For Rabbi Klein, it’s all about helping people through good times and bad

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Rabbi Andrew Klein, 66, was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas, and was ordained in 2001 at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, in New York City.

Klein became the assistant rabbi at Hevreh of Southern Berkshire, in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, in 2003. Shortly after leaving Hevreh, in 2007, he became the rabbi at Temple Habonim, in Barrington.

Rabbi Klein lives in Barrington with his husband, Adam Mastoon.

Q: Favorite Jewish food? 

A: Chopped liver. My grandma made it – I still have her hand grinder she used to make it and it reminds me of her.

 Q: Favorite Jewish holiday? Why?

A: Passover. Passover, for me, brings up a lot of memories of family and tradition, with all the kids sitting at the table into all hours of the night. My grandma always explained Passover to me as a bittersweet holiday, remembering the bitterness of slavery and celebrating the sweetness of freedom.

Q: Favorite Jewish song?

A: “Ani Ve’Ata.” [“You and I”] by Arik Einstein.  It is all about how people can come together in partnership to make the world better. I like that song very much.

Q: Favorite Jewish movie?

A: “Yentl.” It is one of my personal favorites. It was directed by a woman [Barbra Streisand], and it’s a story of being brave and courageous enough to be who you are and not needing to hide who you are. It has a lot of pretty music and a great message.

Q: Favorite Jewish celebrity?

A: Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Because she was the voice of a strong and powerful woman before her time and before the rest of the country was ready for that. She continues to be the voice of strong, powerful reasoning and thinking. 

Q: Favorite Israeli city to visit? Why?

A:  Jerusalem, for its religious and historical value.

Q: Favorite Israeli city to live? Why?

A: Tel Aviv, for its modernity.

Q: Favorite Hebrew word and why?

A: Lama? Tacha. [It means] Why? Just because.

Q: Favorite Yiddish word and why?

A: Ungabluzen. It describes a person who is pouty and sullen.

Q: Best part of keeping Kosher/most difficult part of keeping Kosher?

A:  I eat Kosher-style. Meaning, I don’t eat treif [pork, shellfish, etc.] I do eat some meats that are not Kosher, but I do not mix meat with dairy. I keep my variation of Kosher. I feel that eating Kosher-style connects me with the Jewish people. There really isn’t anything I don’t like about keeping Kosher.

Q: Favorite part of being a rabbi?

A: Getting to be with people during significant life-cycle moments, including births, deaths, Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, sadness and joys. I have the opportunity to be really present with people when they are wanting some spiritual guidance.

Q: Favorite Jewish memory from your life?

A: I loved going to Jewish camp [URJ Kutz Camp, in Warwick, New York] when I was a kid and its where I first discovered that I wanted to become a rabbi. I was there in 1967, just a couple of days after the Six-Day War. It was a very exciting time to be Jewish and I felt a lot of Jewish pride.

Q: Greatest piece of advice someone has given you?  

A: “Don’t take yourself too seriously and always be able to enjoy life’s ‘ups,’ ” from my father. Life has many ups and downs, and to be able to savor the ups as they come along is very important.

Q: If you could have three dinner guests, living or from history, who would they be and why?

A:  Theodor Herzl. Because I would like to learn more about his thinking as he formed the idea of creating the state of Israel. 

My mother, because there are so many things that I did not ask her/know to ask her while she was still alive. I would love to ask her these questions now.

Sigmund Freud. I would really like to talk with him about how his Judaism impacted his thoughts on psychology, the brain and human living.

SAM SERBY is a freelance writer who lives in East Greenwich. He previously worked at the Peres Center for Peace in Tel Aviv.