Rabbi Heather Miller is thrilled to return to Temple Beth El of South Orange County in 2018 after having served there from 2008-2010. She is passionate about empowering students of all ages, and bringing people close to Judaism through the concept of keruv/outreach. She brings a wealth of experience having served as Rabbi and Director of Education at Beth Chayim Chadashim, Adjunct Professor at the American Jewish University Graduate School of Education, Educator at Temple Israel of Hollywood, and Dean of Students at Milken Community Schools, all in Los Angeles, CA.
I recently had the chance to speak with her about her past, the future and everything in between.
Tell us a little bit about your background growing up?
I was born and raised in Los Angeles, CA, to a Unitarian father and Jewish mother. I appreciated that growing up, people would always ask about the history and personal connection behind the ceremonies that took place in my family, and that gave it depth and meaning and identity. As a rabbi, I like to frame rituals in a way that makes it accessible, relevant and purposeful.
My Jewish family helped build Temple Beth Hillel in Studio City, and I became bat mitzvahed and was confirmed at Stephen S. Wise. I am a fourth generation Reform Jew who attended the largest pluralistic Jewish day school in the country, Milken Community Schools. There, I gained a great appreciation for the diversity of Jewish expression ritually, culturally, politically, socioeconomically and theologically. Later, I would work in Conservative, Reform, and pluralistic Jewish institutions.
What made you want to become a Rabbi?
I love the method of rabbinic ethical debate, the wisdom and value of multivocality in the text, community building and gathering together to make a positive difference in the world through tikkun olam.
What is bringing you back to Orange County for your exciting return?
I am energized by the mission and vision of Temple Beth El—here, inclusion, access, empowerment, relationships, and depth of learning is core to who we are and what we do.
With so many options out there for young families, what would you say makes TBE stand out?
I am so honored that my kids get to know and learn from the example of the incredible people of Temple Beth El. Our community is comprised of individuals who are authentic in their search for meaning; they are sincere in their commitments to one another; they innovate and translate Jewish values to life today in an exciting and relevant way; and they are beautifully warm and inclusive.
What is your vision for the future of Temple Beth El, it’s congregants and the community?
I envision making our Temple’s mission come to life: To establish and maintain a loving Jewish community of educated, involved, spiritual and empowered congregants who come together to celebrate and observe diverse progressive traditions in Jewish thought and belief. I envision a community that is known for intentional choices, genuine relationships, love of learning, inclusion, care, depth and authenticity. A community who welcomes all who would like to help us build fresh, invigorating, rooted yet innovative Jewish life.
Rabbi Miller holds a BA from Wellesley College in Massachusetts, as well as an MA in Hebrew Literature and Rabbinic Ordination from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York. Her words have been been featured in the Los Angeles Jewish Journal, Sh’ma Magazine, the LA Times, ReformJudaism.org, the Orange County Register, and interfaithfamily.com.
For more information about Rabbi Miller and Temple Beth El please visit their website: www.tbesoc.org or call (949) 362-3999
Tanya Schwied graduated from New York University, studied abroad in Israel, and works as the mangaer of Operations at Jewish Federation & Family Services, Orange County.