Rabbi Joseph Wolf (b. 1951)
Rabbi Joseph Wolf was born March 17, 1951 in Boston, MA, one of four children. Influenced by his maternal grandmother and mother, both active in Hadassah and the Zionist movement, he grew up with a dream to go to Israel. His family attended a Conservative synagogue in Brookline, MA, celebrated all Jewish holidays, and observed Shabbat every Friday night. Rabbi Wolf’s mother was a social worker at Jewish Family & Child Service, and his father was a salesman and a professional musician.
Rabbi Wolf attended public schools and Hebrew school in Brookline, MA. During high school, he attended the Hebrew college, Prosdor, and five years of summer camp at Camp Yavneh in New Hampshire, an Orthodox Hebrew speaking camp, which had a strong influence on his life. Rabbi Wolf attended college at Brandeis, surrounded by Judaism, where “everything changed.” He spent his junior year abroad in Israel. Upon returning to Brandeis, Rabbi Wolf married his first wife, and they have two children, Simeon and Sarah.
After attending the Seminary, Rabbi Wolf took a rabbinical position in Austin, TX at age 28. He stayed there close to six years, quit to take a political job in Laredo, TX, and got divorced. Two years later, he took a job as the third Rabbi of Havurah Shalom in Portland, OR. Soon, he met and married Lisa Rackner, and they have two daughters, Amelia and Gavriella. Politically, Rabbi Wolf had moved to the left, and in 2015, just before his retirement, he was expelled from the Rabbinical Assembly for performing interfaith marriages.
Rabbi Wolf served as the fourth rabbi on the Oregon Board of Rabbis with Rabbi Geller, Rabbi Stampfer, and Rabbi Rose, and he wrote a new curriculum for the Introduction to Judaism class. In 1993, Havurah Shalom joined the Reconstructionist Movement and changed prayer books. In 2016, Rabbi Wolf retired from Havurah Shalom.
Rabbi Wolf was involved with numerous organizations, including: Jewish Family & Child Service; Governor’s Task Force for Family Law; Founding Board of Black Parent Initiative; National Board of Rabbis for Human Rights; Americans for Peace Now; Institute for Jewish Spirituality; and dialogue group for Muslims, Jews, and Christians. He visited Israel annually and worked for a two-state solution.