Rabbi Max Chaiken

Rabbi Max Chaiken is excited and proud to join the team at Congregation Kol Ami as Assistant Rabbi. A native of Teaneck, New Jersey, Rabbi Chaiken also grew up at the URJ Camp Harlam, in Kunkletown, PA. It was at camp that he first fell in love with living Judaism, and music was his first doorway into that passion. Throughout high school and college, he continue to lead communities in song and prayer, building a lifelong passion for helping to create participatory, musical prayer experiences.

            Rabbi Chaiken earned his Bachelor’s degree in Economics and Public Policy from Brown University in 2009. From there he moved to Boston, where he taught Jewish music, Hebrew, and various other topics in synagogue religious schools, and Jewish day schools. It was over the course of these years learning and teaching that Rabbi Chaiken felt the call towards the rabbinate.

            Throughout his time at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Rabbi Chaiken had the honor to serve numerous communities here in Los Angeles and beyond. During his first year of seminary, while studying in Jerusalem, he served as the rabbinic intern at Birkat Shalom, a progressive community hosted at Kibbutz Gezer. Upon arriving to HUC-JIR in Los Angeles, he further served a number of communities, including two years as the student rabbi for Congregation Etz Chaim in Merced, California, teaching religious school at Temple Isaiah, and completing a course in pastoral education at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. During his final two years of seminary, Rabbi Chaiken served as the rabbinic intern here at Congregation Kol Ami.

             Rabbi Chaiken earned his Masters of Arts in Hebrew Letters in 2016, and was ordained in 2018. His rabbinic thesis, “Telling a New Story: A Model for Economic Ethics in Jewish Law” combines his undergraduate interest in economics with his passion for Jewish thought and philosophy. A passionate writer, Rabbi Chaiken was twice awarded the Rubin Memorial Prize for Academic Writing while at HUC in Los Angeles. Additionally, he co-authored an article in the CCAR Press’ publication The Fragile Dialogue: New Voices of Liberal Zionism, and he participated as a fellow in the AIPAC Leffell Fellowship, a program which brings seminary students from across denominational lines into dialogue and learning about Israel.

Rabbi Chaiken is also a passionate composer of original Jewish music and poetry. His song Eliyahu Hanavi was first published in the Ruach 5771 compilation with Transcontinental Music, and his album of original Jewish music, All That Breathes, was recorded and produced in 2012.

            Here at Congregation Kol Ami, Rabbi Chaiken is working hard to build community for folks in their 20s and 30s, and recently launched The Open Yad Project: Young Adults of Kol Ami. In addition to pastoral responsibilities, Rabbi Chaiken also teaches adult education courses, contributes to social justice initiatives, directs weekly Shabbat music, and helps manage our social media accounts.

Rabbi Chaiken passionately believes that our ancient tradition has incredible tools for helping to make contemporary life meaningful. He is grateful for the chance to bring together interests in storytelling and poetry, music, Hebrew, and more as he seeks to share this message with others. He lives in Altadena with his husband, Rabbi Danny Shapiro, and their dog, Oogie.

Share this page