By Michael Sudhalter
Rabbi Adam Ruditsky officially started as the rabbi of Adat Chaverim on July 1 and he’s already set up a series of “Meet & Greets” in which he visits members of the Plano-based Reform congregation at their homes.
“This is a great time to meet people, because everyone is very busy around the High Holidays,” Ruditsky said.
Rabbi Ruditsky hopes to meet with as many of the 150 families of Adat Chaverim as possible in the near future. He points to a teaching in Pirkei Avot (“Chapters of the Fathers) which emphasizes the importance of this task.
“The verse that drives my rabbinate is ‘Do not separate from the community,’” Rabbi Ruditsky said. “I value the community and the place of the community.”
Rabbi Ruditsky, along with his wife, Catharine, and golden retriever, Lucy, resides in Plano, not far from the synagogue. This is his second pulpit. He previously served as a student rabbi for a small congregation in Los Angeles.
“This was just a good fit,” Rabbi Ruditsky said. “I felt it was a good connection on the Judaic side and the community side.”
Adat Chaverim is one of the newer synagogues in the Metroplex; it started in the late 1990s. Like many smaller congregations, Adat Chaverim is still recovering from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our future is bright,” Rabbi Ruditsky said. “We are looking to raise our presence in the community and also looking to raise our digital footprint in the online world.”
Rabbi Ruditsky, who turns 60 on Aug. 5, took a rather circuitous route to the rabbinate, finding community along the way. Each step in his journey resulted in him becoming more knowledgeable and committed to Judaism.
Born in Los Angeles in 1963, Rabbi Ruditsky had a secular Jewish upbringing. His family celebrated Jewish holidays with relatives and they belonged to the Jewish Community Center in the San Fernando Valley.
After Rabbi Ruditsky became a bar mitzvah in 1976, he decided not to continue his Hebrew studies.
Music, specifically jazz, was a major part of his childhood. Upon graduation from Van Nuys High School, Rabbi Ruditsky started a jazz orchestra.
At age 21, he gave up music as a full-time job and moved to New York City.
“I always felt like a New Yorker who was born on the wrong coast,” Rabbi Ruditsky said. “I sold everything I had and moved there.”
For five years, Rabbi Ruditsky worked odd jobs and performed at jazz clubs in the evening. That was until his life took an ironic twist that began his journey back to his Jewish roots.
Rabbi Ruditsky met his first wife – a Christian who happened to own a business that sold Judaica items to both the Jewish and Christian communities.
“It started with shofars, but then we made our way into kippot, candlesticks and other items,” Rabbi Ruditsky said. “Our niche was that everything we bought was from Israel. I went to Israel on business to meet suppliers. That was my first real connection with Judaism as an adult. It became a springboard to return back to my roots and my understanding of who I am as a Jew.”
Rabbi Ruditsky and his first wife co-owned the business for 15 years and sold it around 2007. That’s when they moved to Houston and he needed to find a job.
In the want ads of the Houston Chronicle, there was a position for chaplain at St. Luke’s, a transplant hospital in the world-renowned Texas Medical Center.
“I liked the idea of being there for people and helping them out,” Ruditsky said.
During that time, Rabbi Ruditsky was a chaplain for people from all faiths and backgrounds, which helped increase his knowledge of world religions. It’s an experience that will help him in interfaith dialogue with other houses of worship in Collin County.
As he continued to grow in his role as a chaplain, Rabbi Ruditsky felt a yearning to become a specifically Jewish chaplain.
He was a chaplain for the Los Angeles Jewish Home and other organizations in the health care community for a total of 12 years. During this time, he earned a master’s degree in Jewish studies from Hebrew College in Boston.
Rabbi Ruditsky was a congregant at Valley Beth Shalom in Encino, California, when Rabbi Ed Feinstein, among other community leaders, recommended that he go to rabbinical school.
“He showed such compassion and care for people in my community,” Feinstein said. “I felt he would have much to contribute as a rabbi.”
Rabbi Ruditsky took two years to think it over and at age 57, he graduated from the Academy of Jewish Religion in Los Angeles with a master’s degree in rabbinical studies. A lot of his fellow rabbinical students were also “second career students” and he wasn’t the oldest member of his graduating class.
Many of the things Rabbi Ruditsky learned as a Jewish chaplain carried over well to rabbinical school, but he gained a depth of knowledge of Judaism during his time there.
“I got to study with a lot of very academic and intelligent rabbis who shaped me, molded me and gave me the tools to form my own narrative as a rabbi,” Rabbi Ruditsky said.
Meanwhile, Rabbi Ruditsky’s wife of 11 years, Catharine, was able to put him through rabbinical school, as a sales professional for the largest Jewish cemetery in Southern California.
In addition to Pirkei Avot, Rabbi Ruditsky is very fond of the Book of Deuteronomy, which proves “the meaning and power of our words.”
Beyond that, (musical) notes are also important to Ruditsky. Music has remained an interest in his life and he plays bass guitar at Friday night services.
“Music is important to me and community is important to me,” Rabbi Ruditsky said.