Rabbi Vered L. Harris became the spiritual leader of Temple B’nai Israel in Oklahoma City in 2012. She is the fifth rabbi to serve the congregation since its founding in 1903.
Rabbi Harris’ community work in Oklahoma City includes interfaith dialogue, guest lecturing, and multi-faith prayer services. At the Temple she enjoys serving with a professional and volunteer team offering religious education, pastoral care, prayer, and social action opportunities. Although she was born Jewish, her formal study of the religion did not begin until college. Through learning and living Judaism, Rabbi Harris has become more passionate about civil rights, more compassionate for those who suffer, more open to universal truth, and overall a better human.
Prior to coming to Oklahoma City in 2012, Rabbi Harris served for 12 years as the Education Rabbi at Congregation Beth Torah in Overland Park, Kansas. Her background includes programming for all ages, as well as interests in Jewish women’s issues, poetry, and creative expression. Rabbi Harris is concerned about civil and human rights, particularly concerning people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, as well as pursuing fair treatment of women and girls both domestically and abroad.
Rabbi Harris received her Master of Arts degree in Hebrew Letters and her rabbinic ordination from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR), and her Master of Arts degree in Jewish Education from the Rhea Hirsch School of Education at HUC-JIR. Her MAJE projects included “The Role of the Rabbi in the Religious School,” and a curriculum integrating prayer and the arts. Her Rabbinic thesis was on “Contemporary Midrash: A Tradition Continues.” In 2002 Rabbi Harris was awarded the title of Reform Jewish Educator from the National Association of Temple Educators. Her undergraduate degree is from California State University, Northridge, in Liberal Studies with a focus on the ethnic child, and a minor in Jewish Studies.
Rabbi Harris is published in the Reform Judaism magazine (“Abraham, Great-Grandma Mary, and Me,” (Winter 2013), the American Rabbi (“A Shabbat State of Mind,” 2009), MyJewishLearning.com (“Under God’s Feet,” commentary on parashat Mishpatim reprinted from the URJ), and was the weekly writer for the book of Numbers as part of “Reform Voices of Torah,” the Reform movement’s national on-line commentary (summer 2017).
Rabbi Harris is a member of Oklahoma City’s Downtown Rotary Club 29, the Oklahoma Conference of Churches Religions United Committee, Oklahoma City University Wimberly School of Religion Advisory Board, Sister Cities OKC Board, the FBI Citizens Academy Alumni Association (class 12 in 2014), is a trained member of the Oklahoma Conference of Churches Spiritual and Emotional Disaster Care Team, a member of the Interfaith Alliance of Oklahoma, and serves on State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister’s Faith-Based Advisory Committee. She also enjoys being asked to deliver invocations at Oklahoma City Thunder home games.
Nationally, Rabbi Harris is a member of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, Women’s Rabbinic Network, and the Association of Reform Jewish Educators. She is also an alumna of the Elaine Breslow Institute at Beit T’shuvah (2016), the American Jewish World Service Young Rabbis Delegation to Muchucuxcah, Mexico (2011), the Jewish Women’s Archives Educator Institute focusing on the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S. South (2010), and Germany Close-Up (2008).
Rabbi Harris’ family is from the United States and Israel. She is an advocate for a diverse and inclusive Jewish state of Israel. Mostly raised in Simi Valley, California, Rabbi Harris has lived in California, Israel, Germany, Ohio and Kansas prior to settling in Oklahoma with her husband Benjamin and their three children.