Rabbi Paul J. Kipnes is the spiritual leader of Congregation Or Ami and our first full-time rabbi. Rabbi Kipnes (or Rabbi Paul, as many call him) reflects upon being a rabbi:
As a rabbi, as your rabbi, I seek to be a warm, welcoming, compassionate presence in your life and in the life of your family. I hope to create a synagogue home which makes you feel warmly welcomed. I strive to be accessible, approachable and inspiring.
That's what we try to do at Congregation Or Ami. At Congregation Or Ami, especially, people matter. Walk into our synagogue and you should feel like you are in your second home. Warm smiles should welcome you, delicious cookies should be awaiting you in the refridgerator, and your rabbis should be looking forward to seeing you.
So many of us are searching for spirituality, that somewhat elusive sense of meaning and Shalom, wholeness and completeness. Powerful experiences with the Institute for Jewish Spirituality helped me develop a spiritual practice which includes yoga, Jewish meditation, journalling, silence, prayer and more. As a rabbi, I seek to illuminate the texts and traditions of Judaism because I believe they offer clear, time-tested paths to elevate our lives. Each of us, with the help of a caring and patient teacher, can discover meaning and joy within Jewish living, through Torah (study), Avodah (worship), Tikkun Olam (social justice work) and Henaynu (communal caring).
I view Judaism through the prism of healing. Each of us carries around within himself or herself the burden of unfinished business or unresolved pain. Jewish tradition, through healing prayers, religious acts and teshuva (a path of change), invites us to bring age-old wisdom to recent problems. The results can be astounding as we transform our values and change our lives.
I am a product of NFTY, Reform Judaism's youth movement, and its camps (especially the URJ Kutz Camp and Camp Newman). Those formative experiences taught me how important it is for our youth to develop close relationships with their rabbis. I am especially proud of Or Ami's Tracks for Temple Teens (Triple T), which offers multiple paths for Jewish teen experiences. I look forward to our regular free-flowing school sessions of "Rap with the Rabbi," in which the students of all ages and I discuss their deep personal questions.
Counseling Jews in 12-Step programs, I have witnessed the healing potential within our tradition. My twenty-two-year-old outreach to Jews recovering from alcoholism, addictions and co-dependency offers an annual opportunities to reconnect with 12-step friendly Jewish community. I am proud that Congregation Or Ami leads an ongoing community conversation about the intersection between Judaism and the 12-Steps.
I joined with Congregation Or Ami because of its commitment to Torah study, to God-talk, to social justice, and to being a community in which members take note of and care for each other. We are dedicated to opening doors to Jewish life to all who strive to create a Jewish home. I take special pride in the "audacious hospitality" we show especially to previously marginalized Jews and Jewish families including those who are interfaith, LGBTQ, multiracial or multiethnic, with special needs, in recovery or just feeling unwelcome. We welcome all who are prepared to open themselves to new and meaningful experiences. We invite you to join our holy community. We promise to help you feel cared for and welcomed.
Rabbi Kipnes serves as the national Revenue Enhancement Chair (and former Convention Chairperson) for the Central Conference of American Rabbis, and past chair of the West Valley Rabbinic Task Force. He sits as a member of the clinical faculty at the Rhea Hirsch School of Jewish Education, teaches Rabbinic pastoral counseling at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, and serves as a Rabbinic mentor and a member of the CCAR Task Force on Addictions in the Jewish Community.
He came to us after serving as Rabbi and Director of Education at Temple Beth Hillel in North Hollywood, California. Previously, he directed Camp Hess Kramer and Gindling Hilltop Camp in Malibu, California. Born and raised in Massachusetts, Rabbi Kipnes is a graduate of Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut and of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles and New York City. In his free time, Rabbi Paul does yoga, blogs avidly, reads science fiction, listens to jazz and blues, visits national and state parks and takes walks in the California wilds. Oh, and he is devoted to his wife Michelle November, and their three children.
Read Rabbi Kipnes' "Or Am I?" blog.