Rabbi Gil Steinlauf, who has preached to Supreme Court justices and hosted speeches by a president and vice president during his nine years as rabbi at Washington’s Adas Israel, told congregants on Thursday that he will leave the synagogue for a new job.
Steinlauf, a prominent leader in the Conservative denomination of Judaism, will take a new position with the denomination, teaching other synagogues. He said in an email to his congregation on Thursday that he will try to teach others to imitate the successes of Adas Israel: “We have been and continue to be a growing and thriving synagogue in ways that are at odds with nearly all national trends. The atmosphere at our synagogue is electrifying. The Torah that we teach is deep and real.”
During Steinlauf’s time leading Adas Israel, President Barack Obama spoke from the pulpit, only the third sitting president to speak at a synagogue. The next year, Vice President Joe Biden spoke there. On the High Holy Days, Jewish Supreme Court justices worshiped in the pews. A grandchild of President Trump is enrolled in the Adas Israel preschool.
Steinlauf has been outspoken about politics. On the day of Trump’s inauguration, he published a forceful letter to the new president: “I know you so well, Mr. Trump, because in every generation, you hate and seek to destroy us.”
In 2014, he emailed a different announcement to his congregants — he came out as gay and said he and his wife, a fellow rabbi, would divorce. Since then, he has frequently written and spoken to advocate gay rights.
Debby Joseph, president of Adas Israel, said the congregation’s two other rabbis, Lauren Holtzblatt and Aaron Alexander, will jointly lead the synagogue until it decides on a permanent senior rabbi. Steinlauf will remain an adviser to Adas Israel until summer 2018.