In this episode of the Seekers of Meaning TV Show and Podcast, Rabbi Address chats with Rabbi JB Sacks of Congregation Am Hayam, Ventura, California, and Cantor Dr. Rhoda Harrison, Ph.D., of Congregation M'kor Shalom, Cherry Hill, New Jersey, about their contributed chapters to a new book, "Psalms in the Key of Healing," edited by Rabbi H. Rafael Goldstein, who died in late December shortly before the book's scheduled publication in January.
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About the Guests
Cantor Rhoda J. Harrison, Ph.D. was ordained as a cantor in 1993 by the Hebrew Union College/Jewish Institute of Religion after studying at both the Jerusalem and New York campuses. She has served the Reform community in Baltimore, MD for the past 25 years at Har Sinai Congregation and the former Temple Emanuel. A native of Philadelphia, Cantor Harrison enjoys performing operatic, art song, and theatre literature in addition to cantorial repertoire and has performed on the concert stage throughout the United States. In Baltimore, she has performed regularly at the Cabaret at Germano’s Piattini in Little Italy. Cantor Harrison holds a Doctorate in Jewish Studies and enjoys teaching immensely. Her areas of expertise include Jewish liturgy, the period of Late Antiquity, and cantillation (biblical chant). On May 3, 2018, she received an honorary Doctorate in Music from the Hebrew Union College for her 25 year milestone in the cantorate.
Cantor Harrison plays the guitar, piano and flute. Her spare time hobbies include being a triathlete, runner and crossfitter. Cantor Harrison is also proudly raising and caring for her two amazing daughters, ages 17 and 19.
Rabbi Dr. J.B. Sacks has been serving Congregation Am HaYam since January, 2012. He stepped in after the death of beloved rabbi Gerald Hanig, Am HaYam’s founding rabbi. Rabbi Sacks has re-energized our community with new ideas, new programs, and new music.
Rabbi Sacks also teaches at New Community Jewish High School and serves as Co-Director of Jewish Life and as Librarian. There he mentors the Tanakh Club and the C.A.K.E. (Creating a Kehillah of Equality) Club. He also appears in most of the school’s theater productions. Rabbi Sacks also serves as Professor of Jewish Thought at the Academy for the Jewish Religion California (AJRCA) as a Faculty member for the Florence Melton Adult Mini School, West Valley. He has also been a Visiting Professor at area universities.
Rabbi Sacks has long been involved in promoting discussions of gender and sexual orientation, especially within the Conservative Movement. Today gender equality is a given, while GLBT acceptance has made tremendous gains, with the Movement’s acceptance of gay and lesbian rabbis (2006) and same-sex marriage (2012). Rabbi Sacks edited Journey to Freedom, a Passover seder centered on personal journeys of GLBT Jews and Ka’afikim Ba-Negev: a Sourcebook for Rabbis in Engaging Their Communities Regarding Concerns of Lesbians and Gays and Their Loved Ones.
A social justice advocate, Rabbi Sacks has especially been active on HIV/AIDS issues. He founded the AIDS Interfaith Network of New Jersey and helped establish the World AIDS Day commemoration at the Jewish Museum in New York City. At New Jew, he served as consultant on their acclaimed (and multi-award winning) production of Rent and started an annual World AIDS Day commemoration.
Rabbi Sacks has served congregations previously (Jersey City, NJ and Arcadia, CA). He has also served as Jewish chaplain (Jersey City Medical Center), Hillel Director (Claremont Colleges) and youth work (Camp Ramah, Los Angeles Hebrew High School).
Rabbi Sacks received his Doctor of Ministry degree at the Claremont School of Theology. His dissertation was entitled, “I Have Something to Tell You”: The Importance of Articulation of Acknowledgment and Admission and the Life Journey. A Meditation and Commentary on Psalm 32.”
Rabbi Sacks was ordained from the Jewish Theological Seminary in 1986, where he received the Master of Arts degree. His undergraduate degree (1978) hails from Ohio University (Athens), in Spanish (Latin American Studies specialization, Teachers Certification, State of Ohio), graduating summa cum laude. Studying in Israel for several years, he graduated from the University of Judaism (1982), receiving the Isadore Familian Award in Talmudic Studies. Rabbi Sacks has also received special Rav Ha-Machshir certification from the Conservative Movement.
Rabbi Sacks hails from Monroe, Michigan and descends from 17 generations of rabbis on his mother’s side. Growing up his family belonged to three congregations—one Orthodox, one Conservative and one Reform, Temple B’nai Israel, which his parents founded. Rabbi Sacks lives in Woodland Hills with Steven Karash: They are the proud fathers of Evan