Rabbi Hanan Schlesinger is an Orthodox rabbi and teacher, and a passionate Zionist settler who has been profoundly transformed by his encounter with Palestinians and the Palestinian People roughly two years ago.
Originally hailing from New York, Rav Hanan immigrated to Israel on his own at the age of 20 and has lived in Alon Shvut, Gush Etzion, for over 30 years. His family background is Reform, but already at the end of high school he began delving into observant Judaism. Following his B.A., he spent over 10 years in advanced Jewish study, primarily at the Har Etzion College of Jewish Studies and in the M.A. program of the Dept. of Jewish Philosophy at the Hebrew University.
The first part of his professional career was devoted to teaching Jewish studies to young adults, primarily in various colleges of Jewish studies and seminaries in the Jerusalem area. From 1998 to 2000 he served as a fellow in the Judaic Fellows Program of Boca Raton, Florida. In 2005 Rabbi Schlesinger came to Dallas, Texas to serve as the head of the Community Kollel, and he spent eight years serving the Dallas Jewish community. When the Community Kollel folded in 2010, he founded the Jewish Studies Initiative of North Texas to continue the educational work he had been doing in the larger Jewish community of Dallas.
It was in Dallas about 8 years ago that he began to become involved in interfaith work, first with Christians and then with Muslims. There he founded Faiths in Conversation, a framework for Jewish – Christian – Muslim theological dialogue. The mind-expanding experience of these trialogues inspired him to attempt to meet Muslims and Christians back in the Holy Land.
Although always drawn to pluralism and deeply empathic for the other, and sporadically involved in the religious peace movement over the course of the past 3 decades, Rav Hanan never met a Palestinian as an equal until he returned from Dallas to Israel in 2013. The meetings that began then have become far more meaningful than he could ever have imagined.
Ali Abu Awwad and an Israeli partner Shaul Judelman, together with Hanan and other Israelis and Palestinians, have been involved for the past 24 months in creating and sustaining Roots/Judur/Shorashim, the Palestinian Israeli Grassroots Initiative for Understanding, Non-violence, and Transformation on a piece of land owned by the Awaad family in the heart of Gush Etzion and abutting the Palestinian town of Beit Umar. This location is one of the rare places that both Palestinians and Israelis can access without special government permits, thus facilitating grassroots, unmediated get-togethers and deep conversations between people from the two sides
Presently Rabbi Schlesinger divides his time between Israel and the USA. He serves as the Executive Director and Community Rabbinic Scholar for the Jewish Studies Initiative of North Texas and as coordinator for Faiths in Conversation. In these two capacities he teaches adult education classes on Judaism and spearheads interfaith projects throughout the greater Dallas area.
The vast majority of his time is spent in Israel, where Rav Hanan serves as the director of international relations for Roots/Shorashim/Judur.
Rabbi Schlesinger is a member of the Rabbinical Council of America and the International Rabbinic Fellowship, as well as Beit Hillel, an Israeli rabbinical association. He is a Rabbis Without Borders fellow, and was honored in 2013 and again in 2014 as the Memnosyne Institute Interfaith Scholar.
He and his Israeli–born wife Ayala reside in Alon Shvut, Israel, and have four grown children and seven grandchildren.