Center for Interfaith Cooperation

Hoosiers of Many Faiths in Community

Congratulations to Sandy and Dennis Sasso, 2018 Interfaith Ambassador of the Year

Please join the Center for Interfaith Cooperation in congratulating Rabbi Dennis and Rabbi Sandy Sasso for being named 2018 Interfaith Ambassadors of the Year. The award will be given at the Annual Interfaith Banquet in the spring. Stand by for details.

In the meantime, you can get a sense of their history-making and community-shaping accomplishments from their Congregation Beth-El Zedeck biographies.

Rabbi Sandy Sasso

Rabbi Sandy Eisenberg Sasso has served, along with her husband Rabbi Dennis C. Sasso, as spiritual leader of Congregation Beth-El Zedeck since 1977. In June 2013 she became Rabbi Emerita and is the Director of the Religion, Spirituality and the Arts Initiative at Butler University and Christian Theological Seminary. After receiving her B.A. and M.A. from Temple University, in 1974 she was the first woman ordained from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. In addition to being the first woman to serve a Conservative congregation, she and her husband are the first practicing rabbinical couple in world Jewish history. Rabbi Sandy earned her Doctorate of Ministry from Christian Theological Seminary. The recipient of several honorary doctorates (Reconstructionist Rabbinical College; DePauw University; Butler University; Franklin College; and Christian Theological Seminary), in June 2013 she received a Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.

In addition to her extensive contributions to the needs of her congregation, Rabbi Sandy has been active in the arts, civic and interfaith communities of Indianapolis and beyond. She is a past President of Gleaners Food Bank, and serves on the boards of the Indiana Humanities Council, the Julian Center (domestic violence shelter), Lake Institute of Faith and Giving and the Board of Advisors of IUPUI (Indian University/Purdue University at Indianapolis). She is Past Chair of the Spirit and Place Advisory Board, the annual festival celebrating the Arts, Religion and Humanities. She and Dennis write a monthly column in The Indianapolis Star on religious and spirituality issues. Rabbi Sandy also edited Urban Tapestry, Indianapolis Stories published by IU Press.

Rabbi Sandy has written and lectured on women and spirituality, and the discovery of the religious imagination in children. She is the author of several nationally acclaimed children’s books, including God’s Paintbrush, Adam and Eve’s First Sunset and In God’s Name. Publisher’s Weekly selected two of her books, But God Remembered and Noah’s Wife; The Story of Na’amah as Best Books of the Year. Abuelita’s Secret Matzahs is the winner of the 2005 Sugarman Family Children’s Book Award and the 2006 Best Books of Indiana Award. A book for adults, Midrash: Reading the Bible with Question Marks, was reprinted in paperback in the fall of 2013. She co-edited the Winter 2014 CCAR Journal entitled, \ A Symposium on Sacred Teaching and Spiritual Learning.

She is the 2004 recipient of the Helen Keating Ott Award for Outstanding Contribution to Children’s Literature and co-Editor with Karen Marie Yust, Aostre N. Johnson, Eugene C. Roehlkepartain.  Nurturing Child and Adolescent Spirituality:  Perspectives from the World’s Religious Traditions.  Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2006.  Her children’s book, The Shemah in the Mezuzah won the 2012 National Jewish Book Award for Best Illustrated Children’s Book. Her latest children’s book is Anne Frank and the Remembering Tree.  She is co-author of Jewish Stories of Love and Marriage: Folktales, Legends and Letters to be published by Rowman and Littlefield in September 2015.

Rabbi Sandy has been honored as one of the “Influential Women in Indiana” by the Indianapolis Business Journal and was featured among “Indy’s Most Influential Clergy” by NUVO News Weekly. She is the recipient of the “Sagamore of the Wabash”, the highest civilian honor awarded by the Governor of the State of Indiana. Rabbi Sandy is also the recipient of the 2013 Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association Lifetime Rabbinic Service Award.  She received the Spirit of the Prairie Award from Conner Prairie Interactive History Park, and in 2012, was honored with the Touchstone Award from Girls, Inc. In 2014 she received the Heritage Keepers Award from the Indiana State Museum.

She and Dennis are parents of David and Debbie and grandparents of Darwin, Ari and Levi.

Rabbi Dennis Sasso

Dr. Dennis C. Sasso has been the Rabbi of Congregation Beth-El Zedeck, Indianapolis, Indiana since 1977. He is a native of the Republic of Panama, and a descendant of Sephardic (Spanish-Portuguese Jewish) families who settled in the Caribbean during the 17th century.

Rabbi Sasso earned his Bachelor of Arts degree at the Department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies of Brandeis University. He holds a Master of Arts in Religion from Temple University, Philadelphia, and was ordained as Rabbi by the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Philadelphia. Rabbi Sasso has also studied at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and did his doctoral studies at Temple University and at Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, Indiana, from where he obtained his Doctor of Ministry degree. Rabbi Sasso is also the recipient of Doctor of Divinity degrees, Honoris Causa, from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College (1999) and Christian Theological Seminary (2000).

Rabbi Sasso is a member of various scholarly and academic societies, and he has served on numerous interfaith, civic and community boards and agencies. Rabbi Sasso is Chairman of the Indianapolis Board of Rabbis and Past-President of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association. He is a Past-President of the Indiana Interreligious Commission on Human Equality and was Co-Chairman of the Race Relations Leadership Network of the Greater Indianapolis Progress Committee. Rabbi Sasso also served as Co-Chairman of the Citizens Complaint Working Group, a committee appointed by the Mayor to review and make recommendations to upgrade the Ordinance that regulates the Civilian Police Review Process. He presently serves on the Board of Directors of the Hispanic Center as well as of the Jewish Federation of Greater Indianapolis.

Rabbi Sasso writes a monthly column entitled “Focus on Faith” in the Op-Ed page of the Sunday edition of The Indianapolis Star . He is a member of the Publications Committee of the Rabbinical Assembly and of the Advisory Board of The Reconstructionist, a Journal of Contemporary Jewish Thought and Practice.

Rabbi Sasso has lectured nationally and abroad and has published scholarly and popular articles on Caribbean Jewry, Reconstructionist Judaism, the Jewish family, the life cycle, spirituality and liturgy. He was decorated as a “Sagamore of the Wabash”, a distinguished citizen award presented by the Governor of the State of Indiana. Rabbi Sasso is the recipient of the “Community Service Award” from the NAACP and the “Fostering Life” Award of the Indianapolis Chapter of Links in recognition of his leadership in Interfaith and Interracial relations.

Rabbi Dennis Sasso and his wife, Rabbi Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, who also serves as Rabbi of Congregation Beth-El Zedeck, are the first husband and wife rabbinical couple in Jewish history. They are the recipients of an award for the “Enrichment of Judaism, the Family and the Rabbinate” from the B’nai B’rith Women’s Organization. They are the parents of two children, David Sasso, and Debora married to Brad Herold. They are the grandparents of Darwin, Ari and Levi.

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