Rabbi brian besser

Like Beth Shalom itself, my background is multifaceted. I grew up in a Conservative household in suburban New Jersey. My early career was in mathematics; after pursuing an advanced degree at U. C. Berkeley, I remained in California to work for the software giant Oracle in education and later as a technical writer. In San Francisco, I became an active lay service leader of the Reform Congregation Shaar Zahav.

After moving to Vermont with my partner Joe in 1999, I was hired as the spiritual leader of the newly founded Jewish Community of Greater Stowe, where I served for eleven years. During this time, I also studied Talmud and Hassidic literature with Orthodox Rabbi Sholom Brodt from Jerusalem, explored Jewish Renewal at Eilat Chayyim, and eventually entered the third graduating class of the trans-denominational Hebrew College Rabbinical School, where I was ordained in 2010. These days, rather than identify with any particular denomination, I prefer to call myself simply Jewish.

I arrived in Bloomington in July, 2012. My top priorities at Beth Shalom include: fostering a warm, welcoming and inclusive communal culture, nurturing caring relationships with and among individuals, and engaging and exploring traditional Jewish texts to maximize their relevancy to contemporary life.

I consider my life’s purpose to serve God by serving others. My primary role at Beth Shalom is as a facilitator—to support congregants in their Jewish journey rather than to impose my own beliefs and practices by dictating what they should do or think. I seek to educate, support, nurture, comfort, and guide by example.

On a more personal note, I live with my life partner, Joe, and our feisty but adorable “tuxedo” kitten, Victor. Outside my Rabbinic work, my greatest passion is hiking, particularly long-distance backpacking. In 1988, I trekked 2600 miles from Mexico to Canada on the Pacific Crest Trail. Nature represents my oldest, deepest source of spiritual renewal—and not just in its grandest manifestations. I have come to appreciate the subtle and restful beauty of a quiet walk in the woods of Southern Indiana.

To the members of Beth Shalom: it is a privilege to be involved in your lives and concerns. Your diversity matches the multiplicity of my own Jewish interests. Your intelligence, dedication and passion motivate, challenge and enrich me. I even welcome the times when our work together leads to spirited engagement, because such opportunities spur growth for all of us. Thank you.

To members and non-members alike: please do not hesitate to contact me for any reason.