Rabbi Arie Folger

Israelitische Gemeinde Basel, Basel, Switzerland

Apr 1, 2014

Rabbi Arie Folger has been the rabbi of the Israelitische Gemeinde Basel in Switzerland since the beginning of 2003. As a community rav, he oversees his community's Rabbi Leo Adler elementary school, the mikveh, the local kosher establishments and compiles a list of about 2500 kosher products which consumers may buy on the local market. He also serves as the local Jewish hospital chaplain and gives, among other shiurim, a daf hayomi shiur in German. Rabbi Folger has served as the president of the Swiss Rabbinical Council since March 31st, 2007.

While in Basel, Rabbi Folger instituted an annual week long camp for boys and girls who will turn bar or bat mitzvah in the following year; he remains deeply involved with this project. He has also strengthened and streamlined local kashruth supervision, building on the work of his illustrious predecessor, Rabbi Israel Meir Levinger, a world renowned kashruth expert.

Rabbi Folger's semicha is from Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary. He also earned an MBA at New York University. For him, the world of Torah meets management science in Jewish organizations, primarily the Kehillah. In New York, he has previously worked at the Young Israel of Fifth Avenue and at Park East Synagogue.

Rabbi Folger believes in each and every Jew's potential and in the importance of genuine Jewish culture in order to promote reaching this potential (see his essay). Taking a leaf from the business world, he proposes that we search for best practices in every observant Jewish population, and even beyond the confines of Orthodox Judaism (as long as these practices are compatible with Halakhah). He argues that Jewish communities should learn to utilize good non-profit marketing principles and have a clearly delineated, consistently applied strategy in order to more effectively reach and deeply touch more Jews. He believes that this is only possible when love of fellow Jews is front and center among a community's priorities, and when this love is lived on a personal level, rather than as a formal program (as if it is possible to program emotions).

Rabbi Folger maintains a personal web site in English and German, and regularly visits the United States, where he often visits congregations as scholar in residence.

Rabbi Folger was born in Belgium. Prior to coming earning semicha at RIETS, he learned in the yeshivot Ets Chaim Wilrijk (Belgium), Beis Yosef Gateshead Talmudical College (UK), Yeshivat Mir in Jerusalem and Chaim Berlin in Brooklyn. He was also granted semikhah by the Szmigrader Rebbe of Antwerp, Belgium. Having lived in so many different countries, Rabbi Folger is fluent in six languages and has lectured in all of them: French, Yiddish, Dutch, Hebrew, English and German.

With his wife Faigy, they have four daughters, Aliza, Racheli, Judith and Aviva Zissel.