If you ask Temple Emanu-El congregants about Rabbi Gerald Klein, they will tell you he knows everyone’s name.


In fact, neighborhood resident Klein can remember more than that: He can recall the histories of most of the families he’s served. The reason for that might be that November marked the rabbi’s 50-year anniversary serving the temple. He began working with Temple Emanu-El in 1952; it was his second congregation.


          Born in Pennsylvania , Klein says his desire to become a rabbi grew over time. “I was always interested,” he says, “but I didn’t make up my mind until college.” He attended Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and graduated in 1948 as a Reform Rabbi, espousing a liberal interpretation of Judaism.


          “Reform Judaism,” Klein explains, “believes in all the 4,000 years of Judaism, but it doesn’t root itself in the past. It adapts and changes in order to respond to the times we live in.”


          Looking back on his 50 years, the rabbi says “It’s hard to believe it’s been that long. I’ve worked with four and five generations of congregants at Temple Emanu-El.” The most rewarding part of his career, he says, has been participating in so many people’s lives.


          “I have found my pastoral duties to be the most satisfying and the most important,” he says. “I have always wanted to be accessible to my congregants, and I have been honored to be with families when they said they needed me.”


          For the recent past, Klein has retained the honorary title of emeritus, choosing to spend his time officiating at special events such as weddings, funerals and baby-namings. “I focus on family life, and the personal lives of my congregants.”      


          Sharan Goldstein has known Rabbi Klein for his entire 50-year tenure at Temple Emanu-El. “Rabbi Klein is very much beloved,” she says. “He is the quintessential caring pastor, and he is like a family member to most of the 2,800 families in the congregation. He is devoted in his love for the congregants, and that love is returned by them.


“He has been an important part of my life, my parents’ lives and my children’s lives,” she adds.


          The temple held an anniversary celebration for Klein the first weekend in November, and more than 1,000 people joined the ceremony. “The love in the room was truly palpable,” Goldstein says. An exhibit of the rabbi’s life and career was also on display at the temple’s archives during the month of November.


          Although Rabbi Klein says that compliments make him “squirm,” he looked forward to the celebration. “I’ve always said I was allergic to praise, but seeing your whole life parading before you is truly exciting.”


          When asked about the wisdom he has gained over his 50-year career, Rabbi Klein offers this advice: “Turn the platitude, ‘Practice what you preach,’ into reality.”




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