Skip To Content
Forward 50 2014

Marshal Klaven

Marshal Klaven does exactly what any one rabbi would do for any one congregation. He just does it with 110 congregations in 13 states.

As the outgoing itinerant rabbi of the Mississippi-based Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life, Klaven, 35, has spent the past five years traveling among underserved communities from Oklahoma to Virginia. His mission is to bring rabbinic services to any congregation that wants them — even if it’s a congregation of one.

“There’s something to learn every mile of the way,” said Klaven, who in 2013 alone put 34,504 miles on the ISJL’s 1998 Dodge Caravan, and passed the time listening to Christian sermons on the radio.

Earlier this summer, Klaven accepted a pulpit position in Galveston, Texas, but he still believes in rabbis bringing Judaism to the Jews rather than waiting for Jews to come to them. This approach is “a potential solution” to American Jewry’s decreasing affiliation rates, he said.

Along with his rabbinic studies at Hebrew Union College Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati, Klaven’s background as a chaplain in the U.S. Air Force prepared him for his work at the nondenominational ISJL. “In the military, there’s no division between Orthodox, Reform, Conservative,” he said. “We put those differences aside. When resources are more limited, it pulls us all together.”

In between visits to a given community, he keeps in touch using Skype, FaceTime and Google Chat, but leaves the heavy lifting to the strong lay leaders. “They’re the great quarterbacks,” he said, “I just go there to be the cheerleader of Judaism.”

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning journalism this Passover.

In this age of misinformation, our work is needed like never before. We report on the news that matters most to American Jews, driven by truth, not ideology.

At a time when newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall. That means for the first time in our 126-year history, Forward journalism is free to everyone, everywhere. With an ongoing war, rising antisemitism, and a flood of disinformation that may affect the upcoming election, we believe that free and open access to Jewish journalism is imperative.

Readers like you make it all possible. Right now, we’re in the middle of our Passover Pledge Drive and we need 500 people to step up and make a gift to sustain our trustworthy, independent journalism.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Our Goal: 500 gifts during our Passover Pledge Drive!

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.