Rabbi Judy Chessin has been the Rabbi of Temple Beth Or since its inception in 1984.

Orignally from Orlando, Florida, Rabbi Chessin received her undergraduate training at the University of South Florida, where she was the first graduate in Judaic Studies within the Religious Studies Department. After studying in Jerusalem, Israel, she went on to complete her Masters of Arts in Hebrew Letters at the Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati, Ohio. There she received ordination as Rabbi in June of 1984 and was awarded the Morris H. Youngerman Prize for Homiletics. During her tenure at HUC-JIR, she served pulpits in Owensboro, Kentucky, and Brookhaven, Mississippi. Chessin also directed the seminarys Youth and College Programming for three years.

Rabbi Chessin also studied graduate level psychology at the University of Cincinnati, and worked as a caseworker at both the University of Cincinnatis Walk-in Clinic and Jewish Family Service of Cincinnati. From 1984-5 she received pastoral counseling training and supervision at the Pastoral Counseling Center at Miami Valley Hospital.

In 1984 she was asked to guide 35 South Dayton families in their endeavor to create a Reform Jewish synagogue in the Centerville area. Together they created Temple Beth Or (a member congregation of the Union for Reform Judaism) which has now grown to 225 families and serves the needs of Reform Jewish families from all over the Dayton area.

tanachAlong with her duties at the congregation, Rabbi Chessin speaks extensively in Dayton area universities, churches, synagogues and organizations on topics of Jewish interest. She also serves as a mentor to rabbinic students at the Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion who are preparing for a career in the rabbinate. Additionally, she spends a several weeks each summer teaching Jewish youth at the Goldman Union Camp Institute in Zionsville, Indiana. She is currently the President of the Synagogue Forum of Greater Dayton and was honored in 2004 as a Woman of Influence by Daytons Y.W.C.A.

Rabbi Judy Chessin is married to Professor Michael Cook, who teaches at the Hebrew Union College. Together they have two grown sons: Brett and Chad Chessin.

The Dubner Maggid was an itinerant preacher from the Ukraine, who spiced up his sermons with jokes and stories. When asked about his homiletic style the Maggid told the following parable: A young boy became seriously ill. The doctor was frustrated, for although he had the exact cure, the boy refused to open his mouth and swallow the medicine. The desperate father paced back and forth in his sons room until an idea occurred to him. He dashed out of the sickroom and before long came back accompanied by a clown. The clown began his circus act, telling funny stories, enacting wild antics with such spirit that the boy could not help but open his mouth wide with laughter. Quickly, the doctor poured the medicine down the boys throat and he was healed.

The Maggid explained: I am that clown and the stories I tell, make us open our hearts. Then the truth they contain can enter and heal our souls. In a similar way, Temple Beth Or is a family which conveys to its members a Judaism so filled with joy, humor, and magic that together we can open our often aching hearts and heal our sometimes broken souls.

Now this style is not without its detractors. After one of our very first Sabbath Services in 1985, I was told, Im sorry Rabbi, but you are all too upbeat here for me. It just doesnt seem Jewish! Now, I am happy to report that this individual is now a proud member of the Temple Beth Or family, and she and I both smile at each other when her tiny grandchildren run, laughing and playing boisterously up and down our Temples hallways!

The Psalmist has said, Ivdu et HaShem Bsimcha, Serve God with joy. Our congregation affords families and individuals to gather to pray, study, learn, socialize, perform acts of gemilut chasidim (loving-kindness), stretch our bodies and our souls, feed our faces and our minds. Even during lifes most sacred and somber moments, Temple Beth Or can provide a haven and a home by which we can find comfort and meaning among our families and the extended family which we create from one another. So, taking a page from the Dubner Maggid, I conclude with a pledge and a prayer: Ladies and Gentlemen, children of all ages. Welcome to the topsy-turvey up-side-down world of Temple Beth Or. Hang on to your hats for many years to come, God willing, for amazing animals, fabulous fun, and a healing hopeful heritage. May we all merit to experience joy and fulfillment in our service and Services to God.

Shalom, Rabbi Judy Chessin

Rabbi Chessin's Monthly Column