Rabbi Daniel Bouskila, 45, announced in a letter to congregants last week that he is stepping down as senior rabbi of Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel in Westwood, Los Angeles’s largest Sephardic congregation.
Bouskila told The Jewish Journal that after nearly 17 years of leading an 800-person congregation, he wants to pursue other intellectual and communal interests. His immediate plan is to take Sabbatical time to study and explore writing a book on Israeli author S.Y. Agnon, as he determines where else his career will go. He said he is considering teaching at the high school or university level, or pursuing other community or charity work.
“It’s a huge responsibility being the only rabbi in such a big synagogue, and this will be a chance for me to breathe and to relax,” Bouskila said.
Bouskila became rabbi of Sephardic Temple — where he grew up and became a bar mitzvah — in 1993, just after the retirement of Rabbi Jacob Ott, who led the congregation for 34 years. Bouskila originally was hired straight out of rabbinic school while the congregation undertook a search, and two years later he was named to the senior position.
Bouskila said the congregation has been a perfect fit for him.
“It’s a unique type of community — a modern Sephardic community with a unique blend of tradition and modernity,” Bouskila said.
In his tenure, Bouskila built the Hebrew school from about 30 kids to about 200, including about 80 teens. Shabbat attendance has gone from about 120 when he started to 300-400 now, and the average age of attendees has dropped dramatically.
The congregation is putting together a search committee to replace Bouskila, who leaves at the end of this month.