Rabbi Scott Fox did not intend to be a rabbi. Instead, he wanted to be a jazz musician. He studied jazz guitar and trained with one of the best guitarists in the country, John Pisano. Even though he thought he was living his dream, things didn’t match up.
“I have a vivid memory of feeling like something was missing,” Fox said. “I loved playing music but there was too much of a disconnect.”
When Fox did a wedding gig with his band, he realized he was on the side and the wedding party was across the room. “I felt like I was here and they are there and something is missing… I needed something more.”
So, Fox embarked on a journey to figure out what his next move should be. He lived on a kibbutz in Israel, where he did organic gardening and environmental work.
“With my hands in the dirt and the sun on my back, I thought about what I wanted to do,” he said. “I loved the direct impact I had doing environmental work. But I needed more of an intellectual piece.
Fox returned to the United States and enrolled at the University of California, Santa Cruz. His teachers told him to read different essays, which he found inspiring. When he investigated who wrote the essays, the authors all had one thing in common: they worked at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC). He was sold, and after graduating from UC Santa Cruz, he received ordination from HUC.
In hindsight, it made sense that Fox became a rabbi; serving the Jewish community is in his blood. His grandfather was president of his synagogue and his grandmother was principal of the religious school at their temple in Barstow. Her mother ran a religious school in San Diego, where Fox grew up.
“Not only was I very involved in the synagogue, but we had a very active Jewish life at home,” he said. “Every Friday night we sat together and had a Shabbat meal and said prayers. We had a songbook that we put together as a family and sang various Jewish songs throughout the evening. On Saturdays we would go to synagogue and come home and discuss the Torah part in depth.
In his current role as rabbi at Temple Israel Long Beach, Fox finds innovative ways for people to have meaningful connections with Judaism.
“I love bringing new ideas and pioneering creativity,” he said. “We have members who go for a creative experience on Saturday mornings where, instead of a traditional Shabbat service, we have an open paint shop. After the holidays, we start hiking and meditating once a month to get out into our natural world and say prayers.
When Fox came to Temple Israel in 2020, from the outset he hoped to cultivate fulfilling relationships with his congregants. He met with seven families twice a week on Zoom to learn more about the synagogue and give them the opportunity to ask him questions.
“It was a great way for me to connect directly with the members, and for me to give the members an opportunity to see that I’m an open book,” he said.
On a day-to-day basis, Fox does different things like calling congregants to chat, planning programs, writing, and attending lifecycle events. It is in these daily tasks that the rabbi can fulfill his mission of bringing spirituality to people.
“What I set out to accomplish in the rabbinate is to enable people to have deep and meaningful connections with themselves, our history, and each other.” – Rabbi Scott Fox
“What I set out to accomplish in the rabbinate is to enable people to have deep and meaningful connections with themselves, our history and with each other,” he said. . “I want to help community members feel connected to each other and to Judaism.”
Quick Takes with Scott Fox
Jewish Diary: What’s your favorite Jewish dish?
Scott Fox: Probably bagels and smoked salmon.
JJ: Where is your favorite place to go out in Long Beach?
SF: My favorite place is the beach. I like to grab a burrito and go down to the water.
JJ: Who is your favorite jazz musician?
SF: Julien Lage. This is the perfect story of a jazz prodigy.
JJ: What does your perfect Shabbat look like?
SF: I sit around the table with my family and my friends and we sing a little and have a very nice conversation. We have a three year old daughter, so in my mind the perfect Shabbat is when she is around other kids and they are all playing together and having a good time.