Rabbi Brett Isserow
Rabbi Dr. Jacob Rader Marcus once told me, "If you don't like Jews, don't become a Rabbi!" As the years pass, those words take on an ever greater significance and I have found that it is indeed my deep love of the Jewish people and Judaism which sustains my life as a Rabbi.
My decision to become a Rabbi began as a desire to explore my own Jewish heritage and learn more about Judaism's many facets. It has been, and continues to be, a fascinating journey, one that enriches and fulfills each new day.
I was born in Johannesburg, South Africa and was raised in a family which, although very aware of its Jewishness, was not particularly observant. We "did" all the holidays and celebrated Pesach Seders with lots of family and friends but rarely attended Shabbat services. Under my mother's "Shul or School" rule, I spent most of the festivals sitting in the sun on the stairs in front of our local Orthodox Synagogue.
Post-Bar Mitzvah my formal Jewish education came grinding to a halt. Thereafter, college and building a career as a Chartered Accountant further intervened.
Over a decade and a half later, I became re-engaged in a Reform congregation and soon found myself on the Board, Executive and serving as Treasurer. It occurred to me that I really knew very little about Judaism and so I began a journey of exploration and learning that continues to this day.
In the mid-1980's I applied to Hebrew Union College and spent the first year of the course in Israel. Studying at HUC in Cincinnati was a true gift even for someone rapidly approaching middle age! After all, my teachers were the ones who wrote the books! And besides, I met my wife, Jinny, while we were both at HUC.
Eleven years as an Assistant/Associate Rabbi at The Temple in Atlanta honed my Rabbinic skills. Our children, Anna and Jesse, enlarged our family circle and, yes, radically changed our lives!
Late in 2001, it was time to look for a Congregation at which I could find a home as Senior Rabbi and, hopefully, serve in for many years. Beth El Hebrew Congregation has become that home. The challenges are many, but the rewards are great. I count myself most fortunate to be surrounded by good and decent people who truly want to make this a Kehila Kedosha, a holy community, for whom Jewish values take on real meaning. One only has to walk into the building to get a sense of its warmth and depth.
Beth El has afforded me the opportunity to get involved in the wider community—as a Board Member of the JCCNV, as a member of the Ethics Committee of Inova Alexandria Hospital, as a vice president of both the Washington Board of Rabbis and the mid-Atlantic CCAR Board and in a number of other interfaith and Jewish organizations.
At the moment of Ordination I was asked, "Are you ready to serve the Jewish people?" Nearly twenty years after ordination, my answer to the question is still a resounding "Yes!" You see, I love being a Rabbi and that, for me, makes a world of difference! --Rabbi Brett Isserow
Cantor Jason Kaufman
Cantor Jason Kaufman received Cantorial ordination from the Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music at Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion, HUC-JIR, in New York City, where he also received a Master’s in Sacred Music in 2010. A native of Monsey, New York, Cantor Kaufman additionally holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from State University of New York, University at Fredonia, where he majored in voice and minored in Jewish Studies.
From 2011 to 2013, Cantor Kaufman served as Cantor at Congregation Sukkat Shalom in Wilmette, IL. In 2010, he served as Interim Cantor of Touro Synagogue in New Orleans, LA where he co-led its 20th annual nationally-renowned Jazz Fest Shabbat service. As a Cantorial Student, Cantor Kaufman served as Student Cantor to Congregation Beit Simchat Torah in 2010, the World’s Largest LGBT synagogue in NYC. As a student at HUC-JIR, Cantor Kaufman served numerous congregations and healthcare facilities around the country, as well as congregations of the Victorian Union for Progressive Judaism in Melbourne, Australia.
Cantor Kaufman proudly serves on the Board of Directors for the American Conference of Cantors (ACC) where he also represents the ACC on the Union of Reform Judaism, Commission on Social Action. Most recently, he represented the ACC as a featured speaker in the Thousand Minister March at the Department of Justice in 2017, as a call to action for clergy of all faiths to express their values of equality and justice in the public square.
Jason has a love for music of all styles that is sincere, joyful, and speaks to the soul. His recent concert, "Songs to Change the World,” highlighted music of social conscience and raised funds and awareness for local and international refugee work.
Cantor Kaufman volunteers and works closely with numerous Jewish, LGBT, and other advocacy organizations throughout the U.S.
In his spare time, Cantor Kaufman is an avid runner. He has run the Chicago Marathon, Marine Corps Marathon, and just completed his 8th marathon at Walt Disney World.