When I walked into Temple Bat Yahm with my family on a bright morning in early March 2019, to interview for the position of Rabbi-Educator, we walked through the gate into a place of light, of welcome and of energy. What made it so warm? It was not just the sunlight. It was the intelligence, vibrancy and overall menschlakite of the clergy. It was the insightful questions combined with genuine welcome I encountered from congregants, leadership and professional staff. It was the rich learning environment of the preschool (where my kids immediately settled in and tried to stay) and the vision of its director, Laura. And it was JCAL, with its unpretentious director, Barry Koff, who has instituted one of the most exciting supplementary education programs I’ve seen. My husband, Danny, and I were in immediate agreement: these were people I want to work with and for, and this is what we are looking for in a community, a home for our family.

The warmth of community, the growth that comes from curiosity and empathy—those are the things I seek to cultivate in education, and that my family and I are looking for in a community. I was born in small-town America, in a mountain village in Washington’s Cascade Mountains. My parents are originally from Southern California, and I spent part of my childhood in Seal Beach (my parents returned there once I started college) and the majority of my youth in various parts of Washington. I longed to explore the world, so I went to college in Massachusetts, earning my undergraduate degree at Brandeis, then to Israel, to the San Francisco Bay Area, to Israel again for the first year of rabbinical school, and on to Los Angeles, where I earned my Master Degree in Education and received Ordination at HUC-JIR in LA. While in school, I met the love of my life, Seal Beach native Danny Vogel. After ordination, Danny good-naturedly came along with me as I repeated the route (minus Israel) of Massachusetts to Bay Area as a rabbi-educator. Along the way we’ve had two children: Julia (3½) and Dylan (1½). They challenge and stretch us every day, and my world is a more complete place because of them. Now, we hope we’re coming home to stay to Orange County.

Since accepting the job here at Temple Bat Yahm I have been warmly welcomed by staff and leadership, including Melinda Weiss, TBY’s remarkable and enthusiastic Assistant Director of Education and Youth Engagement. I can’t wait to meet the rest of you, the entire Temple Bat Yahm community. I hope I can be part of the welcome that new people and families in the future experience when they walk through Bat Yahm’s doors into this bright, holy place.