Rabbi Spike Anderson
Rabbi Spike Anderson

Just three hours into his new job as senior rabbi at Temple Emanu-El, Spike Anderson outlined some of his goals for the Spalding Drive congregation.

“I think I’d like to do a lot of community outreach, get the temple much more involved in Israel, and get the temple much more involved in local social justice issues,” Anderson said during a July 1 interview.

Anderson is succeeding Senior Rabbi Scott Colbert, who is retiring at year’s end.  For Anderson, it’s a big move, and not only in terms of leading the Reform Jewish temple. It’s also a literal move across the country from Los Angeles, where a religious awakening drew him from the high-tech business world into religious studies.

“This is a second career for me. I was out in Silicon Valley for the ’90s,” said Anderson.

Originally from the Boston area, he moved to the West Coast to create such tech firms as Monday Technology Solutions. But about 15 years ago, his life changed.

“I had an epiphany of sorts,” Anderson said. “I really wanted to devote my time and life to Judaism and the Jewish people and God.”

After five years of rabbinical schooling at New York’s Hebrew Union College, he returned to the West Coast as a rabbi at L.A.’s Stephen S. Wise Temple, one of the country’s largest.

More recently, he looked around the country for a temple where he could take on the bigger responsibility as senior rabbi. Temple Emanu-El was the right fit.

“I was ready to take a real leadership position, and [I] love Atlanta,” Anderson said, adding that Temple Emanu-El “seems to emanate a great good.”

He and wife, Marita, have three children.  “We like the idea of raising our family here,” Anderson said.

At the Stephen S. Wise Temple, according to its website, Anderson created some innovative programs. They included “Kehillat Wise,” where congregation members provided pro-bono expert advice and talents to one another in the wake of the economic crisis, and “Daditude,” a group for fathers to spend time with the pre-school-aged children.

Anderson said one of his goals at Temple Emanu-El is boosting social-justice involvement, especially in the wake of the Charleston church murders. “I think Jewish relations with the African American community is really important,” he said. “There’s a real need to reconnect us in strong ways really quickly.”

But first things first: “Boxes to unpack and sermons to write,” Anderson said.

–John Ruch