Haberman Institute’s new head opts for video greeting

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Northern Virginia native Matthew Silverman has succeeded Rabbi Gordon “Gordy” Fuller as the Haberman Institute for Jewish Studies executive director following Fuller’s retirement.

“Matt will be leading us into a new chapter for the Haberman Institute,” wrote Elaine Amir, president of the board of directors, in an April 23 email announcing both the retirement and the recent hire. “[Matt] exemplifies a professional and personal commitment to our Institute’s vision of a Jewish community enriched through quality lifelong Jewish learning.”


With video communication such a regular feature of life during the coronavirus pandemic,  the email announcement included a video greeting from the incoming executive.

“I couldn’t resist the opportunity to say hello to you in person today,” says Silverman, seated in an armchair in the Maryland home he shares with his wife, Jill, and their two daughters.

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Prior to moving to Maryland, Silverman most recently served as assistant director of the religious school at Congregation Emanu El in Houston. He has also worked and taught in numerous Jewish organizations throughout the country, including the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, Camp Ramah Darom, Hillels of Georgia, and Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Philadelphia. He graduated magna cum laude from James Madison University with a bachelor’s degree in economics and religion, and he also has a Master of Theological Studies degree from Emory University and a master’s in Jewish studies from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College.

The Haberman Institute was established as the Foundation for Jewish Studies by Rabbi Joshua O. Haberman in 1983. In 2018, one year after Haberman’s passing, the foundation’s board of directors voted to change the name of the organization in honor of its founder. The Haberman institute offers adult education classes, organizes “Day of Learning” programs and Jewish cultural events, and brings renowned scholars to the Washington area to speak on topics of Jewish culture, history, literature and more.


As with many institutions of learning, coronavirus has pushed the Haberman Institute’s programming exclusively online for now, but both one-off events and long-term weekly courses are still being offered. Courses include intriguing titles such as “Back to the Future: A New Look at Deuteronomy,” “Is This Any Way to Run a Country? Kings, Prophets & Priests in Biblical Israel” and “Elijah: The Man. The Myth. The Legend.”

“Please know we are working diligently to bring you the very best virtual experiences,” says Silverman in the video, “and our fall programming lineup is shaping up beautifully as we figure out the most innovative and creative ways to deliver our programs to you.

“I hope soon we will have the opportunity to greet each other and meet together in person,” he continues. “In the meantime, I’m looking forward to seeing you online and beginning this journey together.”

Fuller served as executive director for the past three years.

“Rabbi Gordy’s impact on our organization will be felt well beyond the three years he shared with us,” wrote Amir. “Under his leadership, we expanded our programming, welcomed thousands of attendees to our programs, redeveloped our mission and vision, and, of course, transitioned from the Foundation for Jewish Studies to the Haberman Institute for Jewish Studies. We are thrilled that Gordy will be serving as a consultant and has already been providing his successor with invaluable guidance.”

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