Exactly a year ago I met Rabbi Dusty Klass for the first time. I traveled to New York having been named Temple Beth El’s Senior Rabbi less than a month earlier. I joined Ginny Rosenberg, Cantor Bernard, and Laura Bernstein to interview soon-to-be ordained rabbis from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.
Prior to our arrival, we had read dozens of resumes. Yet, Rabbi Klass’ candidacy quickly rose to the top of our list. Why? Dusty had received two Masters in Jewish Educational Leadership and Hebrew Letters. Over the years she had worked as a Regional Advisor of NFTY (our Reform Jewish Youth Movement), held senior staffing positions in our Movement’s summer camps, and served in dynamic pulpit and educational settings. Her resume was filled with the experience we needed. But what drew my eye to Rabbi Klass’ resume was her service as a rabbinic intern at Congregation Or Ami in Calabasas, CA.
Congregation Or Ami, led by Rabbi Paul Kipnes, this year’s Sadie Levin Scholar-in-Residence, is known throughout the Reform movement for their innovative and substantive approach to Jewish learning and social justice. Rabbi Klass’ internship included leading a family religious education program called Mishpacha and aspects of the congregation’s social justice initiatives. Rabbi Kipnes’ protégés and former interns have become some of our Movement’s most significant thinkers and rabbis. Indeed, Rabbi Kipnes has an incredible track-record of hiring well and training well. I have long respected and admired Rabbi Kipnes as a colleague and leader in our Movement.
Unsurprisingly, Dusty impressed us during her interview. While waiting for my return flight at the airport, I called Rabbi Kipnes and asked: “Is she as good as she seems?” “Better!” he said. Rabbi Kipnes explained that there were many people – kids and seniors, Torah students and social activists, spiritual seekers and lovers of Israel – who proudly claimed: “Dusty Klass is MY rabbi.” For congregants to say this about a rabbinic intern speaks as highly about Rabbi Klass as it does about how Rabbi Kipnes’ mentors his interns. He provides substantive experiences, encouragement, support, and room for his interns to experience, grow, and learn.
On Friday night, February 10th, with full hearts and a deep sense of privilege, we will install Dusty Klass as our rabbi. In the seven months since she has arrived, we have witnessed the rich potential of the partnership between Rabbi Klass and the leaders of this congregation. Dusty Klass is an extraordinary rabbi and human being. Dusty’s humility and decency are apparent from the moment you meet her. Dusty’s passion for Torah, teaching, and justice is inspiring; her preaching and worship leadership moves and compels us; her creativity in engagement and prayer opens doors of Jewish discovery for Jews of all ages, in every moment. There aren’t enough superlatives to describe Rabbi Klass – her candor, her wisdom, her compassion, her joy, and her laughter.
Mazel Tov to all of us here at Temple Beth El! We have found an outstanding rabbi, teacher, and friend! We are thrilled that her mentor, Rabbi Kipnes, will be with us for Dusty’s installation. I invite you to join us this Shabbat as we celebrate our community, honor our rabbi, and give thanks to God for the blessings of new beginnings. Please click here to see the weekend events honoring Rabbi Klass and the learning opportunities with our Sadie Levin Scholar-in-Residence, Rabbi Paul Kipnes.