Rabbi Karen Isenberg grew up in Long Beach, California with her parents and 3 brothers. There she attended religious school and was bat mitzvah at Temple Sinai of Long Beach. She attended undergraduate college at UCLA, earning a Bachelor’s degree in Ethnic Arts, an offshoot of Cultural Anthropology. This, along with her studies in Psychology, led her to her Master’s degree from Loyola Marymount University in Movement Therapy, an area of clinical psychology and counseling. After working several years in the field of movement therapy, Rabbi Isenberg found herself drawn to Jewish Education and worked for 5 years as the day school librarian at Sinai Akiba Academy in Los Angeles.
Having moved back to Long Beach, Rabbi Isenberg began teaching Hebrew and religious school at many of the synagogues in the area, including Temple Israel of Long Beach, Temple Beth El of San Pedro, Temple Beth Shalom of Long Beach, and several others. In addition to teaching, Rabbi Isenberg tutored students for their bar and bat mitzvahs both privately and at several synagogues over the past 25 years. She also served for 4 years as the education director for the combined religious school of Temple Beth Zion-Sinai and Temple Beth Shalom. She has been involved in various areas of Jewish education for over 30 years. Rabbi Isenberg also earned her California Multiple Subject K-8 teaching credential, and taught for several years in the Long Beach Unified School District.
Rabbi Isenberg dreamed of becoming a rabbi for many years. She was ordained at the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at American Jewish University in Los Angles. She now serves as rabbi at Congregation Sholom at Seal Beach Leisure World. She also teaches in the religious school at Temple Beth Shalom of Long Beach and at the Jewish Collaborative of Orange County. In addition to this, Rabbi Isenberg works as a chaplain at UCLA Santa Monica Hospital. Rabbi Isenberg has 2 grown daughters, and is also the happy bubbie to her 2 grandchildren.
Ordained as a rabbi in 1981, Rabbi Howard O. Laibson’s involvement in the Jewish community began long before that. As a child growing up in Downey, California, he spent his summers at Camp Swig: A Camp for Living Judaism, over the years morphing from camper to counselor and eventually song leader and program director. He continues to be active at Camp Newman as a faculty member.
After graduating with honors with a degree in Community Studies from the University of California, Santa Cruz, Rabbi Laibson began working at Hillel. He later became the Southern California youth director for the Reform Jewish movement (SCFTY). Rabbi Laibson earned a Master of Arts degree in Counseling from California State University at Northridge and then enrolled as a rabbinic student at Hebrew Union College, where he earned a Master’s Degree in Rabbinic Literature in 1979 and then ordination two years later.
Since becoming a rabbi, Rabbi Laibson has served congregations in Texas, New Mexico, Long Beach and Lakewood, using his unique blend of counseling, teaching and musical skills to guide him. As a community leader, he puts particular emphasis on Jewish diversity, interfaith communication and education.
Since coming to Congregation Shir Chadash in 2006, Rabbi Laibson has facilitated the synagogue becoming an independent institution, eschewing movement affiliations and welcoming all Jews, regardless of their organizational backgrounds. Emphasizing education for children and adults, he has led the Kaplan School for Jewish Learning and taught adult education classes. Along with his wife, Ellen, he has taken Confirmation students and adults on two separate “See Jewish New York” educational trips.
Moreover, he has been a member of the local Jewish Federation Board and is serving on the Executive Committee and Board of the California Conference for Equality and Justice (CCEJ). In January of 2018 he was installed as President of the Pacific Association of Reform Rabbis.
Rabbi Laibson is the author of Growing Wise: Teachings, Strategies and An Interactive Journal, as well as several professional articles related to Jewish family life and Jewish education.
He has been married to Ellen R. Goldsmith since 1981. They are the proud parents of Ariela, 33, and Miriam, 30.
Rabbi Laibson retired and became Congregation Shir Chadash’s Rabbi Emeritus in June, 2015.
In memory of Cantor Emeritus Yehuda Keller who passed away on
April 27, 2018 / Iyar 12, 5778