Michael Sternfield knew from early in his teen-age years that he wanted to become a rabbi. Always drawn to a life of service to others, he began studying for the rabbinate while still a student at UCLA. Following his graduation, he studied at the Hebrew Union College Jewish Institute of religion in Los Angeles, Jerusalem, and Cincinnati. He was ordained in 1973 and became the assistant rabbi of Congregation Beth Israel in San Diego. Two years later, at the age of 28, he was chosen to be the congregation’s Senior rabbi, a position he held for nearly 20 years.
In 1994, he accepted the position of rabbi in Durban, South Africa, during South Africa’s transition to multi-racial democracy. Among the most rewarding and exciting times of his life, he was an eye-witness to history and also a participant as the New South Africa became a reality and Nelson Mandela was elected its first African president.
In 1995, he returned to the United States and became senior rabbi of the historic Chicago’s Sinai Congregation, from which he recently retired. In 2014, Rabbi Sternfield began a new phase of his career. At the invitation of Rabbi Mark Borovitz, he joined the staff of Beit T’shuvah in Los Angeles, California as a spiritual counselor.
Beit T’shuvah is totally unique: a residential rehabilitation institution and also a Jewish congregation that treats people with addictions. Drawing upon his long career as a congregational rabbi and his own personal experience of recovery, Rabbi Sternfield hopes to offer others through insight, hope, and spiritual growth.
The foundation of Rabbi Sternfield’s philosophy is Jewish “universalism,” the conviction that the purpose of the Jewish religion is social justice, to make our world a better place for people of all faiths, cultures and nationalities. Well aware of the many conflicts in our world that stem from religious animosity, he is devoted to doing all he can to reduce misunderstanding and promote harmony.
Rabbi Michael Sternfield has now joined Temple Beth El Bradenton as a full time Rabbi. He is also available for Jewish and interfaith weddings, funerals and memorial services, and other life cycle events as well as being available for destination weddings.
Rabbi Sternfield also happens to be a very good cook!