Seekers of Meaning 12/10/2021: Rabbi Richard Agler on Life-Changing Loss and his book, “The Tragedy Test”

Rabbi Address discusses life-changing loss with Rabbi Richard Agler, whose adult daughter Talia was killed when she was struck by a car while jogging in Washington, DC.

On this week’s episode of the Seekers of Meaning TV Show and Podcast, Rabbi Richard Agler discusses experiencing the life-changing loss of his daughter’s death, and his book, The Tragedy Test: Making Sense of Life-changing Loss: A Rabbi’s Journey.

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About the Guest


Richard Dean Agler is a native of New York City. He is a graduate of East Meadow High School in East Meadow, New York, and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from New York University. Upon receiving his B.A., he entered the Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion, studying in Jerusalem and New York. He earned a Master of Arts in Hebrew Literature in 1976 and received smicha–Rabbinic ordination in 1978. He was awarded a Doctor of Divinity degree in March 2003 and was named to the President’s Rabbinic Council of the HUC-JIR in 2006.

Following ordination Rabbi Agler served at the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue in Manhattan. Upon moving to Florida in 1980, he held pulpits in Vero Beach and Boca Raton. In 1984 he became the Founding Rabbi of Congregation B’nai Israel in Boca Raton. During his tenure the congregation grew from four families in a living room to over 1200 member families on the Yamato Road campus. In 2011, after twenty-seven years, he retired from that pulpit and was named Rabbi Emeritus by the congregation. He subsequently served as Resident Scholar of the Keys Jewish Community Center in Tavernier, Florida and was named Scholar Emeritus upon his departure in 2020.

Today, as Director of the Tali Fund, he actively supports the work of the Talia Agler Girls Shelter for trafficked, abused and exploited girls in Nairobi, Kenya and promotes awareness and registration for organ donation.

He currently tours and lectures on the work of the Tali Fund, as well as on the subjects of his first book, The Tragedy Test: Making Sense of Life Changing Loss, published by Wipf and Stock in 2018.

Over the years he has been active in projects relating to the State of Israel, Church-State issues, Interfaith concerns (Black-Jewish, Christian-Jewish and Muslim-Jewish relations in particular), genocide, the Jews of the former Soviet Union and many other social action–tikkun olam initiatives. His joyful Purim Shpiels, co-produced with Cantor Stephanie Shore, have been performed internationally.

Rabbi Agler has an academic expertise in Hasidism and Jewish Mysticism, having written his rabbinic thesis in that field. He has also taught it on the graduate level at the Hebrew Union College in New York. He has been active in the movement to bring renewed faith and spirituality to the rabbinate and the nation’s synagogues.

In 1989, he was named one of the “Outstanding Young Men in America.” Since 1997, he has appeared in “Who’s Who In America.” His letters on subjects ranging from the Presidency to Jewish Law to baseball have been published by the New York Times.

He has been broadcast by NPR on the subject of politics and the Jewish community. His words on the State of Israel were quoted by Presidential candidate John Kerry. A sermon he wrote upon the death of Mickey Mantle is in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. His “Open Letter to the New President” (2009) can be found in the collection of the Library of Congress.

In 2010 he was named one of the “Top 33” most influential Jews in South Florida by the Jewish Journal—one of only three congregational rabbis so selected. He looks forward to the day when Jews of all ages will rejoice in their heritage and the messianic hope of peace and justice will be nearer for all of God’s children.

Rabbi Agler enjoys sports, literature, astronomy, sailing, and otherwise being on the water. He has been married since 1976 to the former Mindy Steinberg of Augusta, Georgia. They are the parents of Jesse (married to Tovah), Talia z”l, and Sarah (married to Dave). He resides in Southern California.

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