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Rabbi Scott Fox: From Jazz Musician to Spiritual Leader

In his current role as the rabbi at Temple Israel Long Beach, Fox finds innovative ways for people to have meaningful relationships with Judaism. 
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June 9, 2022
Rabbi Scott Fox

Rabbi Scott Fox didn’t set out to be a rabbi. Instead, he wanted to be a jazz musician. He studied jazz guitar and trained with one of the nation’s best guitarists, John Pisano. Even though he thought he was living his dream, things didn’t add up.

“I have a vivid memory of feeling like something was missing,” Fox said. “I loved playing music but there was too much of a disconnect.” 

When Fox did a wedding gig with his band, he realized that he was off to the side and the wedding party was on the other side of the room. “I was feeling like I’m over here and they’re over there and something is missing … I needed something more.”

So, Fox embarked on a journey to discover what his next move should be. He lived on a kibbutz in Israel, where he did organic gardening and environmental work. 

“With my hands in the earth and the sun on my back, I thought about what I wanted to do,” he said. “I loved the direct impact I was making doing environmental work. But I needed more of an intellectual piece.”

Fox made his way back to the United States and enrolled at the University of California, Santa Cruz. His professors told him to read different essays, which he found to be inspiring. When he looked into who had written the essays, the authors all had one thing in common: they worked at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC). He was sold, and after graduating from UC Santa Cruz, he received ordination from HUC.

Looking back, it made sense that Fox became a rabbi; serving the Jewish community is in his blood. His grandfather was president of his synagogue and his grandmother was the religious school director at their temple in Barstow. His mother led a religious school in San Diego, where Fox grew up. 

“Not only was I very involved in the synagogue, but we had a very active Jewish life at home,” he said. “Every Friday night, we’d sit together and have a Shabbat meal and do prayers. We had a songbook we put together as a family and would sing various Jewish songs throughout the evening. On Saturday, we’d go to synagogue and come back home and discuss the Torah portion in depth.”

In his current role as the rabbi at Temple Israel Long Beach, Fox finds innovative ways for people to have meaningful relationships with Judaism. 

“I love bringing in new ideas and pioneering creativity,” he said. “We have members who are going to do a creative Saturday morning experience where instead of a traditional Shabbat service, we have an open painting studio. After the holidays, we’re kicking off hiking and meditating once a month to get out into our natural world and say prayers.”

When Fox came to Temple Israel in 2020, right from the get-go he hoped to cultivate fulfilling relationships with his congregants. He met with seven families twice a week on Zoom to learn about the synagogue and give them the opportunity to ask him questions.

“It was a beautiful way for me to connect directly with members, and for me to give members an opportunity to see that I’m an open book,” he said.

On a day-to-day basis, Fox does different things like calling congregants to chat, planning programs, writing and attending life cycle events. It is in these everyday tasks that the rabbi can fulfill his mission to bring spirituality to people.

“What I set out to accomplish in the rabbinate is to allow people to have deep and meaningful connections to themselves, our history and to each other.” – Rabbi Scott Fox

“What I set out to accomplish in the rabbinate is to allow people to have deep and meaningful connections to themselves, our history and to each other,” he said. “I want to help members of the community feel connected to each other, and to Judaism.”

Fast Takes with Scott Fox

Jewish Journal: What’s your favorite Jewish food? 

Scott Fox: Probably bagels and lox.

JJ: Where’s your favorite place to hang out in Long Beach? 

SF: My favorite place is the beach. I like to get a burrito and go down to the water.

JJ: Who is your favorite jazz musician? 

SF: Julian Lage. He is a perfect story of a jazz prodigy.

JJ: What’s your perfect Shabbat look like?

SF: I sit around the table with my family and friends and we do a little bit of singing and have a really beautiful conversation. We have a three-year-old, so in my mind, the perfect Shabbat is when she is surrounded by other kids and they all play together and have a good time.

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