This interview for the Columbus Jewish Historical Society is being recorded
on January 28, 2008 as part of the Columbus Jewish Historical Society’s Oral
History Project and for inclusion in the archives collection of Congregation
Beth Tikvah. The interview is being recorded at Congregation Beth Tikvah, 6121
Olentangy River Road, Worthington, Ohio. My name is Rhoda Gelles and Rose
Luttinger and we are interviewing Rabbi Gary Huber.
The first question, what is your full name? Gary
What is your Hebrew name? Yosef ben Shmuel
For whom were you named?
I believe I was named for my maternal great grandfather who I never met.
What is your father’s full name? Sydney Huber
Where was he born? St. Louis, Missouri
What was your mother’s maiden name? Newman, Marian Newman
Where was she born? St. Louis, Missouri
What were your grandparents’ and great grandparents’ countries of origin?
Grandparents on my maternal side were Russia, Odessa area. My paternal side,
my grandmother was from Budapest which was in those days in the
Austro-Hungarian Empire is the way they listed it. My grandfather was born in
a town, Harry Huber was born in a town (we found this out) it is now Rumania but
in those days was just listed on the papers when he came to America as
Do you know when your grandparents came to this country?
I believe 1904, I think, to the best of memory.
Where and when were your parents married?
They were married in 1947. They were married in St. Louis, Missouri, on
Are there any family stories that are passed down about your grandparents,
Yes, I don’t know if this is apocryphal, but according to family legend, my
grandfather came, arrived on the boat on they said July 4th and he
was convinced there was a war going on because of the fireworks and rockets.
They were all very, very upset until they calmed them down and explained to them
it was not a war and you can safely get off the boat. That is funny. It’s
a favorite story.
Where did your family live when you were growing up?
When I was growing up? Yes. Well my parents had moved to their first
home. They lived in an apartment. I’m the youngest of two brothers. When I was
born, I was born on 8552 Everett Avenue in a St. Louis suburb which was
different. The Jewish community was beginning to move to the suburbs.
What was the name of the suburb?
The suburb, Richmond Heights, Missouri, it’s in St. Louis County. We moved
to another home when I was older but I was born there.
How did your parents earn their living?
My father, both my parents are living. My father claims to be retired but it
doesn’t mean much.
He’s always been self employed, Huber Realty, which involved every aspect,
goodness gracious, 50 years, 60 years of the real estate business; buying and
selling homes, he was a builder, commercial real estate in St. Louis especially
what you’d think of as strip malls that sort of thing, and an investor. Today
he manages his investments. He’s 84 but I think he still goes into an office a
couple of hours a day. I guess you call that semi-retired. He still has a
partner. Nobody has taken over. It still exists. My mother, I should mention
this, was a very successful real estate agent. When my mother was 55 she was
stricken with a very, very serious auto-immune, neurological, not psychiatric,
but a neurological disorder which has basically made her severely disabled for
the past 26 years. My father has always taken care of her. She’s able to walk
and things like that. It’s a long story. Before that she was a remarkably
successful real estate agent. When I was in college she decided to get her
license and quote “go to work.” She became very successful at that for
a period of time but then she got ill. Too bad.
I know you lost your brother recently. Yes my brother passed away. You
had one older brother? An older brother, Bruce, who passed away June 30,
Where did you attend elementary school?
We were in the Clayton, Missouri School District, a very wonderful school
district up till fourth grade, McMorrow Elementary School. Then we moved to
Creve Coeur, Missouri, which is a suburb that a lot of Jewish families moved to.
My parents built a home and moved to the suburbs in the early 1960’s, actually
1961. They still live in that house and that’s where I went to school. They
were new schools. I went to Spoede Elementary School, continued on through
religious schools graduating from Portland Watkins High School in 1970.
What academic areas did you enjoy most when you were in high school?
History and English, nothing’s changed really.
What were some of your extra curricular activities?
I was on the basketball team. Were you, wow. I played left guard and I
loved basketball. I played that through my junior year of high school. That was
a big extra,
sports. I was very active in my temple youth group.
That was the next question I was going to ask you. Your Jewish activities
were your temple youth group? Temple youth group, I was extremely active,
very active. That was a big part of my life, friendships, activities, just about
every weekend. Did you go to a camp? I wasn’t a camp goer,
interestingly. That’s something that a lot of people did, I must say.. I went
on retreats and conventions and things like that but during the summers I
basically worked. My children did, but I just wasn’t a camp kid myself.
What did you work at during the summer?
Well I’ll tell you an interesting …, you will crack up at this. It was a
good job. I worked in a cemetery. I got a good tan, worked outside. I did that,
drove a forklift, that was a good paying job, grocery store checkout, did all
that sort of thing, kid jobs.
Where did you attend college? The University of Michigan. Graduate
School? I graduated in three years from Michigan in an accelerated program
as an undergrad. I was able to do that because of some credits I got in high
school. I graduated a year early but then I went directly to Rabbinic School. It
was a five-year program and I was ordained in 1978. You went, I assume to HUC
in Cincinnati? Yes. Everybody spends their first year in Jerusalem.
There was never a question in my mind that I wanted to be at the Cincinnati
school. I would not have done well, I would have done well but I would have been
uncomfortable in either LA or New York, very much so. That was what I did.
At Michigan, what degree did you earn?
Bachelor of Arts, I graduated Summa Cum Laude. I was in the Honors College
there. In those days, well it was rather unique among undergraduate programs, I
really majored in Biblical Studies. It was under the department of Ancient Near
Eastern Languages and Literature but some of the greatest scholars of biblical
scholarship worked at the University of Michigan. That’s one of the reasons I
went there, Biblical Hebrew, Acadian and the ancient languages of the Ancient
Near East, Biblical Archaeology, Biblical History. I also had a major in
Philosophy but my true department, what I really went there for, was Biblical
Did the University of Michigan have a Jewish Studies program?
You know, it’s interesting, by the time I left, those were the years in the
early 70’s when many (of course now they have a whole program and department,
things like that) but you could major, you could have a religion major but it
was across the departmental major. I remember by the time I left they had
brought in a professor of Jewish History, and so forth and so on but they always
had Hebrew and they always had Biblical History and they always had in the
History Department many Jewish History courses and I took a lot of that. I don’t
think technically, (I may be wrong about this) when I was an undergraduate they
didn’t have a Center for Jewish Studies per se. That probably came about, as
it did most places, Ohio State and everywhere, by the mid 70’s. One of my
favorite professors was Judah Reinhart. He’s now the President of Brandeis. We’re
I was a very close student to him. He started out at Michigan in the History
Department teaching Jewish History courses. You know my son teaches at
Brandeis. He should tell you Judah Reinhart you are his Rabbi. I was his
student. You were Jeff’s Rabbi.
What degree did you get at HUC (Hebrew Union College)? What is the name of
I got a Masters in Hebrew Letters and Literature which is the Masters Degree
that you earn and then Rabbinic Ordination which requires the writing of a
thesis, which I did.
What drew you to Jewish Studies? Jewish Studies or wanting to be a Rabbi?
Well first of all, in terms of, as an undergraduate you mean? Yes. As
an undergraduate, in high school I wanted to be a Rabbi since I was probably
about 16 years old. I was different, I know, I found this out. I don’t
remember anybody in my Rabbinic School class, most of them decided I think I’ll
be a Rabbi in college or something like that. I never really have thought about
ever being anything else. There was just a kind of a click there for me. It felt
really good. I was very interested in the academic. During high school I was
influenced and communicated with, in St. Louis there’s Washington University,
they always had a Professor of Jewish Philosophy there who kind of took me under
his wing when I was in high school. I didn’t want to go to Washington
University because I wanted to leave St. Louis for my undergraduate degree. It’s
a wonderful school and I did get in but I didn’t want to go there so I chose
to go to Ann Arbor. Steven Scwarzschild, may he rest in peace, passed away in
the late 80’s actually 1989, was a German Jewish refugee who was a brilliant
philosopher and I studied with him as a high school student.
I was very interested in Jewish philosophy, in biblical studies, especially
biblical Hebrew which is very different from modern Hebrew. I studied modern
Did you actually take course work that you got credit for as a high school
Yes because in those days it was through AP (Advanced Program) exams so I
entered Michigan as almost a sophomore. So you did that through the AP. I
went to Michigan three years because of that. I was just very interested in it.
It was very appealing to me. This was the place where I could do that as an
When did you get married?
I got married in 1977 and I’ve been married to the same person since.
How old were you when you got married?
How old was I? I guess I was 25.
What is your wife’s name?
Marsha, her maiden name was Schoenberg from Cleveland, actually University
Heights, Ohio, Cleveland area.
How did you and Marsha meet?
Marsha and I met, Marsha is about four years younger than I am and she was at
that time an undergraduate voice major at the Cincinnati Conservatory at the
University of Cincinnati, their wonderful music school. She left that world of
opera for the world of business, but this isn’t about her. Actually we met,
interestingly, I went to hear a lecture from one of my professors at HUC who was
speaking at the local University of Cincinnati Hillel Foundation and we met
there which has made me always like Hillel. I’m not the first person who said
they met their wife at Hillel. Right.
What is Marsha’s occupation?
Marsha is now a bank executive at J. P. Morgan Chase and has been frankly at
the same bank or its predecessor bank which was Bank One for all these years.
Before that she worked for City Corp. in St. Louis.
What are your childrens’ names and ages?
My son, Aaron Huber, is 26 and my daughter, Lisa, is 21.
Where do they live now?
Lisa is a senior and she currently lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan attending the
University of Michigan Ross School of Business. She is not in Liberal Arts
School and she will graduate this Spring. Aaron is married and has two children
and lives in Coral Springs, Florida.
What are the names of your grandchildren?
My granddaughter is 2 �, her legal name is Sarah Adele Huber but she’s
called Adele. Everyone calls her Adele, that’s what her parents call her. My
grandson’s name is Mordecai Huber. He’s how old? Mordecai is 1 �.
When did you come to Beth Tikvah? 1983.
How many years have you been here? I’m finishing my 25th
Why did you choose to accept the position at Beth Tikvah?
Well I had been a Rabbi for five years. When I think about my career it’s
been pretty much how I wanted it to go. I wanted on Ordination to work at a very
large temple and have the experience of what is I’ve always thought of as the
equivalent of a residency as a Rabbi. In other words you’re Ordained and you
have the experience of a bi-weekly congregation but you really don’t know what
it means to be a pulpit Rabbi or a congregational Rabbi and I truly was very
I thought I would spend only two or three years in St. Louis, not at my home
congregation which is United Hebrew but at Temple Israel because of the Senior
Rabbi. The Senior Rabbi, may he rest in peace he just passed away in the last
couple of years ago, was Alvan Rubin. Alvan Rubin was known as a wonderful
Senior Rabbi, actually no ego, divided in letting his assistants (there were
three Rabbis at this temple, it was very large, so I worked with two other
colleagues). You get a broad range of experience, you work in different areas
whether it’s with seniors or kids, Religious school or Hebrew School, Adult
Education and all the life cycle rituals and so forth and so on, and in the
community, I was able to do all those things. It turned out that the long-time
Associate Rabbi who stayed on as an Associate Rabbi for many, many years, 10
years which is very long for an Associate Rabbi, left after I had been there two
years so they promoted me to Associate Rabbi. I stayed another three years there
which worked out for our family because Marsha was working at City Corp. but
also had our first baby and was completing her MBA. She finished up her
undergraduate. She shifted over to business and then got her Masters and her MBA
from the University of Missouri. It was a great program. City Corp. basically
helped her out when she worked there and was able to return there. We had our
first child. It just was great. Anyway at the end of five years, Aaron was two,
Marsha had her MBA and I was ready to move on. The maximum I ever thought of
staying before I had my quote “own pulpit” was five years. It was
fine. The Associateship was a very different kind of job than the Assistantship.
When I was looking for congregations I specifically limited myself to
congregations that were maybe, I was looking at a range of maybe 250 to 300
families, something in that ballpark, because it would be a large enough
congregation to have frankly sustainability to be able to do things.
On the other hand I did not want to serve, I never wanted to serve a
congregation, I never wanted to have a congregation that’s a real mega
congregation. I know what that kind of rabbinate is like. It’s a different
sort of rabbinate and those who want it, that’s wonderful. I knew it wasn’t
for me and I was looking, you’re always looking for a good fit. Rabbis and
congregations are always a fit thing. I did look at many congregations and
several congregations throughout several months and I just felt a very good, I
felt a good feeling about Beth Tikvah and I think Beth Tikvah felt good about me
and it’s just been a nice click.
How many congregants did Beth Tikvah have when you came?
Well, it was actually smaller. I came here I had no idea about Beth Tikvah,
what it was. Who knew? Nobody knew, that’s the reality. I didn’t come here
with an expectation or even care about that. It didn’t matter. It really wasn’t
in my ballpark. I knew Beth Tikvah would never be a mega congregation, that’s
for sure. I didn’t want a congregation, frankly, that would be in the realm of
800, 900, 1000, basically what I was thinking was 1,000 plus because that’s
just a different type of rabbinate. By the way it’s not a matter of work, it’s
certainly not that. It is a matter of hours you put in. It’s a matter of what
you do during those hours. Anyway that’s a conversation that rabbis always
have among themselves. I’ve looked at many, several congregations and this was
a very good fit for my family compared to some other places I had looked at,
very attractive places. By the way when any Rabbi goes to a congregation it’s
always just for a couple of years. You know the congregation is checking you out
and you’re checking the congregation out. During those first couple of years
that’s what happens. You say okay I’ll sign up for a few more and see how it
feels. Then I will tell you something.
Once you’ve been in a place maybe five to seven years, then you want to
think about making longer range commitments. That’s basically I think what
happened here, in fact what did happen.
Generally in what ways has Beth Tikvah changed since you took the position,
size, age range of congregants, general philosophy of membership? Can you make
some comments about that?
Sure, everything changes in life. On the other hand in many ways this is a
very similar congregation to the one I came to and I’m glad of that. There are
some fundamentals, I’m talking about the big things. I mean for example the
basic philosophy of the congregation, its attitude about Jewish life, its
inclusiveness. There have always been certain markers of this congregation.
Obviously as a Reform Congregation and by the way the fact that it’s still in
the Reform Movement, this congregation has never been a capital R Reform temple
but then again I’m not a capital R Reform Rabbi. What do you mean by that? By
capital R I mean, by the way it’s very important for this congregation to be a
Reform temple because there are certain things that flow from that core
philosophy. On the other hand the kind of trauma that other congregations face,
for example new traditions coming in, Beth Tikvah really didn’t experience
For example, wearing the Kippah, wearing the Talit, I can tell you that at
the temple I served in St Louis, Temple Israel, it was heart renderingly painful
for them, when Bar Mitzvahs wanted to wear a yarmulke on the pulpit. You’re
making a face Rose but I want to tell you it’s absolutely true and there are
congregations that go through this. There are people at Temple Israel here in
town who don’t like what’s happening. Because it’s not classical
Reform? Because it’s not classical Reform. Temple Israel is very much a
classical Reform temple. Rabbis wear robes, organs.
I was raised in a Reform temple. It wasn’t a classical Reform temple in
town but it was a standard Reform temple. That was very difficult, very painful
for those folks. Beth Tikvah never had that. Beth Tikvah was always the
community congregation for the North Side. The community congregation meant that
people who came were from 31 flavors of backgrounds. By that I mean kind of
secularist, uncomfortable with any religious expression, (there were a bunch of
people here like that) people from Reform backgrounds, people raised in Orthodox
homes. It was very interesting to me. I found that nice. The other people who
don’t want that and are very put off by it. I frankly found that to be nice.
Beth Tikvah really hasn’t changed in that regard. It still has everybody from
a bazillion different flavors and we all know that. We’ve worked out what I
consider to be a community ritual that most of the people seem to be okay with.
That’s what you have to do. You don’t let two people determine what
everybody else is going to do. Like any congregation we wrestle with these
things. Another little thing that we’ll have to deal with, the Reform Movement
has a new prayerbook. It still hasn’t been printed. We’re still waiting on
it. We’ll see If it fits us, if it does fine, if it doesn’t, we’re not
going to feel that we have to have it to be a Reform temple. We might go with
some other variety, you know, we’ll see. In terms of that sort of feeling that
hasn’t changed. I would say that this congregation has less of a crisis with
embracing many, many inter-marrieds than many other congregations do. Many, many
converts, this congregation has much less of a trauma with that. It’s always
been deeply focused philosophically about things like Social Action, community
involvement and by that I mean not just the Jewish community but also In Social
Action involving all sorts of good causes in our community. Those sorts of
things really haven’t changed.
In terms of changes, I would say that Beth Tikvah is like any other
congregation in America because it reflects the changes that all Reform
congregations and frankly all Jewish communities experience, a huge increase in
the number of inter-marrieds. There isn’t a Jewish community on the planet
that doesn’t inevitably reflect a whole different attitude towards
inter-marriage which in my rabbinic career has gone from the more people you
know who are intermarried and the more relatives you have who are intermarried,
etc., etc., the more of a comfort level it becomes, the less of a scandal it
becomes. So this is a huge movement among American Jews. Of course our
congregation reflects that. The number of converts in leadership positions is a
huge change in American Judaism. It’s very nice. You look at our Board now, I
haven’t exactly counted, but there’s a whole slew of people who’ve
converted to Judaism on our Board. I think that’s great. I know that people
know this temple in town is a place where converts to Judaism feel very welcome,
where if you are an interfaith family you’re going to feel very, very
comfortable at Beth Tikvah. I know people know that because they call me and
tell me that because that’s why they want to talk to me and come in here. Is
that a change, sure. That’s a change that, if anybody is honest with you, that
every congregation in America, I mean Orthodox, Conservative and Reform has to
deal with. You have to deal with it because the rate of intermarriage is so
In your capacity as Rabbi what are your special interests?
I do everything a Rabbi does. Every Rabbi has things they like to focus on
because they enjoying doing them and they feel they are good at it. Isn’t that
what we all do in our lives? Yes. Sure, I try to meet all the needs of my
congregants, the vast panoply of things that a Rabbi does.
I’ve always had a very special interest in Adult and Jewish Education. I
love being active in the Religious School. I think that as Rabbi’s go I’m
always there in a class. I talked to the fourth graders yesterday and I talked
to the, literally the moms and the babies. I taught a Confirmation Class last
week. I love being involved in education, probably a lot more. That’s always
been something by the way that Beth Tikvah has I think emphasized. The Rabbi
should not be apart from the school. I’m very involved in it at all sorts of
levels. Our fourth graders had a lovely…, they conducted the Service on Friday
night. Because of our demographics I do a lot of Bar and Bat Mitzvahs. I do as
many Bar/Bat Mitzvahs as colleagues in 1000 plus congregations do because of our
demographics. I do far less funerals. I do funerals. I should say this about
Beth Tikvah. Beth Tikvah is not a home grown congregation. What I mean by that
to contrast it with a lot of congregations that I don’t have to mention
because we know them, where just about everybody in the congregation was born in
Columbus. Their grandparents belonged to the congregation and their parents and
these are generational. By the way that’s less and less true of even those
congregations, but Beth Tikvah even more so. This congregation, there are people
who, believe it or not, were born and raised in Columbus and we do have some
multi-generational families now, but pretty few. Most people in this temple were
born and raised elsewhere and have come to Columbus and by the way reflect the
city of Columbus in the Metro area that everybody has seen here in the last
couple of decades. Of course it’s going to reflect that. I love teaching adult
Jewish education. I have always had at least two or three courses that I taught
in the course of a year plus the adult education group that I’m involved with
just as a participant. That’s on Sunday evenings. Adult Jewish education is, I
would say education is, a real big thing for me in addition to all the other
things Rabbis do.
What is your vision for the future of Beth Tikvah?
One of my hopes is to make Jewish education a life long type of thing. By
that I mean institutionalize that as opposed to seeing education as a pediatric
thing. I mean it’s wonderful, it’s good and it’s important. If there is
one thing that I want to particularly push for in the coming years it’s going
to be pushing for adult education for parents and trying to reach them and
incorporating them so that when their children are in religious school they are
also taking classes and learning with their kids, learning in some sort of
parallel system.. That would be a great hope for me. Another thing that I want
to try to push for (I see the potential here within the congregation) is seeing
Beth Tikvah more involved in the greater Jewish community. This has always been
an interesting thing for the congregation. Involvement, because of our
geography, there are people connected to, there is this consciousness (and by
the way it’s still just very much here) between us and them, between the Jews
on this side of town and the quote on quote “traditional Jewish
community.” By traditional I don’t mean the “frum,” pious or
Orthodox Jewish community, just where Jews are traditionally settled and
patterns of geography in Bexley and the corridors out to Reynoldsburg and North
East to New Albany, etc. I think that we can do more and I want to try to do
more and combine it with adult Jewish education. Let me give you an example. I’m
going to propose that I will teach classes that will be publicized throughout
the Jewish community. I am going to do that next month for unaffiliated Jews. I’m
teaching a class called `Tastes of Judaism’ If you’re a temple member
you’re not allowed to take it. It’s going to be free. We’re going to
advertise it in the Dispatch and it’s for just people who are unaffiliated to
get a taste of Judaism. Sounds like a great idea. We’ll see how this
There are lots of unaffiliated Jews out there, we all know that. So I’m
going to try to do some more things that way to get the congregation more hooked
up in positive ways with bigger things going on in our metro area. I’m going
to try to break down the barriers and I think I can have a role there. One of
the things I’m doing I should tell you in addition to `A Taste of Judaism’
is I’ve curried some new bonds with the, it’s called something different now
but everybody knows it as the Jewish Community Relations Council, JCRC, which
deals with issues of anti-semitism and also I should mention another thing,
interfaith work which I’m going to begin here with the Moslems. This was a
call by Eric Yoffie at the latest Biennial of Reform Congregations. You may have
read about it. We have a group that we feel we can deal with. It’s hard to
find a good partner for dialogue with the Moslem community. It can be a safety
feel here, that we’re not dealing with people who don’t believe in Israel’s
right to exist, etc. You have to be able to sit down where at least there’s a
commonality of support and then try to build on that. There is this group that
Rabbi Yoffie has been dealing with and they’re going to be meeting here in
Columbus and so I’ve inaugurated plans for the JCRC to try to reach out to
them and I’ll be part of that just as I was for the past couple of years
reaching out to the Presbyterian Church. That resulted by the way in the
rescinding, at least toning down very much, of a boycott, if you will, of
Israel. We were successful there.
In this endeavor with the Moslem community would you also include members of
Yes, indeed. We would probably begin frankly by reaching out to particular
members of the congregation. I wouldn’t want people there who, there’s a
privacy thing that is good to build some trust and then you open up down the
road for some more public sorts of things.
I want to start this in the Fall because they’re going to have a big
convention here and I want the Jewish community to be involved. I’m very
interested. It’s exciting. I think there’s a few things we can do.
You had mentioned some of the capacities that you’ve been active in in the
greater Columbus community. Are there others as well?
Yes, over the years, there have been different things. I’ve always been
very happy that we have Ohio State here. It’s such a huge part of life in
Columbus. I’ve always been very supportive of Hillel. From time to time,
depending on who their staff is, they will be supportive of Reform Jewish
students. In the times when I don’t feel, (and there have been, you know it’s
been 25 years) there have been staff members, different execs, when I don’t
feel that the Reform Jewish students are being cared for I take a bigger role
and I’ve had a bigger role. Now I think they’re pretty good but I keep my
eye on it. If things aren’t being taken care of and that frankly depends on
who the religious leadership is of Hillel, I don’t want Reform students to
feel like second class citizens of Hillel. That’s a big thing with me. I was
able to take a year off of HUC because of some credit they gave me for my
undergraduate years and I went and I didn’t want to graduate early from
Rabbinic School. I was the Hillel Director of Washington University, it would
have been my third year at HUC. I could have done course work at HUC by mail in
those days. I was able to be the Associate Director of the Hillel Foundation and
it was a real struggle because our Reform kids felt like second class citizens.
It’s an old story. I worked with the Reform temples and got them prayerbooks
and so forth and built up a little community there. It’s much better now
because the National Reform Movement has taken an issue and an interest in it, a
group called Kesher. I always keep my eye out on that.
It’s always been an interest of mine. I’ve been the President of the
Columbus Board of Rabbis, active in that organization over the years, Hillel,
the Jewish Federation and so forth but Hillel has always had a kind of special
place in my heart.
How do you spend your leisure time? What are your hobbies, your special
interests? Where have you traveled?
My wife and I love to travel. We’re going to Europe this Summer. I’ve led
trips to Israel, but that’s pretty standard rabbinic fare. We like to relax.
We’re two hard working people. Now we love to visit our grandchildren. I’m
one of the few people that goes to Florida to visit their grandchildren. Most
people go to visit their grandparents, a reverse commute. If I have a passion
and an interest it’s American History, especially 19th century
American History and the Civil War era. I’m a real nut and I schlep my wife
around to the battlefields. She doesn’t want to go but I go to them and I read
voraciously in American History, especially 19th century American
History and also 18th century. I enjoy traveling. I love choral
singing and I love music. Marsha is trained pretty much in opera. She sings in
the temple choir, Sheronim. She also sings in Vaudevilites which is a big show
here in town and she’s sung in the Columbus Symphony Chorus. We enjoy choral
music which I don’t have a lot of time for because most of my evenings are
taken up but I do enjoy singing and I do enjoy music and piano and choral music.
Are there other things that you’d like to add that we haven’t touched?
I have been very happy in my rabbinate. Rabbis get together and they talk, you know, over a glass of wine at rabbinic conventions. You hear a lot of war stories. I have a very fulfilling rabbinate. It’s always nice when I think you have a good shiddach, a good match, and it really is like that.
You’ll find out, rabbis will know after a very short period of time (at
least I feel this way) whether this is going to work or you’re going to be
constantly in crisis mode. Of course congregations go through periods of stress
and strain and growth. There are the good years and there are the lean years,
and there are the surplus years and there’s the deficit years and all that
sort of a thing, but its been a fundamentally good match.
What this congregation, here’s the secret, what you want to do as a rabbi
has to be what the congregation wants the Rabbi to do. I know that sounds
simplistic but all too often that kind of conversation either doesn’t take
place or doesn’t take place honestly.
I’ll give you a couple of examples. There are rabbis in which the Rabbi
wants to be the (I’ll use an expression that my grandfather may he rest in peace would use)
he would call a “public man,” which is an old fashioned kind of
expression for a kind of Rabbi who has breakfast with the Mayor or the Rabbi who
sits on the Board of United Way or the rabbi who’s kind of the representative
of the Jews to the, you know sits on the Board of the Opera or something like
that, the Jew out there in the general community, sits on powerful Boards, even
Jewish Boards like the Jewish Foundation or the Jewish Federation and is
fundamentally a big time fund raiser, all that sort of political power, sort of
economic clout sort of guy. By the way there are rabbis who really enjoy doing
that. It’s beyond my ken to understand why. If I really enjoyed doing that I
would do what my wife does. I understand the corporate world. She works for a
fortune 50, fortune 10 actually, corporation. I know what it means to work in a
corporation. That’s fine. My daughter is now going to work in that world. They’re
great at it, they love it. It is what it is. It’s not me, not why I became a
There are people who want to do that and there are congregants who are upset
because they’re not pastoral which is a huge part of my rabbinate, taking care
of people during their tough times, funerals, marriage difficulties, kids that
are driving them crazy, you know any of the stresses and strains of life and
counseling, which I do a slew of them. If a rabbi wants that the congregation is
going to be really hurt that our Rabbi is not there for us when we’re sick and
grieving and upset or whatever. On the other hand there are congregations that
want their Rabbi to be the sort of person where the Rabbi is more into teaching
biblical history. There’s nothing wrong with any of these models of a rabbi
and most of them are never these extremes. Every job has its, I mean I sit on
community Boards. It’s a matter of degree, it’s a matter of stress, it’s a
matter of where you put the emphasis. As long as there’s a mutuality of
expectation, then as long as people are competent, you’re going to have
satisfaction. That’s been the case here for me and the congregation. When it
doesn’t occur people feel hurt. Rabbis feel hurt, congregations feel hurt and
you have a kind of a breakdown and people go their separate ways and that’s
okay. What’s sad is when people stay in those situations for years, whether it’s
the congregation or the Rabbi, and everybody’s miserable and then people flee.
Then there are congregations that are known, (I will tell you this and I don’t
mind recording this for history because everybody knows it) that are known and
get reputations as being terrible places to be a Rabbi because they chew you up
and spit you out. They’re called sharks and everybody knows this. It’s no
different than in the corporate world that you know X corporation or Y
corporation is just a terrible place to be employed because they treat people
like dirt. So why would you want to go there and those people will find a hard
time hiring a Rabbi.
The other nice thing I want to say is how meaningful it is to be able to be a
Rabbi at a congregation for the length of time that I’ve served this temple. I
marry people I consecrate, are Bar and Bat Mitzvahed. I know everybody. I know
grandpa and the kids and the parents and I also know what’s going on in the
family and we know each other. There’s a real comfortable feeling. That’s
something you just can’t buy or replicate and you only get with time so that’s
a blessing too. There are good sides to all this. That’s about it.
On behalf of the Columbus Jewish Historical Society and Congregation Beth
Tikvah we want to thank you for contributing to the Oral History Project and to
Beth Tikvah’s Archives. This concludes our interview.
This is an addendum to Rabbi Huber’s interview.
I just wanted to add that one of the things that I feel that I was a big
pusher or mover for was a position that now exists in our community and that is
a Chaplaincy position that is currently run out of Wexner Heritage but it’s
under Zusman Hospice and so forth. I pushed years ago for this. The way the
Columbus Board of Rabbis had dealt with this, you know all the Rabbis here get
calls, we’re getting calls, we still get them by the way, at least it’s a
little less. We’re getting constant calls, Rabbi can you come to X nursing
home we have a Jewish patient here. I’m not talking about Wexner, it’s a
Jewish institution. You name it. There are a hundred of these institutions and
they have one, maybe two Jews. Can you come and do something for holidays, can
you come and do something for Passover, can you lead a Shabbat? Jails, can you
come and visit our one or two or three inmates? It was really catch as catch
One of the things I did, by the way I still do this, is that for years, it
was always my specialty and my emphasis, I didn’t mention this, I forgot
totally about it. For years I was the Rabbi who always went to Harding Hospital
which is now part of the OSU system here in Worthington. It’s one of really
the most famous psychiatric hospitals here in America. It had patients, not so
much from Columbus, it did of course, but I mean the Jews I visited there were
from Cleveland or they were from, really they were from all over the country.
They would come here for specialty treatment and very serious psychiatric
disorders. I always made it a specialty of mine. I did it at the State Hospital
downtown. In St. Louis I did it at the St. Louis, Missouri State Hospital on
Arsonal Steet which was, God help us, the worst place on the face of the planet,
terrible conditions. I conducted weekly Sabbath services. These were people who
were spending their lives in deep psychosis and they were heavily, heavily
medicated. We’re talking about serious side effects like Tardive Dyskinesia. I
learned all the language. With massive doses of Haldol for severe either Turrets
Syndrome or Schizophrenia, people.spent their lives in institutions. Of course
we have them here in Columbus and if they’re Jews I would visit and conduct
Sabbath services. It was quite a trip to conduct Sabbath services for people who
were suffering from severe delusions, but I learned how to do it and I was their
Rabbi and I did it over at Harding. I pushed and pushed and pushed our
Federation should fund a Chaplaincy position. The Jewish community should pay
for a Rabbi to go visit Jews. Congregational Rabbis take care of their own
congregants. They don’t have the time. Even if they have the inclination, they
don’t have the time to visit hospitals, to visit prisons. I have visited and I
do visit, I do have a congregant in prison and he’ll be there for another 10
I go out at least a couple of times a year to visit this individual. I won’t
be able to go up to Marion or out to Orient where my congregant is, Orient,
Ohio. That’s a couple of hours, that’s a half a day kill. Now they have a
Chaplain who visits the Jews there. Now they have a Chaplain who’s now a
position. It was filled by Rabbi Mark Goldberg, It’s currently filled by
another Rabbi. I’m very happy it’s filled by a Rabbi. This person takes care
of the Zusman folks, kind of an in-house Chaplain but also visits nursing home
people, not prisons, but I’m pushing for that. I was .the Rabbi in town who
began that move. I pushed it, I pushed it, I pushed it with leaders in our
community, with the Federation, and then the Columbus Board of Rabbis pushed it
and now it has happened. So I wanted to add that for the kind of historical