Frowning, scowling and monotonous…. NOT! I am the opposite of what you might expect a Rabbi to be. Warm and outgoing would be a better description. However, this is superseded by a whacky British sense of humor which fires into overdrive when discussing life’s ironies and paradoxes.
A bunch of marketing gurus advised me to write this whole page in the third person. They told me to avoid “I” and I tried but it looked so impersonal and pompous.
St George’s Hospital used to be the building next to Buckingham Palace on Hyde Park Corner and that’s where I was born. Even though I was not yet on solids I thought the Queen might have popped over for tea and crumpets with me, but she didn’t. After an Orthodox Jewish Primary school I went to City of London School where I learned and occasionally broke the rules. In fact at school (Public School is Private School in England – formed by a Public charter by the reigning Monarch) we were all called by our last name and mine is Adler. All through school I thought that my first name was “Adler” and my last name was “Detention” because my teachers seemed to say those two words together all too frequently.
Without my family; a smashing sister, a wonderful mum and a terrific dad, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Having moved from London to Southern California in 1997 you would think I would have acquired an American accent, but no. After all these years I am not yet fluent in American English. I still have difficulty with words like schedule, dustbin, windscreen, bonnet, boot and car park. Why should I stop saying cheers? And when something goes phenomenally well, what’s wrong with using the cliche cockney dog’s thingamajigs phrase? (even though I am not cockney). In fact, my two favorite words are thingy and thingamajig as in; “didn’t we meet at thingy’s thingamajig last month?” or, “plug the thingy into the thingamajig and it should work”.
Several profound and personal events in my life led me to set out to break through the divisive barriers which the establishment Orthodox, Conservative and Reform Jews erected over centuries to keep outsiders out.
Graduating from the Florida Academy and Institute of Religion I received my Semicha and Ordination on Nov 6, 2001. It was an honor to be Ordained by a Board of distinguished Jewish Theological Seminary Conservative and Reform Rabbis who had taught me so much. It was a profoundly spiritual and uplifting ceremony for all who were there and it transformed my life. From that moment, I have proudly served the Jewish and Interfaith community as a progressive Rabbi dedicated to a warm and welcoming approach to Judaism for over 15 years.
Establishing the Pacific Synagogue was inspired by wanting to follow in the footsteps of my grandfather, Jacob Adler. Grandpa Jacob in the 1930s helped establish the King Edward Street Synagogue in Stepney, London. Then he moved to Windsor. In 1943 the King Edward Street Synagogue was bombed to smithereens and the Synagogue Board entrusted him to be caretaker of all their Torahs. Jacob established a temporary Synagogue for the children and families displaced from London during the Blitz in an Open Church in Windsor, only a stone’s throw from Windsor Castle. It was Jacob’s temporary Synagogue that welcomed Rabbi Julius Jacobovits with all his sons when they were moved to England and it was one of those sons who went on to become the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the British Commonwealth from 1967 to 1991.
You may be shocked to hear a Rabbi who speaks with an English accent. In fact, Rabbi Bernstein, the Orthodox Rabbi who officiated my Bar Mitzvah in London many years ago, sounded even stranger with his strong Irish accent. London’s Norrice Lea Synagogue (Orthodox) was where I acquired my Jewish education under the tutelage of Rabbi Bernstein and Rev Freilich (we often call our Chazzans “Rev” in England), who taught me much over many years, including that a Rabbi did not have to drone on and on and on in a monotonous tone. Rabbi Bernstein exuded a fire and brimstone style from the pulpit, frequently accompanied by a dry wit and humor that would have suited a stand-up comedian. Of course he looked every bit the typical Orthodox Rabbi from his beard to his stereotypical wrinkled dark gray suit until the moment he spoke in fluent Hebrew with his heavy Irish brogue. He was regarded as a great Rabbi in London and elsewhere in the modern Orthodox Jewish world.
As I see it, the spirit of Judaism is trans-denominational, post-denominational and inter-denominational. It is flourishing in the United States. It resonates with love, faith, wisdom and integrity, understanding and open to all.