A Message from Rabbi Gary Klein

Judaism can be a very powerful force for good in our lives and in the world. Through the teachings, customs, and historical narratives found in its sacred literature, Judaism can enhance our ethical consciousness and nurture our compassion. It can also help us become more appreciative of the important experiences and people in our lives. This appreciation increases the joy we experience during happy times and softens the pain that sadness brings.

A Jewish congregation should nurture this process. It should also be a second home for every member and it should enhance the pride we feel in being Jews. Temple Ahavat Shalom attempts to fulfill these goals by joining with our members in worship, celebration, study and deeds of service to the Jewish and general communities. We hope you will join us in our shared endeavor. 


Rabbi Klein currently serves as our spiritual leader, a position he has held since July, 1987. Prior to assuming the pulpit of Temple Ahavat Shalom, he served for nine years as spiritual leader of Temple Beth Israel, Altoona, Pennsylvania. Before moving to Altoona, Rabbi Klein served for three years as Assistant Rabbi and Director of Education and Youth Programming at Temple Anshe Sholom, Olympia Fields, Illinois.

A native of Lakewood, New Jersey, Rabbi Klein attended public schools there. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from the University of Cincinnati which he obtained in 1971; and a Master of Arts in Hebrew Letters from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion which he received in 1973. He obtained Rabbinic Ordination from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1975 and was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity by Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in March, 2000. He also participated in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Overseas Students Program, having studied in Israel during the academic year 1969-1970.

In Altoona, Rabbi Klein served as Treasurer of the Altoona Hospital, Chairman of the Board of the Altoona Community Mental Health Center and Vice President of Family and Children’s Services of Blair County Pennsylvania.

In the Tampa Bay area Rabbi Klein serves as the Secretary of Gulf Coast Jewish Family Services, an organization with which he has been very involved for many years. He also serves on the Board of Directors of the Center for Catholic Jewish Studies at St. Leo University. He has also served on the Mease Hospital Ethics Committee, the Board of Directors of the Long Center and the Board of Directors of the Palm Harbor Chamber of Commerce. He has served as President of the Pinellas County Board of Rabbis and he was one of the 1988-1989 designees for Leadership Pinellas.

In 1995, the congregation invited him to serve as rabbi for life and in May, 2000, honored Rabbi and Mrs. Klein on the anniversary of 13 years of service to the congregation. The congregation honored him again in 2004 when it constructed its Youth Center and named it, “The Rabbi Gary Klein Youth Center.”

Rabbi Klein and his wife, Ilene, are parents of two grown children, Jeffrey and Sara, who is married to Cantor Marshall Kapell.