Rabbi Natan Levy is the Shenley United community's new part-time minister and will lead the Hertfordshire congregation's festival services. Shenley's previous rabbi, Shmuli Kass, died of cancer, aged 30, a year ago.
American-born Rabbi Levy has for the past three years has been the Bristol-based Jewish university chaplain for the West of England and Wales. He and his wife Ariella have two young daughters.
After university, he joined Americorps, an offshoot of the Peace Corps, working on a programme bringing "at-risk" youngsters from the inner city to a ranch and teaching them how to ride and care for horses.
Knowing little of his Jewish roots, he travelled to Israel, where he met and married fellow Californian Ariella. They spent seven years studying in various institutions before he received semichah in Jerusalem.
In addition to his work with students in Bristol, he developed a keen interest in interfaith dialogue and was a co-founder of online Jewish-Muslim radio station Salaam Shalom.
Rabbi Levy told the JC that his daughters' education was a key factor in taking the Shenley post.
"My wife and I loved our role in Bristol, finding our work with the students both challenging and deeply rewarding.
"Unfortunately the Jewish community in Bristol is not large enough to support a Jewish day school and as our oldest daughter will turn five in February, finding a strong Jewish school for her had become a top priority."
Shenley chairman Alan Hirschowitz said "the Levys will be a wonderful addition to our community. They are very keen on the environment and so living in Shenley is ideal for them. The rabbi's strongest attribute is his warm personality and positivity. He is always smiling."