HomeAugust 2023B’nai Israel Makes It Official Rabbi, Cantor Installation Set for Shabbaton Weekend

B’nai Israel Makes It Official Rabbi, Cantor Installation Set for Shabbaton Weekend

Rabbi Adam Greenwald and Cantor Amy Robinson Katz

    Congregation B’nai Israel of Tustin will be celebrating the official installation of Rabbi Adam Greenwald and Cantor Amy Robinson Katz during a Shabbaton weekend Friday and Saturday, Aug. 18 and 19.
    Officially hired in July 2022, the two new clergy have been connected to the CBI community for years.
    Rabbi Greenwald served as its rabbinic intern 2009-2011 and returned often to lead CBI Coastal services and fill in during Rabbi Spitz’s sabbatical.
    Cantor Katz joined CBI in 2010 when she moved to Irvine, and she has served as an intern and part-time prayer leader since 2013. With each of them having a decade-plus relationship at CBI, Hazzan Katz and Rabbi Greenwald’s new official roles feel like a destiny fulfilled and is a wonderful opportunity for the CBI community to celebrate.
Cantor Amy Robinson Katz
    “When I was about 10 years old, I remember using my dual cassette player to record myself singing layers of harmony—each on top of the last one,” recalls Cantor Amy Robinson Katz. “I loved the sound of the voices together.”
    Growing up in a musical family, Cantor Amy’s official music training began at age 5 when she started piano lessons and began singing in choir. When she left Dallas, Texas, and headed to California for college to study piano performance with renowned Russian pianist Lina Baranov, her parents gave her a guitar, and she taught herself to play it. 
    Graduating with a degree in Philosophy and Humanities, she had a 16-year career as a purchasing manager for two homebuilding companies and as a project manager for the Irvine Company. But music remained close to her and the words in the siddur inspired her. “I love our texts. I felt they were calling on me to sing them,” she recalls.
    In 2011, she created and directed a community Jewish a capella group in Orange County, Shir Energy, which rehearsed in her living room and performed at various Orange County events. Cantor Amy received a Master’s of Jewish Sacred Music from the Academy for Jewish Religion California and was ordained as a Hazzan.
    “Serving my community as a member of the CBI Clergy Team is a privilege.”
    Cantor Amy enjoys adopting contemporary works as well as writing her own compositions. “There are a lot of amazing Jewish musicians releasing music, and I bring in what I connect with,” she explains. Her own creations have already been impactful at CBI.
    Inspired by the Belgian Taizé style of chanting that she learned when studying abroad at Oxford in college, Cantor Amy developed a contemplative singing practice called Prayersong. She also formed a singing group that became the “davening team” to lead “HAL’LU,” her vision for a participatory musical Shabbat morning service in the round. 
    In her full-time role at CBI, her goal is “to keep our cherished prayer tradition alive and also move it forward.” 
    Her first year at CBI has been centered on engaging congregants and elevating the b’nai mitzvah program. Cantor Amy sees every prayer experience as an invitation “to sing and pray with minds, hearts and voices engaged.”
Rabbi Adam Greenwald
    “CBI’s superpower is our uniquely warm, interconnected community,” said Rabbi Adam Greenwald about what drew him to CBI’s pulpit. Rabbi Adam has always been involved in cultivating community. Growing up in Long Beach, his family was involved in creating Adat Chaverim, a small synagogue in Los Alamitos whose name means “Community of Friends.”
    “We only had a rabbi for services once a month,” Rabbi Adam remembers, “so we were all thrown into the rotation to lead services the rest of the time, including me from age 13 and on.”
    At UCLA,  he dove deeply into Jewish text learning programs at Hillel, helping to organize community rabbis of all denominations to come and teach from their unique perspectives.
    “At UCLA, I fell in love with Jewish learning,” he said, “and I decided to go to rabbinical school to keep the passion going.” All senior rabbinic students are expected to hold an internship, and Adam was matched to Congregation B’nai Israel in Tustin.
     “It was at CBI that I really felt like a rabbi—it’s amazing to me that after all these years, this would be where I would get to hold my first senior pulpit.”
    After his ordination, Rabbi Adam served as the Revson Rabbinic Fellow at IKAR,  a Jewish community in Los Angeles that is nationally recognized for its innovative spirit. When the fellowship was ending, Rabbi Bradley Artson, AJU’s Vice President and Dean of the Ziegler School, asked Rabbi Adam to lead AJU’s Miller Introduction to Judaism Program, the largest program in the world for people on the path to becoming Jewish.
    While leading the program for 10 years, Rabbi Adam re-developed the curriculum for the 18-week course and wrote the textbook “On One Foot.”
    “The Miller Program was all about inspiring and empowering people of all backgrounds to find their home in Judaism,” he says.  As he interacted with colleagues across the country who were also leading Intro classes, he created a network for teachers to share curriculum and strategies for reaching newcomers. When Rabbi Greenwald left AJU, over 70 congregations across North America were using the materials he developed.
    Since his internship days, Rabbi Adam maintained and nurtured his relationships at CBI as he led Shabbatons and CBI Coastal services. Grateful for the strong foundation established by Rabbi Emeritus Elie Spitz and past and present lay leaders and congregants, Rabbi Adam feels there is strength in togetherness.
     In his first year, he has focused on getting to know members’ stories, launched a young professionals group, engaged preschool and religious school families, expanded holiday programs, and elevated social action projects. With his wife, Anne, and their 4-year-old daughter, he feels blessed to be part of CBI’s warm village and to be entrusted to strengthen and propel it forward into its next chapter.
    The Installation Shabbaton Weekend will kick-off with a Friday night Shabbat Under the Stars service during which Hazzan Katz will be installed by her mentor, Rabbi Rochelle Robins, along with featured guests Cantor Lizzie Weiss of Temple Emanuel and Cantor Marcus Feldman of Sinai Temple, followed by a community Shabbat dinner.
    Rabbi Greenwald will be installed during the Saturday morning service by his mentors, Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson and CBI’s Rabbi Emeritus Elie Spitz, followed by a Kiddush luncheon.
    Festivities will continue Saturday evening with Havdalah and a celebration featuring live music by special guests Moshav Band, dancing, cocktails, appetizers, and dessert. CBI welcomes the Orange County community to attend. For more information, visit CBI18.org.  

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