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Rabbi Rebecca Schatz, the Listening Rabbi

When the time came to pick a career, Schatz knew she wanted to be a rabbi.
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April 14, 2022
Rabbi Rebecca Schatz

When Rabbi Rebecca Schatz studied with Rabbi Sherre Hirsch for her bat mitzvah at Sinai Temple, she was the first female rabbi Schatz had ever learned Torah with. 

“I saw a little bit of myself in [Hirsch’s] ability to teach Torah and work with students and have that impact,” Schatz, who is assistant rabbi at Temple Beth Am in Pico-Robertson, said. “Also, as a 12-year-old girl, I was excited by her office and the fact that she got to wear fun clothes and be on the bimah.”

When the time came to pick a career, Schatz knew she wanted to be a rabbi. She attended the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at American Jewish University, and interned at Temple Beth Am in Pico-Robertson and Peninsula Sinai Congregation in Foster City, Calif. Upon graduation in 2017, she served as Assistant Rabbi and Education Director at PSC and created a mother-daughter b’not mitzvah program called Kol Banot. 

In 2019, she returned to Temple Beth Am, where she is now the Assistant Rabbi and serves 900 families. She also teaches a sixth grade Mishnah class at Pressman Academy, the day school connected to Temple Beth Am. Whenever Schatz teaches, she remembers what she learned from Hirsch all those years ago.

“She allowed me to dictate how I was going to learn Torah as opposed to telling me what to do,” she said. “That was very different from the way I studied Torah before. I felt like I was part of the process, and it’s how I continue to teach Judaism.”

Though Schatz has multiple roles at Temple Beth Am, her bread and butter is the one-on-one meetings she has with members.

“When you work in a community of 900 families, you won’t know everyone,” she said. “Being able to work one on one, especially for life cycles, you get to know what people are concerned about, what parents’ deepest hopes are for their child if it’s a baby naming and how a kid learns if you are working with them for their bar or bat mitzvah. You get to know them on a more intimate level than when you are standing on a bimah or teaching.”

When meeting with people, Schatz said she also has the opportunity to learn about where they are at in their Jewish journeys. She listens with an open mind, as opposed to telling them what to do. 

When meeting with people, Schatz said she also has the opportunity to learn about where they are at in their Jewish journeys. She listens with an open mind, as opposed to telling them what to do. 

“If someone is asking me a question about keeping Shabbat or kashrut, I can hear them where they are and not impose a type of Judaism on them,” she said. “I get to the heart of why they feel that way and teach them how their type of Judaism can still be meaningful in our community.”  

One Jewish teaching that deeply resonates with Schatz is from Perkei Avot’s Chapter 1: Mishna 6, where Rabbi Yehoshua ben Perachia says, “Make for yourself a Rav, acquire for yourself a friend and judge every person favorably.”

“I do this very often, whether the person I’m meeting is an actual rabbi or a student who taught me something,” Schatz said. “You make them into a sage, and you end up with a friend and confidante who you can learn from. They are a fountain of Torah for you.” 

And, of course, it works the other way as well.

“I want to be a light to guide people through whatever they are working on.”

“It is such an honor to be called someone’s rabbi,” said Schatz. “I want to be a light to guide people through whatever they are working on.”

Fast Takes With Rebecca Schatz

Jewish Journal: What’s your favorite Jewish holiday?

Rebecca Schatz: Passover. It goes along with why I wanted to be a rabbi. It’s a holiday about teaching and bringing people into a tradition as opposed to pushing people out. The idea of being experiential and taking wine out of a cup for a plague, it’s all very visceral. 

JJ: What’s your favorite Pesach food? 

RS: My dad’s fried matzah. It’s very savory matzah brei with onion powder and garlic. It’s not very eggy.

JJ: Which Haggadah do you like the best? 

RS: David Moss wrote a very beautiful Haggadah. I have an entire shelf of Haggadot.

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