Transitional Rabbi David Klaztzker joins Or Tzion

Even though Rabbi David Klatzker won’t physically move to Arizona until Sept. 8, he has already been working on getting to know the members of Congregation Or Tzion. Rabbi Klatzker has been chosen for the role of transitional rabbi since Or Tzion lost its beloved leader, Rabbi Micah Caplan, on June 14.

Klatzker decided to become a “transition specialist” when he left his Massachusetts congregation after 13 years. “I wanted to do something different,” he says. “It occurred to me that a lot of congregations have challenges relating to change and that there might be a good place for me as a transition specialist.”

He went through a special two-year training program offered through the Interim Ministry Network in Maryland. Since completing the program, Klatzker has been the transitional rabbi in five different congregations across the country.

Usually, a transitional rabbi stays one or two years, although Klatzker explains that there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to the process.

“It’s challenging, but it’s also very exciting,” he says. “I really enjoy ‘parachuting’ into a congregation as it were and finding out as much as I can about the congregation in a short period of time and figuring out how I can help them.”

Klatzker believes that there are certain attributes he can bring to the community, based on his own experiences.

His wife of thirty-six years, Randy, passed away in April 2020 from ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). He retired from the active rabbinate for two years to care for her. “There really is nothing more important than caregiving and it was a remarkable experience,” he shares.
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When his wife became sick, they had moved back to Long Beach, CA, where he had been a transitional rabbi. The teenagers of the congregation there put a garden in their backyard so that Randy could enjoy time outside. They also held a farewell party for him on Zoom.

“I think my own personal experience of grief may help me understand what the congregation is going through,’ he says. “I really want them to grieve in a healthy way.”

Klatzker wants Or Tzion’s members to know that he is very purpose-driven, caring and compassionate, and he wants to find out what their concerns are and what they find most life-giving about the congregation.
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“We want to build on the good values, the good things that Rabbi Caplan brought to the congregation – those are not going to be lost.”

He explains that they have created a transition committee in the congregation and they are starting a “listening campaign.” “We’re going to bring together groups of people from the congregation on Zoom, and we’re going to listen to them,” says Klatzker.

Since he took time off to be his wife’s caregiver, he is anxious to get back to work. “I feel I have things that that I would like to teach,” says Klatzker. “There’s a rabbinic saying, ‘More than the calf wants to nurse, the cow wants to give milk,’ and that’s me. I really want to give milk.”

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