Affectionately known as ‘Reb Drew,’ Rabbi Hahn combines a variety of tools to introduce Jewish Wisdom to an increasingly global, religious village. He holds a Ph.D. in Jewish Thought from the Jewish Theological Seminary (Conservative) and received rabbinic ordination from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (Reform), both in New York City. He has also studied at the feet of Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, founder of the Jewish Renewal Movement. Dubbed “a Shlomo Carlebach for the twenty-first century,” in his main professional activity, he weaves traditional Jewish liturgy and musical modes into the increasingly popular call-and-response chant technology from India, known as Kirtan.
Reb Drew hails from Pittsburgh, PA where he – literally – grew up in Mr. Roger’s neighborhood. As a child, he was very musical and studied classical guitar. He attended the conservatory at Carnegie-Mellon University before transferring to Hampshire College. After completing a B.A. in philosophy and literature at Hampshire, Reb Drew lived in Berlin, Germany where, ironically, he first discovered a deeper connection to Judaism.
When he returned to the States, he took on various jobs as a nursery school teacher and with Jewish organizations. In short order, he matriculated at the Jewish Theological Seminary, where he completed his Ph.D., with a focus on medieval Jewish philosophy and creation theology. During this period, he studied and researched in Israel for two years, where he was a fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. Upon earning his Ph.D., Reb Drew immediately entered rabbinical school at HUC-JIR where he was ordained in 2003. During this time – and before discovering himself as the Kirtan Rabbi – Reb Drew served as student Rabbi in Fredericksburg, VA and in Great Barrington, MA. He also has taught widely as an adult educator in the NYC area, and was adjunct professor at rabbinical schools including JTS and the Academy for Jewish Religion; he also taught college religion as institutions such as New York University and Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, PA.
A more quiet side of his personality, Reb Drew has also been teaching martial arts for decades. Packaging these skills together, he visits synagogues, JCCs, college campuses, and yoga centers internationally and has been in-residence at Shabbatonim, multi-day retreats and West Coast festivals. He is equally at home singing with a small circle, co-leading a Kabbalat Shabbat service, or bringing a full-on, rocking concert to the big stage.
Reb Drew served as Visiting Rabbi for Metivta: a Center for Contemplative Judaism in Los Angeles. He has long been resident faculty at Clal: the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership in New York, where he recently founded the not-for-profit Kirtan Rabbi Prayer Initiative.
In all that he does, Reb Drew seeks to make Torah accessible, deep and fun, — to Jew and non-Jew alike — in a way that is participatory and memorable. He has produced three CDs: “Kirtan Rabbi: Live” (2008); “Achat Sha’alti: One Thing I Seek” (2010); and “Nondual” (2015); as well as single, Shiviti. In the coming year, he hopes to release a fourth song cycle entitled Hallel.
While he’s sure that you will be treated to some delightful elements of kirtan chanting here and there over the upcoming holidays, Reb Drew and Ariella – with the SRQ Jews without Borders musicians – will build upon Rabbi Elyssa’s creative mixture of traditional High Holy Day themes, the season’s hauntingly familiar melodies and impromptu meditations.
For more information on Rabbi Hahn, Kirtan Rabbi, or Hebrew kirtan, go to his website: www.KirtanRabbi.com