Rabbi Emeritus Mark Joel Mahler
Rabbi Mark Joel Mahler served Temple Emanuel of South Hills from June 1980 to June 2018. During his first five years at the congregation, Rabbi Mahler was Associate Rabbi and the Temple Educator for greater Pittsburgh’s largest Jewish religious school.
In 1985, Rabbi Mahler was elected Rabbi of the congregation. He served Temple Emanuel in many capacities: pastor, preacher and teacher, singer, songwriter and guitarist, humorist and social commentator. Rabbi Mahler served Temple Emanuel longer than any other active rabbi in Pittsburgh has served his or her synagogue, one measure among many of his rabbinate. He retired in June 2018.
Rabbi Mahler’s passion is Talmud Torah, the study and teaching of the vast library of Jewish sacred texts and wisdom literature beginning with Torah. His lectures cover a wide array of Jewish topics from history to linguistics, philosophy to mysticism, ethics to ritual practices. He is skilled at making abstruse subjects understandable, of transforming the complex into the simple. The questions he asks and then answers are “What can we learn from 3,000 years of Jewish experience that enrich and sanctify our lives today?” and “How can we best transmit Judaism to the next generation?”
Music was also fundamental to Rabbi Mahler’s rabbinate. He sang and played the guitar at every Shabbat and Festival evening service. One Shabbat evening a month, he participated in Temple’s Kol Emanuel Band. Another Shabbat evening a month, his children Moshe and Lacey accompanied him for Music with The Mahlers. Rabbi Mahler has set many traditional prayers to contemporary melodies and rhythms, some upbeat and joyful, some quiet and contemplative, and some stirring and dramatic.
Outside of Temple Emanuel, Rabbi Mahler was active in numerous community organizations. Within the Jewish community, Rabbi Mahler has served on the Board of the Jewish Family and Children’s Service, and the Advisory Board of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith. He is a past chair of the Greater Pittsburgh Rabbinic Association and the Pittsburgh Area Reform Rabbis. He has also served on various committees and colloquia for the Central Conference of American Rabbis and the Union for Reform Judaism.
In the general community, Rabbi Mahler has served on the Advisory Council of United Mental Health, the South Hills Interfaith Ministries, and the National Conference of Christian and Jews, for whom he was the keynote speaker at a Martin Luther King Day Observance at Trinity Cathedral. Rabbi Mahler has lectured at many synagogues and churches, colleges and universities. He held the Jewish Chautauqua Society appointment to the Theology Department at Duquesne University from 1986 to 1991. His writings have been published in Jewish and secular journals. Rabbi Mahler is currently writing a book of Jewish law, updating the Halacha to make each one of Judaism’s 613 commandments relevant and observable today.
Rabbi Mahler was ordained at the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion in New York in 1978, where he also received his Masters degree in Hebrew Literature. In 2003, the College-Institute awarded Rabbi Mahler a Doctor of Divinity degree. In addition, Rabbi Mahler has pursued Graduate studies in Education and Information Science. Rabbi Mahler earned his Bachelor of Science degree from Fairleigh Dickinson University, graduating cum laude from its Honors College.
Rabbi Mahler lives in Mt. Lebanon with his wife, Alice, a licensed clinical social worker. They have four children: Ari, Shoshana, Moshe, Shira, and a fifth child by marriage, Lacey, and two grandchildren, Leia Lucinda Mahler and Euan Benjamin Mahler.