“Make change your friend, and you will have a friend for life.” Duffy Nelson
We’ve had some transitions in the faith community of San Pedro, so I’ll take a few months to introduce you to some of our newer leaders. This month, let’s welcome Rabbi Cassi Kail.
Pastor Nathan Hoff: Rabbi Cassi Kail, welcome to San Pedro and the South Bay! I’m especially glad that you have come since we are immediate neighbors across from one another on 7th Street near Weymouth Corners. When did you arrive at Temple Beth El and can you give some initial impressions of San Pedro?
Rabbi Cassi Kail: Thank you so much, Pastor Hoff, for inviting me to be a part of this article. I moved from New York to California this past July , and the transition has been wonderful. San Pedro makes me feel at home because it is so wonderfully diverse. In some ways, it feels like a small town; everyone seems to know one another. In others, it is bursting with cultural venues and entertainment.
Pastor: Can you share some of the Temple Beth El’s story with the SPT readers?
Rabbi: Temple Beth El (TBE) is one of the oldest Reform temples in Los Angeles. It began in 1922 when a few Jewish families came together to pray. The San Pedro Jewish Sisterhood began a year later, providing opportunities for socializing, serving people who were needy, and even acquiring the Temple’s first Torah scroll. From its humble beginnings, TBE was filled [with] people committed to foster[ing] a meaningful relationship. From its first Temple building on Cabrillo to its current home on Seventh Street, TBE has always been proud of its San Pedro roots. Under the leadership of phenomenal clergy, such as Rabbi Lieb, Rabbi Briskin, Cantor Davidson, and remarkable lay leaders, TBE has worked to develop strong bonds with religious neighbors and a myriad of organizations doing holy work in the region.
Pastor: Tell us about yourself. Where are you from? Family? Your own call to serve as a rabbi?
Rabbi: I’ve known I wanted to [be] a rabbi since I was a teenager. I grew up in Brooklyn, New York, where I was blessed to fall in love with Torah, Jewish music, social justice, and — most importantly — the Jewish people. Now I’m fortunate enough to have a career that encompasses all of these passions. I’m grateful to be on this journey with my husband, Joshua, and our two wonderful children.
Pastor: Give us a glimpse of a day in the life of a rabbi.
Rabbi: The blessing and challenge of being a rabbi is that every day is unique. I’m humbled to sit with people at moments of grief, illness and loss, and moments of new beginnings and great joy. I have the privilege of teaching Torah to people of all ages, leading a community in worship, and working with a phenomenal staff and lay leaders to create meaningful programs, opportunities [for] social justice work, and holiday celebrations. Most of all, I see my work as creating sacred connections.
Pastor: The Prophet Jeremiah wrote long ago, “Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” (Jeremiah 29.7) When you think and dream about the peace and prosperity of San Pedro, what does that look like?
Rabbi: I believe that San Pedro’s greatest asset is its people. I have met some of the most generous, kind, intelligent people who truly care for our community. Given how polarized our world currently is, I dream about a San Pedro in which we don’t avoid talking about religion and politics, but rather we honestly and respectfully open ourselves up to one another’s truths. Given the huge homeless population, I pray that when we look into the eyes of a stranger, we see a sacred being deserving of dignity and respect. A prosperous San Pedro is one in which all residents have roofs over their heads and food in their stomachs. spt
More information about Temple Beth El can be found at bethelsp.org.