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Inaugural Skirball rabbi-in-residence position a ‘once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’

Beaumont Shapiro told JNS that he will help the center “express Jewish values and Jewish life in everything we do.”

Rabbi Beaumont Shapiro. Credit: Wilshire Boulevard Temple.
Rabbi Beaumont Shapiro. Credit: Wilshire Boulevard Temple.

The Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles has hired Rabbi M. Beaumont (“Beau”) Shapiro as its inaugural rabbi-in-residence.

Shapiro, who will assume the role on June 5, has been the rabbi for 12 years at the Wilshire Boulevard Temple in Los Angeles, which, per its site, blends “reform tradition and ‘post-denominational’ innovation.” Previously, he was the youth director of Temple Israel of Hollywood.

He told JNS the new position is “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” and he hopes to help the Skirball “express Jewish values and Jewish life in everything we do.”

An announcement by the center added that he will “provide guidance on topics of interest from Jewish history, ritual life and philosophy” and “will represent the Skirball to the larger Jewish community.”

Rabbi means “teacher,” Shapiro told JNS, “and at its core, that’s what this position is really about—teaching Judaism—to our staff, our visitors and our community.” He told JNS that his prior work at the Karsh Family Social Service Center, a nonprofit that’s part of the Wilshire Boulevard Temple, will inform his new role.

“Like the Skirball, Karsh is guided by Jewish values and serves a largely non-Jewish clientele,” he told JNS. “Navigating what that means, and what it looks like day in and day out, is a constant balance and presents an opportunity to engage the larger community in addition to the Jewish community.”

He acknowledged to JNS that his goals for the new position “might sound overly idealistic.”

“I hope to shape the way we Jews view ourselves and the way the world views us and Judaism,” he said. “I cannot think of another institution in the country that is as uniquely well positioned as the Skirball is to engage the overwhelming majority of Jews, who identify as ‘secular’ or ‘cultural’ Jews alongside our incredibly diverse neighbors, and impact how all of us view and understand Judaism, Jewish history and Jewish culture.”

Shapiro holds ordination and a master’s degree in Hebrew letters from the Reform Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York City, as well as religious studies and cinema-television degrees from the University of Southern California.

The Skirball Center was designed by world-renowned architect Moshe Safdie, and includes a museum and performing arts center.

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