Rabbi Allison Lawton

Cantorial Soloist Michael Robbins, left, and Rabbi Allison Lawton, start their second year at Beth Ami Temple.

Long commutes are nothing new for those living in Los Angeles, but Rabbi Allison Lawton’s commute may look a little different than most.

At least twice a month, she flies to Phoenix from Los Angeles to lead Shabbat services for Beth Ami Temple in Paradise Valley. She is starting her second year at the Reform congregation, along with Cantorial Soloist Michael Robbins, a Phoenix native with a much shorter commute.

Lawton will be in town to greet members and newcomers at the congregation’s open house 6-7:30 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 6, at its home at Palo Cristi Church, 3535 E. Lincoln Drive, Paradise Valley. The event, which will include a wine-and-cheese reception, also will feature an opportunity to meet the Robbins, as well as the congregation’s board of directors and members.

“There are lots of commuting rabbis around the country and around the world,” she said. “It’s the idea that a rabbi can serve a community in a meaningful way, both in person and when needed, via technology.”

In addition to the two Shabbat services a month, and High Holiday services, Lawton leads “Rap with the Rabbi” sessions and flies in for lifecycle and holiday events.

“I’m literally an hour’s flight away” she said.

One reason she hasn’t made a permanent move to Phoenix yet is due to her youngest daughter, who is a junior in high school.

When she’s in town, Lawton stays with her brother, who lives in Scottsdale.

As for Lawton’s co-worker, Robbins has studied voice since his high school choir days and was a featured soloist and member of Congregation Beth Israel’s choir for 18 years before moving to Temple Beth Ami. JN

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