Named one of “America’s Most Inspiring Rabbis” by The Forward, Rabbi Michael Knopf is dedicated to helping contemporary Jews meaningfully engage with their tradition, each other, and the world. He believes that the time-tested insights of the Jewish tradition are not only pertinent but vital in today’s world. He is committed to revealing Torah’s enduring relevance, interpreting and applying Jewish values in light of contemporary insights, bringing Judaism into active conversation and collaboration with other faith traditions, and harnessing the Jewish tradition as a force for a more just and peaceful society.
Rabbi Knopf is passionate about building inclusive, supportive, and deeply intertwined communities where the enduring power and truths of the Jewish tradition come alive for people of all backgrounds, ages, and stages. Under his spiritual leadership, Temple Beth-El has grown into Richmond’s premier space for spiritual, intellectual, and moral growth; for living out core Jewish values of justice, compassion, and peace; for inspiring both individual flourishing and world-repair.
Among his signature initiatives at Temple Beth-El is The Havurah Project, a program that brings diverse groups of congregants and community members together for monthly Shabbat dinners in each others’ homes. After the legalization of same-sex marriage in 2015, Rabbi Knopf was the first rabbi in central Virginia to officiate at a same-sex wedding, making Temple Beth-El the first synagogue in the region to host such a ceremony in its sanctuary. Rabbi Knopf’s campaign for the inclusion of interfaith families has newly enabled people from non-Jewish backgrounds to participate fully in synagogue life. He is proud that, under his leadership, Temple Beth-El has been named as an inclusive congregation by both Interfaith Family and Keshet.
Committed to a thriving, just, and inclusive Richmond region, Rabbi Knopf is recognized as a leader within and outside the Jewish community. Named one of Richmond’s “40 Under 40” in 2017, he was invited by Governor Ralph Northam to offer the benediction at his inauguration and to preside over the first-ever interfaith Passover Seder at Virginia’s Executive Mansion. In 2017, he launched Encounter RVA, a series of public conversations featuring local religious, civic, and thought leaders with diverse backgrounds and perspectives, aimed at bridging divides, deepening understanding, fostering diverse relationships, and moving the Richmond region forward in these troubled and divisive times.
He is also a co-founder of Richmond Jews for Justice, a member of Leadership Metro Richmond, serves on the Boards of Jewish Family Services of Richmond and the Jewish Community Federation of Richmond, and proudly participates in several local interfaith groups and movements for social justice and human rights.
Rabbi Knopf, a fellow of both Rabbis Without Borders and the Clergy Leadership Incubator, has been published in several anthologies of contemporary Jewish thought and is a regular contributor to The Huffington Post, Haaretz, Times of Israel, The Forward, Jewish Values Online, and other regional, national, and international publications. He is a member of the international Rabbinical Assembly, the Richmond Rabbinical Council, and T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights; and serves on the Rabbinic Advisory Councils of Hand in Hand Schools in Israel and the Masorti Foundation for Conservative Judaism in Israel.
Rabbi Knopf previously served as Assistant Rabbi of Har Zion Temple in Penn Valley, PA. Before his ordination from the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies in 2011, Rabbi Knopf helped coordinate the Miller Introduction to Judaism Program, the nation’s largest preparatory program for conversion to Judaism, worked as a spiritual counselor at Beit T’Shuvah, a Jewish addiction treatment facility, and served several congregations and educational institutions in the U.S. and Canada.
Rabbi Knopf lives in Richmond’s Museum District with his wife, Adira, and three children. Originally from Atlanta, Georgia, he holds degrees from Columbia University (History, Cum Laude), the Jewish Theological Seminary of America (Talmud and Rabbinics, Magna Cum Laude), and the American Jewish University (Master of Arts in Rabbinic Studies, Rabbinic Ordination). He’s a pop culture buff, a political junkie, and enjoys movies, traveling, and pizza.