Rabbi Chaim Strauchler
Shaarei Shomayim Congregation in Toronto, Ontario
Jun 10, 2009
Rabbi Chaim Strauchler serves as the rabbi of Shaarei Shomayim Congregation in Toronto, Ontario. A native of West Orange, N.J., Rabbi Chaim Strauchler received his ordination from Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) of Yeshiva University (YU).
Before joining Shaarei Shomayim in August 2008, Rabbi Strauchler served as rabbi at Beit Chaverim Synagogue in Westport, CT from 2005 to 2008. With 840 families, Shaarei Shomayim Congregation is among the largest modern Orthodox synagogue in Canada. His job there, in his view, is “primarily, to care for the people in the synagogue, to be there for them in their time of need, and to shepherd them through the ups and downs of life, but also to inspire them, and to be a catalyst for personal growth and for family growth as well.” An important first priority for him is to get to know the needs of his congregants and begin to form a relationship with them. He sees the shul as a centre for addressing larger communal issues, as well, a place that cares for Jews in Toronto, Israel and elsewhere, as well as for the non-Jewish community.
In college, Rabbi Strauchler was a premed science student – following in his parents’ footsteps – before switching to English literature. He chose to enter the rabbinate because, he says, “It was an opportunity to share life with the Jewish people, whom I care about very much; to teach and learn Torah in the trenches; and be with people during their best and worst times.” He also credits the legacy of his maternal grandfather, Rabbi Gershon Romanoff, with inspiring him to become a rabbi. Rabbi Romanoff studied at Yeshiva University under Rabbi Moshe Soloveichik in the 1930s, and died when Rabbi Strauchler was a year old.
He spent three years studying at Yeshivat Har Etzion in Alon Shvut, Israel under the guidance of Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein and Rabbi Yehuda Amital. Studying with Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein at Har Etzion was a key formative influence for him: “His lessons, his example, the sense of responsibility that he demonstrates to the Jews of the world and the world as a whole – came very much alive for me.”
Committed to Modern Orthodoxy, Rabbi Strauchler believes that "the term 'Modern Orthodox' is useful in the sense that it reflects the basic problem of every Jew – whether they’re Orthodox, not Orthodox, whatever color or stripe – that modernity is something that is ever present in our lives, and it brings many advantages. It also brings many challenges. In the modern age, you can choose. You can choose to be Jewish, you can choose not to live as a Jew. That did not exist before the modern era. At the same time, 'modern Orthodox' and 'Orthodox' are labels that were imposed upon us by others; fundamentally, we’re Jews. And it’s important to be able to see past the labels, towards the right and towards the left, to be able to look at a person and to see the person for what they are, as opposed to the external dress they may have on at that moment.”
The first YU graduate to receive Oxford University’s prestigious Rhodes Scholarship, he earned a Diploma in Theology and an MSt in Religious Studies while there. He received a master's degree in Biblical studies from Bernard Revel Graduate School and is a Wexner Graduate Fellowship alumnus. He publishes scholarly articles on the Bible and the Talmud in addition to publishing his own poetry. He also trained under Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblatt at Riverdale (NY) Jewish Center, from 2003 to 2005.
Rabbi Strauchler is married to Avital. They have three children: Adir, Tehilla, and Atara.