Rabbi Neal Katz
Rabbi Neal Katz is the eighth full-time rabbi at Congregation Beth El since it began in 1887. In 2003, he received his rabbinic ordination from Hebrew Union College (HUC-JIR) in Cincinnati, OH. His rabbinic thesis was an exploration of Predicate Theology and the writings of Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis.
Rabbi Katz grew up in Virginia Beach, VA and was active in his home congregation of Ohef Sholom in Norfolk, VA. Neal grew up in NFTY, the UAHC Camps Eisner and Kutz, and was regional vice-president for NFTY-MAR (then MAFTY) for two years.
In college, Neal spent his junior year in Israel studying at Hebrew Union College and living on Kibbutz Tzora. After receiving his undergraduate degree in political science from George Mason University in Fairfax, VA, Neal married Jennifer Brown. He then became the full-time Director of Youth and Social Action Activities at Temple Sinai in Washington, D.C. During that same time, Neal spent two additional years at George Mason University doing graduate work in counseling.
During the seven years Rabbi Katz was in the Northern Virginia area, he was fortunate to work with many congregations and communities in the capacity of song-leader, teacher, youth group advisor, and service-leader. Most notably was Congregation Ner Shalom in Woodbridge, VA where Neal was mentored by Rabbi Jonathan Katz.
Neal and Jennifer moved to Israel in 1998 to begin his seminary training. While at HUC, Neal pursued his love for Jewish music as an active song-leader for various camps, youth groups, and congregations in and around the Midwest. Neal worked at Camp Ben Frankel in Carbondale, IL for three summers serving as camp rabbi and song-leader. Neal also had the opportunity to song-lead for a Progressive Jewish summer camp outside of Minsk, Belarus in the summer of 1999.
Rabbi Katz has released three CDs of his original Jewish music. His songs have become popular in congregations, camps, and Religious School around the country. In 2009, Neal also released a folk-music CD, and in 2010, he was a finalist in the Kerrville Musical Festival's New Folk Contest. The website for his music can be found at KatzMusic.com.
In addition to his musical travels in the States, when Neal travels abroad, he likes to share his music with member congregations in the World Union for Progressive Judaism. Neal has been honored to share his music and help lead Shabbat worship services at Progressive Jewish congregations in Warsaw, Paris, Prague, Budapest, London, St. Petersburg, and Copenhagen.
While in rabbinic school, Neal served as a student rabbi at congregations in Great Falls, MT, right here in Tyler, TX, and McGehee, AR.
On October 4, 2005, Rabbi Katz was honored with the prestigious T.B. Butler Award for "Most Outstanding Citizen in Tyler 2004" by the Tyler Area Chamber of Commerce. He shared the award with Anwar Khalifa, leader of the East Texas Islamic Society. The award was based on their work with the Abraham House, a joint Jewish-Muslim Habitat for Humanity project benefiting a Christian woman.
In 2008, Neal received the Martin Luther King award for Non-Violent Social Change at the MLK, Jr. Day Celebration in Tyler.
In October of 2012, Neal was honored again by the Tyler Chamber of Commerce with the W.C. Windsor Award for Outstanding Community Service by a citizen under the age of 40.
In 2017, Neal was recognized by Leadership Tyler with the Distinguished Alumni Award. The video that was shown at that awards banquet can be viewed by clicking here.
In 2018, Neal received the Legion of Honor Award for his interfaith work presented by the Chapel of Four Chaplains.
In 2012, Neal was nominated and elected to the Philosophical Society of Texas for a life term that began in 2013.
Neal has taught "Introduction to Judaism" courses at Tyler Junior College. Currently, he teaches that course at the University of Texas at Tyler.
Neal has been active in the greater Tyler community and has also been a speaker at numerous churches and organizations.
A list of current and past community activities include:
- The Tyler Loop - current Board chair
- Hospice of East Texas - Board member and former Board chair (2016)
- Hospice of East Texas Foundation - Board member
- Cancer Foundation for Life - Board member
- Samaritan Counseling Center of Tyler - founding Board Member and former Board chair (2015)
- Tyler Chamber of Commerce - former board Member
- Peace Day Tyler (formerly Art of Peace) - co-founder and current committee member
- Tyler Area Partnership for Education - Leadership Team member
- Texas Peace Summit - organizer
- Nurse-Family Partnership - Community Advisory Board member
- Discovery Science Place - Board member 2009-2014, Gala Committee member, and 2017 Gala Honoree
- Texas Freedom Network - Board member starting in 2015 - based in Austin, and 2019-20 chair
- P.A.T.H. (People Attempting to Help) - former Board member (2004-2010) and Board chair (2009)
- Tyler Ministerial Alliance - chair from 2004-2009
- Leadership Tyler - graduate of Class 19 and current panelist for LT's Diversity Day
- UT Health Northeast - former member of Institutional Review Board (IRB) and the Ethics Committee
- Texas Jewish Historical Society - former board member
- Rock and Research - bio-medical research fundraising program, former committee member from 2011-2013
Neal is a proud member of the Central Conference of American Rabbis and served as the Treasurer for its Southwest Association from 2009-2013. Neal also spent eleven summers as a faculty member at the URJ Greene Family Camp in Bruceville, TX. In 2015 and 2016, he spent his faculty week at the new URJ Six Points Sci-Tech Academy in Byfield, MA.
In 2013, Neal became a panelist for the Jewish Values Online website, an "ask the rabbi" site that answers questions from a variety of Jewish perspectives.
In 2008-2009, Neal was a participant in the Brickner Fellowship. The Brickner Fellows is a joint program of the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership and the Religious Action Center. The Fellowship worked with rabbis from around the country to develop integration skills between religious and civic leadership.
Neal and Jennifer have a son, Micah, and two daughters, Lila and Rebecca. They are both happy to be official Tyler-ites and look forward to many years of study and friendship with the community.