 1980. In 1982 he received a second Bachelor’s in Hebrew Literature and a Certificate in Jewish Education from the University of Judaism Los Angeles (now American Jewish University), followed by graduate studies at Hebrew University, a Master’s in Hebrew Literature - and in 1985, ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary in Jerusalem and New York.
In 1987 he received a second Master’s (MSW) from Wurzweiler School of Social Work (Yeshiva University) and for thirty years maintains a practice in psychotherapy.
Following ordination, Rabbi Fridkis became dispirited by the inertia, spiritual aridity and rigidity of Conservative Judaism. He was welcomed by Reform Judaism’s Central Conference of American Rabbis and remains a lifelong member. From 1987-2005 he served a Union for Reform Judaism congregation in Northern New Jersey.
From Fall 2005 to late 2012 he attended Hebrew Union College New York as an active auditor. During thirteen semesters and twenty-five elective-level courses, Ari had the privilege of studying with the brilliant rabbis, leaders and thinkers of Reform Judaism. “I had the blessing to attend Rabbinic School again: this time with just a few research papers and no exams!”
He is a Member of the New York Board of Rabbis, been quoted by USA Today, The New York Post and The New York Times, appeared on television talk shows in the United States and Australia, spoken at synagogues in Jerusalem and Paris – and published articles for American Jewish History, journals of American education, Out magazine and even the TUJ monthly newsletter :).
Along with devoted members of the congregation, he is one of the founders and officers of the repository North American Jewish Culture (NAJCulture.org): a database to integrate anything and everything of Judaic nature (history, sociology, art & music, religion, and culture) from the North American Jewish experience.
Rabbi Fridkis is passionate about the Jewish proscription (mitzvah - מצוה) against waste of food, resources, and the destruction of the earth as a very strong advocate for recycling and preservation of animal life (Ba’al Tashhit - תשחית בעל) ; as well as the Jewish mitzvah of love and kindness (Hesed u’G’milut Hasadim - חסדים וגמילות חסד) through exemplification of those values.
But his true loves (in reverse order) are his family, cats, teaching B’nai Mitzvah students, the land of Israel, and Snowboarding the Sierra Nevada, Cascades and Utah Rockies. You’ll find him there in prayer for snow throughout January and whenever he can sneak away.
Mostly, Rabbi Fridkis is a very kind, understanding, passionate and compassionate “people person,” an aware man who loves teaching and loves all of us at TUJ.
CANTOR DANA Anesi
Dana Anesi, Cantor of The Temple of Universal Judaism since 2014, is a full partner in creating and leading TUJ's creative-style Shabbat and holiday services. We are honored that she is also the Director of Fieldwork for the Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music. She comes to TUJ following a long career serving Temple Beth El of Northern Westchester in Chappaqua, NY.
In addition to her sweet, sensitive voice, Cantor Anesi brings a nearly infinite repertoire of Jewish and spiritual music: ranging from modern American Reform melodies to the classical Judaic music of the ancient Hebraic liturgy; from Fifties-Sixties folk to twenty-first century pop; and from Israeli favorites to African American spirituals.
Dana Anesi was ordained as a Cantor at Hebrew Union College School of Sacred Music and received her Doctorate of Ministry from HUC-JIR as well.
She has held a number of significant positions in the Reform movement: Chair of the Alumni Council of HUC-JIR, leadership in the Debbie Friedman School Alumni Association, and leadership in the Joint Cantorial Placement Commission comprised of representatives from the URJ, HUC, and the American Conference of Cantors. She was the first Reform cantor alumna to become a member of the Board of Governors of Hebrew Union College.
Cantor Anesi holds certificates in Crisis Counseling and Clinical Education for Pastoral Ministry - both from HUC - as well as in Trauma & Resilience: Theory and Practice in the Israeli Experience from Hebrew University. She completed the Columbia University certificate program in Complicated Grief Treatment.
She is a member of Reform movement's American Conference of Cantors, the American Association of Pastoral Counselors, and sits on the Advisory Board of the New York State chapter of Planned Parenthood's Concerned Clergy for Choice.
Cantor Anesi also enjoys performing as part of the group: Coffeehouse Cantors, comprised of treasured and gifted colleagues and friends.
When not singing or working, Dana's most cherished avocation is serving as a Mother - and especially Grandmother! - for her New York City family. We at TUJ are quite fortunate to be able to share her with them!