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IKAR Taps Rabbi David Kasher for Associate Rabbi Post

Esther D. Kustanowitz is a Contributing Writer at the Jewish Journal. She previously was the Founding Editor at GrokNation.com. She is an experienced freelance writer and consultant specializing in social media, pop culture, grief and Jewish community conversation. She is frequently sought-after as a source on social media engagement and culture, and is known as a Jewish community social influencer.

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Esther D. Kustanowitz
Esther D. Kustanowitz is a Contributing Writer at the Jewish Journal. She previously was the Founding Editor at GrokNation.com. She is an experienced freelance writer and consultant specializing in social media, pop culture, grief and Jewish community conversation. She is frequently sought-after as a source on social media engagement and culture, and is known as a Jewish community social influencer.

IKAR, a progressive spiritual community in Los Angeles, has concluded its national search for an Associate Rabbi. Rabbi David Kasher, formerly of Berkeley, CA, will join the Rabbinic team in July, working alongside Rabbis Sharon Brous and Ronit Tsadok.

“We were deeply moved not only by Rabbi Kasher’s incredible rabbinic journey, but also by the depth of his Torah, the sensitivity of his rabbinic voice, his understanding of the IKAR vision and community, his kindness and his decency,” Brous told the Journal. “It felt to many of us that this was simply beshert (meant to be).”

“IKAR lives right at the intersection of the ethical and the spiritual, and that combination, I think, is the very essence of Judaism,” Kasher told the Journal. “It’s an incredible honor to be invited to join their rabbinic team – really a dream job in a dream community.”

Kasher was ordained by Yeshivat Chovevei Torah in New York. “I went to an incredible rabbinical school, which is very much Modern Orthodox – and so was I, at the time. But it’s been over a decade since I was ordained, and my religious life has been constantly shifting and evolving in the meantime. I think that’s the nature of the religious life: dynamic, changing, growing in the search for God and meaning. I have a lot of love for Orthodoxy – it nurtured me for many years – but I wouldn’t say I strongly identify as Orthodox now. I think of myself as a religious Jew, an observant Jew – but not a denominational Jew. I feel most comfortable in a pluralistic setting, where all kinds of ideas and practices are welcome, and even celebrated.”

Kasher’s own family story contains different experiences. He was raised in the Bay Area by a progressive, secular mother, and spent summers in Brooklyn with his father, who re-married into the Satmar Hasidic community. After bouncing back and forth and trying to decide which world he belonged to, “I realized that I loved both, and didn’t want to give either one up. I’ve been trying to integrate them ever since.”

He has a doctoral degree from Berkeley Law, served on faculty at the Wexner Heritage Program, Reboot and BINA, and taught at Pardes, SVARA, The Hartman Institute, Dorot and at various Limmud conferences.

Kasher was part of the founding team, taught, and developed the pedagogical approach at Kevah, a non-profit aiming to deliver “the powerful energy of the Beit Midrash (study hall)” via small Torah study groups in people’s homes.

Kasher is passionate about Torah commentary, which he also covers in his blog and podcast, http://parshanut.com. Reading this text with its history of commentators is “like witnessing a continuously unfolding revelation,” he said.

“We have been reading this one book, over and over again, for thousands of years. Yet every time we look at it, something new emerges. That, to me, is wondrous, and a testament to the awesome power of this text. In the spaces between these little black letters, are centuries of theology, philosophy, law, ethics, mysticism, poetry and good old-fashioned storytelling.

At IKAR -“one of the most exciting spiritual communities in America,” he said –  Kasher hopes to amplify its culture of Torah study, and “help infuse it into everything they do.” After years of Torah study, “IKAR is giving me the opportunity to apply that Torah in the world,” he said.

Kasher is also excited about the move to L.A., where Jewish community exists alongside other vibrant communities and cultures.

“The power – and the challenge – of Los Angeles is that everyone is here, together, one city functioning as a microcosm of the globe, trying to figure out how to live together. I’m expecting to learn a lot from this city.”

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