Rabbi Dan Ain came to San Francisco's Congregation Beth Sholom in 2018.
Rabbi Dan Ain came to San Francisco's Congregation Beth Sholom in 2018.

Rabbi Dan Ain to leave Beth Sholom at end of March after four years

Congregation Beth Sholom announced Wednesday that its senior rabbi, Dan Ain, would be leaving at the end of the month.

“When I accepted this job, four years ago, I felt I was answering a calling, and that my family and I were delivered here, to this vibrant, unique community for a specific purpose,” Ain said in an email to members of the Conservative synagogue in San Francisco’s Richmond District.

“These past two years have been profound and life changing, and many of us are reckoning with new realities. I realize that San Francisco is a temporary dwelling — a mishkan — for my family, and that our future lies elsewhere. I will be completing my role here at the end of this month, but my family and I will stay connected and remain friends and supporters of Congregation Beth Sholom.”

After arriving at Beth Sholom in 2018 from New York with his wife and two school-age children, Ain, 45, oversaw a period of growing membership for the 100-year-old synagogue, including many young families, according to Beth Sholom. He also led the congregation through the expansion of its staff, including the addition of Associate Rabbi Amanda Russell.

Beth Sholom’s striking 2008 building on 14th and Clement was also paid off during his tenure. In the email to the community, Beth Sholom board president Michael Rapaport gave Ain some credit for that, writing, “Rabbi Ain assisted in our fundraising efforts and was key to paying off the mortgage on our building.”

He also saw the congregation through the first two years of the Covid-19 pandemic. Unlike most of his Conservative rabbinical colleagues in the Bay Area, Ain resisted holding virtual services, despite an emergency decision from the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly allowing for virtual Shabbat and holiday services during the pandemic.

Ain also serves on the board of directors of J. The Jewish News of Northern California.

It is unusual for a congregational rabbi to leave so abruptly. Rapaport addressed that in the email announcement. “Rabbi Ain has been in discussions about his desire to move elsewhere and those discussions needed to remain confidential,” he wrote. “While his decision must have been hard, given his strong commitment to our synagogue and the many relationships he has built over the years, he and [wife Alana Joblin Ain] believe it best for their family that they leave San Francisco and the Bay Area. The early date will allow them the time and flexibility they need to accomplish the tasks that lie ahead for them.”

Amanda Russell
Rabbi Amanda Russell

Russell came to Beth Sholom as a rabbinic intern during the tenure of Ain’s predecessor, Rabbi Aubrey Glazer. In 2019, she was hired as assistant rabbi after her ordination at the Ziegler School of Rabbinical Studies in Los Angeles, and was promoted to associate rabbi with a new three-year contract last year.

Said Rapaport in the email, “The Board and I have begun working with Rabbi Russell and the staff to ensure a smooth transition and a future that embraces the needs of our community in line with our strategic vision.”

A Kabbalat Shabbat to honor Ain and his family will be held on March 25 at the synagogue, with dinner outdoors at 5 p.m., followed by services at 6 p.m.

David A.M. Wilensky
David A.M. Wilensky

David A.M. Wilensky is interim associate editor of J. He previously served as assistant editor and digital editor, and is a member of the board of the American Jewish Press Association. He can be reached at [email protected].