Daniel B. Syme, Rabbi Emeritus
Lifestyle magazine’s readers once voted Rabbi Daniel B. Syme one of the 18 North American Jews “who will be most influential in shaping the future of the Jewish community in the 21st century.” To this day, Rabbi Syme continues to draw on his life’s experiences to bring compassion, caring, and determination to the Temple.
Syme spent 24 years with the UAHC (now Union for Reform Judaism), including three years as senior vice-president. He oversaw all of the UAHC’s programs, including his special interests of outreach, television and film production, and the Task Force on Youth Suicide Prevention.
After graduating from the University of Michigan with Phi Beta Kappa honors in 1967, Syme was preparing to continue his education and accept a fellowship in psychology. However, at age 20, a near fatal bout of cancer changed his life forever. Prior to surgery, he asked his father, Rabbi M. Robert Syme, to get him an application to the Hebrew Union College. He said that if he recovered he was going to devote his life to God.
That vow held true, and five years later Syme was ordained from the Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati campus in 1972. While at the HUC, he won the Farb and Hebrew Prize, the Sulzberger Award in Homiletics and the Lazarus Prize for Academic Excellence. He also earned a Master’s Degree and a Doctorate in Education from Columbia University Teachers College, and taught at the New York campus of the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion.
His intense drive led to numerous accomplishments as both an author and executive television producer. He is a published author or co-author of 24 books, on topics such as Jewish parenting, youth suicide prevention, Christian-Jewish relations, Jewish social action, ritual, theology and Jewish education.
His books include Finding God; The Jewish Home – A Guide to Jewish Living; Why I Am A Reform Jew; What Happens After I Die; Drugs, Sex and Integrity, The Jewish Wedding Book; The Book of the Jewish Life; and 100 Essential Books for Jewish Readers. Syme has also been the executive producer for seven UAHC television programs, including “A Conversation with Menachem Begin,” “To See the World Through Jewish Eyes,” “A Conversation with George Burns” and Choosing Judaism.”
Syme has been very active in national and international organizations, serving as vice president of the American Zionist Youth Movement, director at large of the Board of the Jewish National Fund of America, a board member of the United Israel Appeal, and as vice president of the American Zionist Movement. He was one of the first chairmen of the Coalition for the Advancement of Jewish Education, a board member of the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture, the Executive Boards of the National Council for Jewish Education, and the Ecumenical Institute, and was Co-Chairman of the Coalition for Jewish Unity. He was honored as a Knight of Charity by the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (P.I.M.E. Missionaries) in 1997, elected to the Board of the Economic Club of Detroit in 1998, and received the Justice Louis D. Brandeis award from the Zionist Organization of America in 1999. In 2010 he was inducted into the prestigious Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Board of Preachers of Morehouse College in Atlanta and in 2012 was presented with the Community Leadership Award by the American Jewish Committee.
Rabbi Syme is married to Dr. Jill Syme, and has one son, Joshua.