Rabbi Greg M. Epstein Humanist Chaplain of Harvard University
Rabbi Greg M. Epstein
Rabbi Greg M. Epstein serves as the Humanist Chaplain of Harvard University, and is a member of the executive committee of the 38-member Harvard United Ministry interfaith corps of chaplains. In 2005 he received ordination as a Humanist Rabbi from the International Institute for Secular and Humanistic Judaism, where he studied in Jerusalem and Michigan for five years. He holds a BA (Religion and Chinese) and an MA (Judaic Studies) from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and is currently completing a Masters of Theological Studies at the Harvard Divinity School. He will be contributing a chapter on the theological and philosophical roots of Humanism in the world’s major religious-cultural traditions, for an upcoming book on Humanism in business. He is also currently writing a book that will provide an introduction to Humanism with emphasis on his idea of Cultural Humanism: the idea that love for and active celebration of one's own cultural heritage and background can be combined with a Humanist philosophy wherein all people are to be treated with dignity, as equals regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, or sexuality. He is an advisor to two student groups at Harvard College, the Secular Society and the Interfaith Council.
Rabbi Greg M. Epstein
Epstein's journey to Humanistic Judaism has been unconventional: growing up as an assimilated and disinterested Reform Jew, he began studying Buddhism and Taoism while at High School in New York City, and in college went to Taiwan for a semester aiming to study Ch'an (Zen) Buddhism in its original language and context. Finding that Eastern religions do not necessarily have greater access to truth than Western ones, he returned to the US and abandoned Buddhist studies in favor of rock music, recording and singing professionally for a year after college. He then left the music industry, disappointed by its drug and negativity-ridden culture, and might have been forced into attending law school had he not discovered the movement of Humanism and the possibility of a career as a Humanist rabbi and chaplain. His efforts speaking and reaching out to thousands of students from many cultural and religious backgrounds on and around 9-11-01 led to his being featured in a cover story of Newsweek Magazine on "Generation 9-11" and in other national media outlets. As a graduate student he has earned a number of prestigious scholarships including a Posen Fellowship with which he studied in the Talmud Department of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem for one year. Fluent in Modern Hebrew, Epstein is especially delighted to work with secular Israeli young people and families living in the Boston area. He is available to provide wedding, funeral, baby-naming, and bar/bat mitzvah services. Most services will make heavy use of modern Israeli songs and poetry—Epstein is proud of the over 2,500 Israeli songs he has collected as a hobby on his iPod, and in 2005 he received a fellowship from Harvard University’s Center for Jewish Studies to research “Israeli Popular Music as a Secular Jewish Liturgy.”
The Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard was established in 1974 and is a permanent position at Harvard, endowed in 1995 by the late John L. Loeb '24 as part of a $100 million gift to the University. Epstein is proud to have recently succeeded Thomas Ferrick, currently Humanist Chaplain Emeritus of Harvard, in this role.