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Rabbi Paul J. Kipnes is the spiritual leader of Congregation Or Ami and our first full-time rabbi. He also directs our Religious School. 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.
Rabbi Kipnes identifies his roles: " So many of us are searching for spirituality, that somewhat elusive sense of Shalom, wholeness and completeness. As a rabbi, I seek to illuminate the texts, traditions and prayers of Judaism because I believe they offer clear, time-tested paths to elevate our lives. Each individual, with the help of a caring and patient teacher, can discover meaning and joy within the mitzvot of Torah (study), Avodah (worship) and Gemilut Chasadim (righteous acts).
I find fulfillment in teaching Torah, studying Torah and introducing people to the wisdom of Judaism. 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 services, religious acts and teshuva (a path of change), invites the Jew and his/her family to bring age-old wisdom to new 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. Those formative experiences taught me how important it is for our youth to develop close relationships with their rabbis. I look forward to our regular free-flowing school sessions of "Rap with the Rabbi," in which the students and I discuss personal questions concerning our Jewish youth today. Counseling Jews in 12-Step programs, I have witnessed the healing potential within our tradition. My nine-year-old outreach program to Jews recovering from alcoholism, addictions and co-dependency offers an annual series of Yom Kippur and Chanukah 12-Step celebrations as well as an annual Spiritual Retreat for Jews in Recovery. I am proud that Congregation Or Ami leads a coalition of Rabbis who offer holiday programs to explore the intersection between Judaism and the 12-Steps.
I joined with Congregation Or Ami because of its commitment to Torah study, to God-talk 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. 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 plays an active role in all aspects of Congregation Or Ami, including simcha celebration and grief processing, adult education, youth work, and family education. All Bar and Bat Mitzvah students spend 5-7 sessions with the rabbi, studying the Torah portion and getting to know each other. Rabbi Kipnes enjoys all opportunities to explore the breadth and depth of Judaism and synagogue life. Rabbi Kipnes is easily accessible for spiritual counseling, for Torah study, or just to "shmooze." Please call the Congregation office at (818) 880-4880 to speak to him, or contact him by e-mail at
Rabbi Kipnes also served as the national 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. Rabbi Kipnes and wife, Michelle November, have three children.
Congregation Or Ami26115 Mureau Road, Suite BCalabasas, CA 91302
P: (818) 880-4880 F: (818) 880-2290