After teaching, leading worship, serving and reaching out to the Jewish community for 25 years, Congregation Har Shalom
Rabbi Eliot Baskin was given an honorary doctorate Monday by Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion at its
Los Angeles campus. This is his second doctorate - Baskin earned his first, in pastoral care and counseling, from the
school's New York City campus in 1993.
"This degree was a harder degree, the culmination of 25 years of serving congregations and really living the
rabbinate," he said.
Baskin has served Har Shalom on a part-time basis since 2004, where he has helped the congregation grow and thrive.
"He has been an enormous influence," Har Shalom's President of the Board Marc Flitter said. "His arrival heralded a
new era of Congregation Har Shalom since Durango is too small to support a full-time rabbi."
Baskin, who lives in a Denver suburb, was ordained in 1985 after earning a master of arts in Hebrew letters. He began
his career in Rochester, Minn., where he was the rabbi for B'nai Israel Synagogue and a chaplain at the Mayo Clinic.
"I was ministering to the frozen chosen," he said.
After serving at synagogues in Glastonbury, Conn., Fort Collins and Evergreen, he and his family, wife Dr. Hilary
Nieberg Baskin and two sons, settled in Denver.
For the last 13 years, he also has served as a chaplain with the Denver Police Department and as the Jewish community
chaplain and rabbinic director of the Rafael Spiritual Healing Center of the Jewish Family Service of Colorado. He
works with the elderly, the ill, people in the hospital, Jews who are incarcerated and the mentally ill.
"I've really enjoyed the crossfertilization of chaplaincy and congregational work," he said. "One enriches the
The diversity of his work life doesn't stop there. As a "Cyber Rebbe," he answered questions on the website
www.Jewish.com in its "Ask a Rabbi" section from 1997 to 2004. And while serving as a "Cruise Rabbi," Baskin and his
family have traveled the world while he leads worship with Jews on board.
"I lead 'castaway Jews' stranded at sea," he says in one of his many one-liners.
At Har Shalom, which is associated with the Reform Jewish movement, Baskin works with a diverse congregation that
also includes Jews who follow the Conservative and Orthodox traditions.
"He's very accepting of it, very able to accommodate the pluralistic nature of our congregation," Flitter said. "His
special qualities include the knowledge and background to make those congregants who are from Conservative or
Orthodox traditions comfortable both on ritual and a community, cultural basis."
Baskin incorporates the Southwest Colorado lifestyle into the services he leads at Har Shalom, which is the only
synagogue in the Four Corners. He has led Shabbat services on the slopes of Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort and
hikes to the Lion Den during the festival of Shavuot, which celebrates the Moses' receipt of the Ten Commandments on
"I've used creative ecoprogramming, including ski shabbatons, hot springs mikva, Trail and Torah, b'nai mitzvah
vision quests and sandbar mitavah kayaking," he said.
Baskin says he is inspired by the congregation in Durango.
"I love serving people so dedicated," he said. "Denver has 100,000 Jews. It's easy to be Jewish here. It's more
difficult in a small town. I'm in awe of what these people are doing."
They are pretty impressed by him, too.
"We are very proud of him," Flitter said.