Rabbi Joe Blair is proud and delighted to serve as the rabbi and spiritual leader of Temple House of Israel (Staunton) and Beth El (Harrisonburg) Congregations. In this somewhat unique peripatetic and shared rabbi position, he divides his time between these two long-established Jewish centers, serving the extended Jewish community in the Shenandoah Valley and Central Virginia.
Rabbi Joe’s vision is to build, nurture, and nourish a strong, vibrant Jewish community in the Shenandoah Valley in Central Virginia, and to be connected to and support the larger community in the local area and outward into the world. He was selected to be one of eighteen rabbis nationally to participate in the sixth cohort of the STAR PEER program, which assisted him in honing his skills and directing his energies, which makes him one of the one hundred and sixteen rabbis nationally who have engaged in this exclusive training program.
Rabbi Joe, the eldest of five, was raised in Fairfax (Northern Virginia). He attended the University of Virginia for his Bachelor of Arts and Master of Computer Sciences degrees, then went on to attend the Marshall-Wythe School of Law at the College of William and Mary. He and his lovely wife Karen (also a U.Va and Marshall-Wythe graduate) settled in Northern Virginia, and lived there for fifteen years, during which time Rabbi Joe worked with computers for a variety of consulting, high-tech, and telecommunications firms after a very brief stint as a general practice attorney. They were blessed with a wonderful daughter, who is now married, and the proud parent of a son.
During the years living in Northern Virginia, Rabbi Joe became increasingly involved in the life of his local congregation and the larger Jewish community. He found himself wanting to deepen and broaden his service to the Jewish community and to increase his Jewish knowledge. After long consideration, he decided to attend rabbinical school. He applied, attended, and graduated from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College (RRC) in Philadelphia, concluding his schooling in 1996, when he earned a Master of Hebrew Letters degree and was ordained.
During his five years of rabbinical studies, Rabbi Joe held several pulpits, taught in Religious and Hebrew schools, offered adult education classes, served on the editorial staff of the Reconstructionist Prayerbook Commission, and edited numerous publications, as well as authoring and contributing materials to a number of books and publications. Upon graduation from RRC, Rabbi Joe re-entered the academic world as Executive Director of the Duke University Hillel Foundation. After three years at Duke (during which time the Freeman Center for Jewish Life was built and dedicated), Rabbi Joe was recruited to return to his alma mater at the University of Virginia, serving at the UVa Hillel Foundation as Executive Director. Rabbi Joe, Karen, and their daughter took up that challenge, happily moving to Charlottesville. Rabbi Joe continues to reside there with his wife, supporting a household that includes a total of nine dogs and two horses.
Rabbi Joe served as an Executive Director for Hillel Foundations for approximately five years. He loved programming, teaching, and working with the students, and found it deeply rewarding, but did not thrive on the increasingly administrative and fund-raising role that was thrust upon him. Regretfully, Rabbi Joe chose to end his association with the national Hillel organization. Although Rabbi Joe officially left the Hillel organization, he continued to serve as a rabbinic adviser to the Hillels at Washington and Lee University and James Madison University, and made himself available to students.
He was employed for a time as a Legal Analyst at LexisNexis Law Publishing (formerly the Michie Company, a division of Matthew-Bender, a subsidiary of Reed Elsevier) prior to coming to the two congregations as their rabbi.
Rabbi Joe has also remained active as a part-time copyeditor, proofreader, and indexer for a variety of Hebrew-English publications, including the Hebrew-English Tanakh (published by the Jewish Publication Society -JPS), several volumes in the series on the Talmud by H. Gamoran, and a series (in progress through Stanford U. Press) translating the Zohar by D. Matt.
Throughout his adult years, Rabbi Joe has remained active in the Jewish community wherever he lived, teaching, leading services, and working with groups and individuals as opportunities and needs have arisen.
If you should hear or know of anyone who is ill, hospitalized or shut-in, or who might otherwise wish a visit or call from the rabbi, please email or leave a message on the telephone answering machine at the temple. Messages are checked frequently.
In the event that there should be a need (Chas ve’shalom) for the services of the Chevrah Kadishah (Holy Burial Society), please contact Rabbi Joe by email or phone. If there is a need for information concerning Jewish funeral practices, you may also contact Rabbi Joe. (Contact information below.)
Other Lifecycle Events
You may also contact Rabbi Joe with regard to other lifecycle events such as Brit Milah (Circumcision of a son), Brit Bar or Brit Bat (Welcoming a Son or Daughter), Naming Ceremonies, Weddings, Bar or Bat Mitzvah (Celebration ritual for a religious coming-of-age ceremony), and so on. There is no honorarium expected from members of the congregations for such ritual events; non-members may inquire about the current guidelines.
Office Days and Visits
Rabbi Joe is available by appointment only.
In general, he is available for meetings and appointments in Staunton usually on Mondays and Fridays. There are no fixed office hours so please email or call for a time to meet.
He is available for meetings and appointments in Harrisonburg usually on Sundays and Thursdays.
Other times and days to meet or speak with him may be available. Please feel free to call or email to set up a time to meet when he can focus exclusively on the conversation with you.
You may also contact Rabbi Joe to discuss presentations on Judaism to Church groups, Youth Groups, Civic organizations, school groups, and other community groups and organizations.
Rabbi Joe can be contacted through the congregation by telephone or by email.
Email Rabbi Joe Blair
Temple House of Israel 540-886-4091
Beth El Congregation 540-434-2744