HomeJuly 2013Enter the Youngs

Enter the Youngs

Sometimes good things come in pairs.  That appears to be the case this summer as a dynamic duo – a husband-and-wife rabbi-cantor combo – will start the next California chapter where everything began.
Rabbi David N. Young, the new rabbi at Congregation B’nai Tzedek in Fountain Valley, and Cantor Natalie Young, the new cantor at Temple Beth El of South Orange County in Aliso Viejo, met when they were both working at Camp Gindling Hilltop in Los Angeles County.  In the process of finding their careers in Judaism, the Youngs also found each other.  Now, along with their two sons, Gabriel, 9, and Alexander, 6, and daughter, Isabella, 3, Rabbi Young and Cantor Young, are settling into Orange County.
Rabbi Young quipped that he wanted to be an actor and was looking for a fallback career when he discovered his love for teaching and for Judaism.  After receiving a B.A. in theatre from Bradley University in 1996, he moved to Los Angeles, but ended up obtaining a Masters in Hebrew Literature in 2005, followed by smichah (ordination) in 2006 from Hebrew Union College — Jewish Institute of Religion in New York.
Actually, the rabbi’s enthusiasm for Judaism was cemented many years before through camp experiences when he went to Camp Livingston in Bennington, Indiana, for ten years as both camper and staff and spent two summers at URJ Crane Lake Camp in West Stockbridge, Massachusetts.  He currently serves as faculty at URJ Camp Coleman for a week or two each summer.  He was involved with BBYO in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he grew up, as well as with his local theatre group.
Rabbi Young, who spent the last seven years as the assistant rabbi at Temple Sinai of North Miami Beach, has a straightforward philosophy: “If you involve children in Jewish life and have fun with it, you will have Jewish grandchildren.”  The rabbi, who also has served congregations in New York, Alaska, Ohio and North Carolina, loves teaching, and has worked with students of all ages.  At Temple Sinai he taught a 6th grade class on Bible and an 8th grade class on Jewish identity.  He also developed a 12th grade Confirmation program and a second-day Passover seder for the community.
Bringing his passion for social action to the pulpit, Rabbi Young has taken 150 students on trips to New Orleans in five years to help with cleanup, homebuilding, feeding the homeless and other projects.  He hopes to take Orange County teens there this year.  He also wants to grow the youth groups and bring more social action projects to the congregation.  “There’s so much work to be done in our country’s life, and that’s what Jews do,” he said.
Describing Congregation B’nai Tzedek as “warm and welcoming,” Rabbi Young said he is “grateful for the wonderful and strong foundation” Rabbi Stephen Einstein – who served the congregation for 36 years before retiring in 2012 – built.  He added that he appreciates the support Rabbi Einstein, Rabbi Mark Kaiserman (the interim rabbi) and longtime congregants have offered.  “So many top-notch people are involved in the life of this congregation,” he said.
Cantor Young, who said, “I want to build community through music one person at a time,” loved going to religious services and was in her synagogue’s choir as a child.  She came back to Los Angeles after college as a choir director and ultimately a song leader for the county’s bureau of Jewish education.  Born and raised in Los Angeles, she graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in music with a concentration in conducting.
Before becoming a cantor, she was in high demand as a song leader, choir director and educator for Jewish youth throughout Southern California, where she created a Jewish studies curriculum focused on the arts.  Cantor Young is a member of the American Conference of Cantors and is the recipient of numerous awards, including the 2004 Dr. Joseph Memorial Prize for Excellence in Composition and the 2005 Guild of Temple Musicians Award.
Cantor Young was invested in 2006 by Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York City and is already emerging as an original voice in Jewish music.  In addition to working as an accomplished and talented vocalist, guitarist and pianist, she has composed more than forty original liturgical and secular works and just recently released Carry Me, her debut solo album.  Her talents as a singer and songwriter have brought her to perform both across the country from Shreveport, Louisiana, to Fairbanks, Alaska, and internationally in places such as Israel, Canada and Russia.
“I’m excited to work with an incredibly warm group of people who behave with such menschlikeit, who are easy to talk to and who are engaged in Judaism,” said Cantor Young of her new congregation.  She said that she has crossed paths with all three of the rabbis at Temple Beth El in the past, looks forward to working with the accompanist and feels as if she is coming home.
Also an innovator, Cantor Young has developed a women’s seder that was “creative and fun with music and dancing and that “brought in a lot of unaffiliated Jews.”  After working with B’nai Mitvah students, she led a teen choir to sing for the High Holy Days.  She also participated in cantorial concerts and in-house talent shows with congregations.
Cantor Young said it is “wonderful to work with high-level music with the congregation” and looks forward to doing that at Temple Beth El.  She is glad that her well-rounded education and diverse experience have prepared her for working with both Reform and Conservative liturgy.
Both Youngs agree that, in the cantor’s words, “It takes a village,” to raise a family and are grateful that their young family has been embraced by both congregations.  She looks forward to immersing her own children in “meaningful moments with their communities.”  As Rabbi Young pointed out, “We want to be living up to ideas that we model with our own family life and to make the moments we have together with our families as special as they can be.”

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