Reuben Zellman is blessed to serve the Beth El community as Assistant Rabbi and Music Director. He received his B.A. in Linguistics from U.C. Berkeley and then studied as a postbaccalaureate in music theory and classical voice at San Francisco State University. While an undergraduate he worked for several years in the field of disability services and independent living empowerment. He received his master’s degree in Hebrew Literature and in 2010 his rabbinical ordination from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles. As part of his rabbinical education, Reuben served Congregations Beth Simchat Torah in Manhattan and Sha’ar Zahav in San Francisco as a rabbinical intern, cantorial intern and children’s educator (in various combinations.)
Reuben has eight years of training in chazanut (traditional cantorial music) through the School of Sacred Music in New York City and the exceptional private teaching of generous cantors and music directors, including David Bentley, Joyce Rosenzweig and Jacob Mendelssohn. As a professional performer he specializes in the Renaissance and Baroque periods; he is currently a regular performer with San Francisco Renaissance Voices. As a conductor, he focuses on involving amateur ensembles in high-quality music; researching and teaching lesser-known Jewish music; and on structuring vocal and instrumental ensembles as vehicles to increase and enhance the full congregation’s participation in synagogue music.
An activist and educator in the transgender community, Rabbi Reuben has written extensively about gender identity, sexuality and Judaism. He is involved with various LGBTQ community organizations and projects, and has taught at congregations, conferences and universities around the U.S. Linguistics is still one of Rabbi Reuben’s primary interests. He is also enamored with the medieval Jewish law codes, and often approaches Jewish subjects through the lenses of language, law and their implications. In his personal life, Reuben adores “Law and Order” and most other crime shows and books, and is often found warding off the evil eye. Reuben was born and raised in Los Angeles, and lives with his fabulous wife Erika and their two very small dogs in San Francisco.