Amy Wallk Katz

Temple Beth El | Springfield, Massachusetts | 52 years old

Asking how a rabbi is inspirational is like the story of the blind men in India describing the elephant. Each described the part that they felt. I believe that Rabbi Amy Wallk Katz is inspirational in the way she leads her congregation. She encourages her congregation to confront challenges such as the shrinking of Jewish population and communal financial issues. She pushes members of her congregation to consider hard ethical and religious issues such as end-of-life decisions. She first raised the issue in a High Holiday sermon and then followed it up with a workshop and interactive panel discussion that she participated in along with an attorney and a geriatrician. To me personally, she has been most inspiring in bringing adult education to the community by introducing the Florence Melton School of Adult Jewish Learning. Over the past five years, hundreds of individuals have enrolled in daytime and evening courses. At our shul, Rabbi Katz leads adult education classes, including one on Sunday mornings focusing on the essays in the back of the prayer book and a “Lunch and Learn” on Wednesdays. She is an outstanding educator. What’s more, her slogan, “Just show up,” has changed the feeling of Shabbat morning services. Congregants are welcome at any part they wish to attend, dressed as they wish. Rabbi Katz meets each individual where they are and draws them into the synagogue community from there.

— Marian Broder + 9 other nominations

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