Rabbi Daniel Beller, the British-born rabbi of Shivtei Yisrael synagogue in Ra’anana, whose life and career as an inspiring spiritual leader, scholar and educator traversed three continents, died on Thursday at the age of 53 after a battle with cancer, and was buried Friday morning.
Raised in Great Britain, Rabbi Beller earned his degree in history from Manchester University and then studied in Israel for the rabbinate, earning his ordination from the Chief Rabbinate of Israel after eight years of studies in the country.
For five years, he served as a rabbi in South Africa, and trained as a bereavement counselor, before returning to Israel. He took the pulpit of Shivtei Yisrael in 1997, and his youthful energy, engaging personality, humor and unique style of outreach quickly attracted numerous worshipers beyond the modern Orthodox South African and British emigre community that founded the synagogue.
Beller made a name across the Ra’anana community as both a dedicated communal rabbi and as an educator active in organizations beyond his own congregation. He had a reputation for his ability to warmly relate to children and teenagers, and for his efforts in outreach to the secular community, welcoming all, regardless of personal practice, who wished to worship into his synagogue. He was especially well-known in the wider community for his education programming in secular public schools and his openness to dialogue with non-Orthodox Jews and rabbis. Beller founded and directed the organization “BaKehilla” which sought to “make Judaism more accessible, relevant and personalized to the secular Israeli public” through interactive workshops and seminars. Thousands of Ra’anana schoolchildren from kindergarten to 12th grade participated in the program over the years.
In an interview with Haaretz about one Jewish leadership program he launched at the city’s Ostrovsky High School, where a wide range of guest speakers were invited to talk about Jewish leaders from antiquity to modern times, Beller said that "the message I try to get across is that leadership is not about power, but about stepping forward and taking a stand."
Beller is survived by his wife Arny, a lactation counselor, and their children.