When I interviewed for the blessed opportunity to become the Executive Director at Beth Chayim Chadashim, I shared with the search committee that I was no stranger to BCC:
Beth Chayim Chadashim has been a Jewish beacon of light for decades. My first exposure to BCC was in the eighties, when Rabbi Janet Marder was leading meaningful worship and I was likely in high school. I will never forget the painful—yet stirring—Kaddish list one Shabbat that seemed to go on and on in the face of the HIV/AIDS epidemic at that time. The powerful sense of community that evening left an indelible impression on my mind, as I explored rabbinical school, and I have loved BCC ever since then. I have found a dear colleague and a mensch in Rabbi Lisa Edwards. Her intellect, humility, and genuine capacity have made her a “rabbi’s rabbi,” and that is why my wife Tera Klein and I chose her to serve as m’sader kiddushin, officiant, at our wedding last April. Lisa’s gentle leadership and brilliance as a thinker have influenced my rabbinate, and her compassion and gifted listening skills have influenced my approach to life. Her commitment to LGBTQ inclusion is not only profound; it is poetic. It also did not take long for me to discover Cantor Juval Porat’s earnest, unassuming, stunning voice and presence; what a good man!
Tera and I have been members of BCC for several years now. It has always stood out as a place where not only Judaism comes to life, but every person is warmly and deeply welcomed—LGBTQ+, multiracial, financially struggling or secure, parents, persons of all abilities, older, single…YOU! BCC is a Jewish home for all, where your identity is your gift to this community, a land where the Ten Lost Tribes are found! Months after submitting my resume, I get the honor of joining Chelsie, Lisa, Juval, Rae, Ralph, Tim, and Yanir in making the magic happen here.
A little bit about my professional background: For nearly ten years, I led a faith-based worker justice nonprofit that expanded to a multi-faith full, diverse staff and board, that helped thousands of workers to access middle class lifestyles. Our efforts to “build a just and sacred society” led us to many partnerships, advocating for immigrant rights, police reform and building a post-election “#SacredResistance” to the targeting of vulnerable communities, including LGBTQ people. Our Black/Jewish Justice Alliance with my dear friend, Pastor William D. Smart, Jr. made significant contributions to establishing a Civilian Oversight Commission of the Sheriff’s Department (thank you to now-Judge Dean Hansell and to Rabbi Heather Miller, both of whom have played roles in this effort) and much more. I hope to bring my social justice commitments to BCC as well.
I am excited to reengage in Jewish life. I write this while Jews worldwide read Parashat Vayechi, the end of Genesis. We read of the deaths of both Jacob (and along with him Leah and Rachel) and Joseph (Osnat)…. “All things must pass,” taught George Harrison. Nevertheless, next week, beginning the Book of Exodus reminds us that one door closes and another door opens: We begin the tale of our spiritual and physical liberation.
For me as well, a door has opened, and I have walked through! I am joining you in building this mikdash, holy space, on Pico Boulevard, so that we can celebrate simchahs (joys) together and also support one another through our hard times, a Beth Chayim Chadashim: A home where new life is breathed into all of us when we show up, without pretense, without judgment. Stop by! Let’s get coffee! YOUR story is of interest, YOU are a reason for others to join BCC. This is a special place, where life seems more meaningful, more beautiful…more complete. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chazak! Chazak! V’nitchazek! “Be Strong! Be Strong! Together we shall be strengthened!” I look forward to strengthening Beth Chayim Chadashim, our kehilah kodesh, sacred community, together with you, whoever you may be. You are our blessing.