New rabbi follows in family’s footsteps

Joseph Skloot is the new assistant rabbi at Washington Hebrew Congregation. Photo courtesy of Washington Hebrew Congregation
Joseph Skloot is the new assistant rabbi at Washington Hebrew Congregation. Photo courtesy of Washington Hebrew Congregation

Coming to Washington Hebrew Congregation was “a historic decision” for Joseph Skloot, who recently was appointed assistant rabbi at the same congregation his grandfather, Rabbi Samuel Volkman, served as an interim rabbi in 1934.

“I grew up with a deep respect for rabbis and proudly Jewish,” Rabbi Skloot said. His grandfather was “a deeply scholarly person, deeply committed to issues of social justice, who cared for his congregants.”

Skloot, 30, said he, too, is committed to Jewish scholarship. However, “my understanding of the rabbinate is a little different.” Skloot plans to be very involved in pastoral care and deeply involved “first and foremost in forging relations” with his congregants. “This first year is about learning about this congregation as much as I can,” he said.

Skloot is excited about joining Washington Hebrew for many reasons. “I wanted to be in a community deeply committed to learning and scholarship. This is one of the most intelligent congregations, both Jewishly and broadly as well,” he said.

He also is pleased to be working with a very large urban congregation that has four rabbis, two cantors and about 3,000 families. Skloot expects to work as part of a team, involved in many different facets of synagogue life, he said.

He grew up in New York City and graduated from Princeton University in 2005 with a degree in history. He was ordained in 2010 at the Hebrew Union College in New York.

He currently is a doctoral candidate in Jewish history at Columbia University, where he is writing his dissertation on the impact of printing technology on 16th-century Jewish culture. He holds master’s degrees in history from Columbia and in Hebrew literature from Hebrew Union College.

The resident of the Petworth area of Washington, D.C., has served as a rabbi or teacher in several congregations in New York and New Jersey. He also served as chaplain at the Swedish Medical Center in Seattle, Wash.

Skloot’s interest in Jewish communities throughout the world resulted in his leading High Holidays services at the Jewish Congregation of Hamelin, Germany. He has worked with Jewish communities in Russia and the Ethiopian community in Israel.

In his free time, Skloot plays the guitar, sings and cooks – “whatever is at the green market.”
His wife, Rabbi Erin Glazer, works at Mazon in Washington D.C. She grew up in Richmond and attended the University of Maryland.

“He will be an outstanding addition to Washington Hebrew Congregation,” said Senior Rabbi Bruce Lustig. “Joe is warm, funny and brilliant. He has already, in a very short time, made a huge impact.”

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