2018 Rabbinic Graduates

Cantor Lily Caplan Blum

“As Cantor, I inspire through music. Now as a Rabbi, I use my voice to celebrate and comfort those I serve and teach future generations to “love your neighbor as yourself” and to always see others “created in God’s image.”

Thesis: “Death and Bereavement in Tanach: An Examination of Models for Grief and Biblical Characters Walking the Mourner’s Path”

Summary: There is much to learn from our biblical narrative and the characters it contains. By examining their stories and their individual bereavement, we see how the human condition responds to grief. The path of the mourner is not straight and narrow. Mourning is vast and complicated and no one path is “right”. So, I endeavor to glean different ways to deal with grief and modes of understanding bereavement from our biblical characters. By discussing the grief processes of our patriarchs and matriarchs, I hope to provide comfort to those in a state of bereavement and offer guidance to find comfort in one’s own “crisis”.

Julian Alexander King

As a rabbi, it is my goal and passion to create a community that embraces the traditional with the alternative, a place for all families, including interfaith and LGBTQ, to call home.”

Thesis: “The Evolving Temple Without Walls: From Ancient Judaism to the Changing Modern Era”

Summary: My thesis is an in-depth look at the more traditional synagogues, that in many cases are seeing a decline in membership, attendance, and certainly impacting their financials, to those who are leading the way in creating the evolving movement towards “temples without walls” that utilize rented space, ballrooms, churches, gymnasiums, and various other places and ways to engage and affect change within their communities. There is a movement in Judaism that is seeking to create an alternative to entice those who are disenfranchised, disillusioned, secular, unaffiliated, and even those who are still part of a community to become involved and participate on some level. It ends with my own “temple without walls,” – the research, preparation, and launching of what is now the fastest growing, and largest temple in the desert.

A Conversation with…Rabbi Mel Gottlieb

Listen in as AJRCA President Rabbi Mel Gottlieb discusses some of the key points from his new article “Faith and Truth” as featured in Conversations: The Journal of the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals, with Cantor Jonathan Friedmann, professor of Jewish Music History and the Academy’s Director of Institutional Research and Accreditation Liaison Officer.

Rabbi Gottlieb’s article articulates the point of view that the notion of absolute Truth in Jewish literature is only one of a variety of views found in the Jewish tradition. It argues that a more prominent point of view is the value of Faith and Truth seeking rather than owning an absolute notion of Truth. It brings sources and voices supporting this view. (more…)

A Celebration of Sephardic and Persian Culture!

Recently, The Academy hosted an evening of discussion, music and food, all focused on providing a look into the unique and vibrant world of Sephardic and Persian Judaism, past, present and future!

Please see below for a recording of the exciting panel discussion with:
* Rabbi Daniel Bouskila – Director, Sephardic Educational Center
* Dr. Saba Soomekh – Lecturer, UCLA and Assistant Director of Interreligious Affairs, AJC
* Neil J. Sheff – Immigration Attorney; President, Sephardic Educational Center
* Moderated by: Rabbi Mel Gottlieb, Ph.D – President, AJRCA

The Forgotten Plight of Ethiopia’s Jewry

Rabbi Art Levine, Ph.D., J.D. (Class of 2009) recently visited the Jewish communities in Ethiopia and is raising awareness – and funds – on their behalf. We recently conducted a Q&A with Rabbi Levine to better understand the situation.

Q: Weren’t all the Jews of Ethiopia airlifted to Israel in Operations Moses (1984) and Solomon (1991)?

Levine: Most Jews in America and even in Israel think so, but in fact thousands were left behind. They have been living in terrible conditions ever since. This summer, I decided to travel to Ethiopia to see their circumstances first hand.

Q: What did you find? (more…)

2017 Thanksgiving Message from Rabbi Mel

I want to wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving and hope that you, your families and loved ones are well and flourishing.  I have always viewed Thanksgiving as a very Jewish holiday since the theme of gratitude is such an integral part of our tradition. The very first thing that we do in the morning is recite the Modeh Ani prayer acknowledging the gift of life to our Creator, and then begin reciting blessings thanking G-d for all the gifts bestowed upon us that we often take for granted.
The simple act of walking, having clothes to put on, the ability to go to the bathroom and have our bodily functions working are all acknowledged and connect us to a soulful way of living, creating a connection to the awesome universe and all that we are connected to. Indeed, our tradition exhorts us to recite 100 blessings every day.
It is through the  mitzvoth that our consciousness grows, alerting us to the fact that we are more than our bodies, more than isolated human beings, but that we are souls within our bodies, and connected to the entire universe. Thus we express gratitude to our Creator for the gift of life, and our hearts become filled with kindness that we bestow upon others. SO indeed, in the Jewish way of life, everyday is a Thanksgiving, and this is an attitude that bring joy, and an expanded way of living, that enables us to have meaning and bestow kindness upon others.
At AJRCA this year we have much to be grateful for! In addition to our wonderful staff, alumni, Board Members, faculty and students who make everyday a celebration of joy, we have had an abundance of visitors passing through our corridors who want to attend our school. Our offering of hybrid (low residency) online courses has appealed to a broader spectrum of the population and this bodes well for our future growth, and contribution to our society. We have been blessed with exciting ‘Lunch and Learns’ and other programs as well: including author Maggie Anton, Very Special Syrian Refugees, and a full day of a wonderful Chaplaincy Conference.  In the next few months we will be having a conference on Aging, a forum on Anti-Semitism, and a program celebrating the contributions of Sephardic Culture.
There is so much to be grateful for.
So I wish you a wonderful day of gratitude tomorrow, and may that spirit continue for all of us throughout the year, so that our positive energy makes a loving impact upon all those whom we encounter and thereby elevates our world to reach the level of beauty, justice and peace that we all hope and pray for.
Happy Thanksgiving,
Rabbi Mel

Blessings and Affirmations for a New Year – 5778

As we get older, our sense of time seems to quicken.  What?  Rosh Hashanah again?    Memories of past High Holy Days flood our thoughts – for some people, the memories are drawn from childhood in another city or country; and for others the memories come from a more recent personal history of celebrating the Jewish New Year and Yom Kippur.  For those who are called to serve as prayer leaders, the High Holy Days present a double challenge:  how to prepare the soul-clearing within, while also preparing for services, music, sermons, and myriad practical details so that the holy days are meaningful and uplifting for others in our congregations, institutions, and communities. (more…)

Return and Renew – A Message for Rosh Hashanah

A High Holy Day Message from AJRCA

Though this has been a very challenging year for many of us, we as Jews never give up the faith that the potential for renewal and bringing forth Light from the darkness is built into the creation. On Rosh Hashana there is always the stirring of a new illumination as the Sound of the Shofar awakens us from slumber and despair to the power innate in our souls to return to G-d, to rekindle the Great Light and to reignite the treasure of new life. (more…)


By: Rabbi Mel Gottlieb

Welcome to our new website!

As we begin our new year, returning to our home at UCLA Hillel, we have much to be grateful for. As I sit here the first day, I ponder the two contradictory maxims that keeps popping through my head, “You Can’t Go Home Again,” and the other, “All Life is a Return Home.” Yes, it is complicated, I am complicated, life is complicated; so what does all this mean to me, especially at this our season of Return and Renewal!