Temple Ohav Shalom has hired Rabbi David Katz, of San Francisco, to be its interim rabbi. He succeeds Rabbis Art Donsky who just retired and Danny Schiff, who has officiated over the High Holy Days.
Katz starts Oct. 1 and will serve the North Hills congregation through June 30, 2014.
Katz, who was ordained at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1981, served 16 years as rabbi at Temple Israel Reform Congregation of Staten Island, N.Y. He has been specially trained to serve as an interim rabbi, and most recently has held that post at Congregation Beth Emek, in Pleasanton, Calif.
Members of the congregation interviewed Katz by Skype this summer, and were almost unanimous in their vote to hire him, TOS President Ken Eisner said.
Members got their first face-to-face meetings with Katz over the Labor Day weekend — Katz’s first trip here.
“He’s a very upbeat, positive guy,” Eisner said.
Katz will have a two-week overlap with Schiff to help ease the transition when he takes over.
“He will have all of the responsibilities of a rabbi, and will be involved in helping find the right permanent rabbi. He will help us through the process,” Eisner said.
Katz, who said he is already donning a Pirates cap, is looking forward to his time here.
“Pittsburgh is charming,” he said, speaking from his home near San Francisco. “We love the rivers, the geography, the hills.”
Katz will be joined by his wife, Nancy, an artist who taught at the Guggenheim Museum for over 20 years.
They have a son — a harpsichordist who recently moved to London — and a daughter, who works in the French Embassy in New York City.
Katz, who holds a master’s degree in theater, has demonstrated both warmth and creativity in his rabbinate. He recently offered to read bedtime stories to children in their own home as an auction item to help raise money for his California congregation. “Bedtime Stories with Rabbi Katz” went for $250.
A synagogue should be a place of “spirituality, and also of imagination,” Katz said. “I think [congregations] should sometimes think out of the box.”
In addition to fostering contemplation, a synagogue should be a place of “delight and joy,” he said, and creating that atmosphere “starts at the top with the rabbinic leadership.”
He is looking forward to working with the lay leadership of TOS in moving the congregation forward with purpose.
“It’s a strong congregation as it stands now,” Katz said, “and with strong rabbinic leadership, it will move ahead.”
TOS will soon begin the process of interviewing candidates to be its permanent rabbi.
Meanwhile, the congregation will be well tended.
“We’re excited,” Eisner said. “Everything is working out well.”
(Toby Tabachnick can be reached at email@example.com.)