Rabbi Samuel Barth is senior lecturer of Liturgy and Worship at The Jewish Theological Seminary. He received rabbinic ordination from the Leo Baeck College in London, following undergraduate studies in mathematical physics and philosophy. Rabbi Louis Jacobs (z"l) was his advisor for a dissertation on Kavanah in Halakhic Literature. The congregational rabbinate and seminary teaching have been focal points of his career, and he has worked with synagogues with 150 to 550 families in the United Kingdom, New York, Texas, and Massachusetts. In the past, Rabbi Barth served as assistant dean of The Rabbinical School of JTS, and then for 10 years as dean and vice president for Academic Affairs at the Academy for Jewish Religion, where he taught Liturgy and Codes. Rabbi Barth pursued doctoral studies in Liturgy at JTS and is now completing a doctoral degree in the use of the Psalms in interfaith worship at New York Theological Seminary.
As a congregational leader, Rabbi Barth developed a reputation for creating religious services that were deeply rooted in classical texts, in accord with halakhah, and also embraced the creative use of the Jewish poetry and music of modernity and the medieval period. His work shows that even the most ancient texts can generate spiritual response and devotion if the context and atmosphere are well prepared, and that the words and music of modern poets, composers, and musicians can find enthusiastic acceptance. It is in the creative and trusting partnership between rabbi, hazzan, and community that Rabbi Barth sees the emergence of vibrant, authentic, spiritual communities that will be the future of the Conservative Movement. The increased collaboration and shared learning among cantorial and rabbinical students, a priority of current JTS leadership, places it at the forefront of training the spiritual leaders so greatly needed by the Jewish world in congregations, schools, camps, and community centers.
In his teaching, Rabbi Barth looks to engage with the study of liturgical texts (siddur, mahzor, etc.), using the approaches of historical and textual scholarship along with the theological and spiritual exegesis found in the commentaries of the medieval period, the pietists of Ashkenaz, the Hassidic masters, and contemporary works. However, he sees the study of text as only one of the disciplines that are utilized in the modern study of liturgy.
Rabbi Barth returned to JTS to take up this new position in 2011, and has already created several courses that integrate textual study with "beyond the text" concerns that will be critically important to rabbinical and cantorial students. He has established a worship partnership, Gateways, with Professor Troy Messenger at Union Theological Seminary that presents interfaith worship based upon texts and values shared among the Jewish and Christian traditions. Present research is a depth examination of the history and current role of the sheliah tzibbur ( hazzan) that explores the sometimes intricate evolution of the halakhah (rabbinic law) applicable to worship, and then turns to look at the existing dynamics of community worship and the unique role of the contemporary rabbi and hazzan in shaping and leading this critical experience.
Rabbi Barth has been a guest scholar and consultant to numerous synagogues and colleagues, and served as a member of the faculty team of the groundbreaking Synagogue 2000 project. (See JTS Speakers Bureau page for further information.) He has a deep commitment to interfaith work and is a visiting faculty member at New York Theological Seminary. He is married to Karen, a management consultant and entrepreneur. The couple has two children, Yishai and Miriam. Rabbi Barth's interests include martial arts, Scottish folk music, and white-water kayaking.