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 Masters in Sacred Music in 2010. He is a member of the American Conference of Cantors. 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 and was President of the SUNY Fredonia Hillel. From 2011 to 2013, Cantor Kaufman served as Cantor at Congregation Sukkat Shalom in Wilmette, IL. In 2010, served as Interim Cantor of Touro Synagogue in New Orleans, LA where he co-led its 20th annual, nationally renowned Jazz Fest Shabbat service.
Cantor Kaufman has published articles with the Union for Reform Judaism, the American Conference of Cantors, and the Men of Reform Judaism.
During his tenure at HUC-JIR, Cantor Kaufman served numerous Reform and non-denominational communities and health care facilities as student Cantor. An advocate for religious and social inclusivity and equality,Cantor Kaufman served as Cantorial intern at Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, NYC, the world’s largest LGBT synagogue in 2010. Additionally, in the summers of 2008 and 2009, he served the numerous synagogues and Day Schools of the Victorian Union of Progressive Judaism in Melbourne, Australia.
Believing that a synagogue is where one should bring their most authentic self, Cantor Kaufman is deeply passionate about creating connections between spirituality and physical health in Jewish life. He has competed in the 2012 Chicago Marathon in support of the Chicago Diabetes Project, and will do so again in October 2013, and has biked across Israel four times in support of the Israeli Movement for Progressive Judaism through the “Ride 4 Reform” program.