Rabbi Nathaniel Steinberg, who served for more than 20 years as the first full-time spiritual leader of the Dix Hills Jewish Center died Saturday following a brief illness. He was 89.
When he was hired in 1970, the Long Island synagogue was in its infancy and operating out of a converted private house. Under his guidance, the congregation moved to its current building and membership grew to more than 600 families, making it the largest congregation in Suffolk County.
An Orthodox rabbi, Rabbi Steinberg was hired for the Conservative congregation while he was serving as spiritual leader of the Jewish Community Center of Levittown, L.I.
“I went to see him in Levittown and I found that he had excellent communication with the congregation and kept them sitting on the edge of their chairs until he finished his sermon,” said Allan Glaser, the congregation’s first president. “He and his wife, Grace, brought a personal touch – it was a love affair from the beginning.”
Rabbi Steinberg’s successor, Rabbi Howard Buechler, credited the growth of the congregation to its “quality of programming and the strength and vibrancy” of its twice daily minyan.
“We are grateful for what he bequeathed to us,” he said. “He was a man of strength, both physical and spiritual, who was steeped in Jewish wisdom and deep erudition. He provided a path of strong tradition to follow, and that is why we are today a very traditional egalitarian shul.”
In retirement, Rabbi Steinberg served at different times as president of the Young Israel of Vacation Village in Loch Sheldrake, N.Y., and the one in Deerfield Beach, Fla.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by two children, Joyce Weisfelner and Avery, and seven grandchildren.