Rabbi Joe Hample
Rabbi Joseph Hample was born in Buffalo, educated at Harvard, and long employed at Wells Fargo Bank in California. Ordained in 2009, he worked as a full-time prison chaplain before coming to Tree of Life Congregation in 2012. His roundabout path to our pulpit has given him a special appreciation of life’s variety and people’s diversity.
Rabbi Joe writes skits for children, leads teens in social action projects, unpacks ancient texts for adults, and opens doors to G-d for all ages. He believes in the spiritual power of transitions: birth and marriage, b’nei mitzvah and conversion, illness, and death. And he loves questions. What is Judaism without questions?
Rabbi Joe lives in Morgantown with his partner, Barry Wendell, a retired schoolteacher and cantorial soloist. Between them, Rabbi Joe and Barry have served the Jewish community for more than thirty years.
In February of 2014, the Jewish Chronicle of Pittsburgh published an article by Rabbi Hample. Fifty-four Reform rabbis shaved their heads on April 1, 2014 at the annual convention of the Central Conference of American Rabbis in Chicago. Rabbi Joe was one of them. The event raised $580,000 for pediatric cancer research through the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, which has organized thousands of head-shaving events since 2000
The CCAR spectacle, called “Shave for the Brave,” honored the memory of eight-year-old “Superman” Sam Sommer, who died of leukemia in December of 2013, in Glencoe, IL. Rabbi Joe had less hair to lose than many of his colleagues, especially the women! But he participated at the behest of Sheryl Grossman, a member of our Morgantown community and a friend of “Superman” Sam’s parents, both rabbis. Though the Torah frowns on funerary head shaving (Deuteronomy 14:1), Rabbi Joe notes: “A rabbi should be able to explain why God allows the innocent to suffer, but I cannot. The best I can do is mourn with the family and friends of the deceased. Embracing baldness in solidarity with cancer patients is an extension of bikkur cholim, visiting the sick.”