Rabbi Benny Lau
Noted scholar, author, and social justice activist, Rav Dr. Binyamin “Benny” Lau is senior rabbi at Ramban Synagogue in Jerusalem. He is director of the 929 Tanakh B'Yachad daily Bible study initiative, which has a quarter million Israelis, from secular to ultra-Orthodox, in the study of the 929 chapters of the Tanakh, from Genesis to Chronicles.
Rav Benny heads the Israel Democracy Institute's Human Rights and Judaism in Action project, and is the rabbi of the modern Orthodox Ramban Synagogue in southern Jerusalem. A charismatic leader, social entrepreneur, and media figure, he speaks out clearly on current issues, focusing on the humanistic values of Judaism and insisting that tradition face the challenges of contemporary society.
Rabbi Dr. Lau's education includes higher religious studies at Yeshivat Har Etzion, a BA in Talmud from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and an MA and PhD in Talmud from Bar-Ilan University. His doctoral dissertation analyzes the halakhic theories of R. Ovadia Yosef, one of this generation's most outstanding rabbinic scholars.
Rav Benny's activities reflect a firm commitment to social issues. At a young age, he opted for full military service in a combat unit of the Israel Defense Forces' Golani Brigade. After his yeshiva and academic studies, he moved from Jerusalem to Israel's southern periphery, where he served in the rabbinate of the Religious Kibbutz Movement for approximately a decade, serving as Rabbi of Kibbutz Saad and Talmud instructor at Yeshivat Hakibbutz Hadati, the movement's yeshiva at Kibbutz Ein Tzurim.
In 2000, Rabbi Dr. Lau returned from the periphery to Jerusalem with his family, eager to impact Israeli society as a whole. His extensive activities in rabbinics, teaching, and social action include founding and heading a pioneering Beit Midrash and Halakhah program for women, serving as the rabbi of two prominent religious schools in Jerusalem, and involvement in the establishment of Maaglei Tzedek, a social action organization that calls for social justice in keeping with Torah principles and is best known for "ethical kashrut" certificates and its program to render restaurants accessible to people with disabilities. He also founded the Institute for Social Justice at Beit Morasha, which operates in the private and public sectors and provides training for staff members of government ministries and senior IDF officers.
Rabbi Lau has been the rabbi of the Ramban Synagogue, one of Jerusalem's most active congregations, since the year 2000. Under his leadership, the synagogue was transformed into a hub of religious, cultural, and benevolent activity that serves the entire neighborhood.
A noted author, he has published scores of books and research articles on the Jewish heritage. His prolific writings focus on Jewish philosophy, issues of Halakhah and society, and the connection between Biblical, Mishnaic, and Talmudic sources and contemporary social and political realities.
Rav Beny joined IDI's Human Rights and Judaism Project as the head of implementation of its values in the field in January 2013 and now heads the 929 Initiative in Israel aimed at reviving the Tanach and its relevance and is based on a daily chapter reading of the entire Tanach over a cycle of three and half years.
He is married to Noa, and they have six children and three grandchildren.