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Rob Cabelli

Associate Chaplain and Rabbi

Campus responsibilities as Associate Chaplain and Rabbi:

  • Campus religious life and social justice awareness
  • Promoting/ facilitating student groups and student religious life
  • Confidential counseling and conversations
  • Religious vocation advisor and spiritual growth counselor
  • Advisor /rabbi for Chalutzim and Jewish life at Grinnell College

To learn more about Rob, feel free to keep reading:

Rob was born at an early age on a small army base in remote Utah, experienced grades 1-12 in semi-rural Rhode Island and first encountered the "big city" at college in Providence. Passionate about many things, including science, art, literature and social justice, he somehow steered toward the sciences, matriculating in biochemistry, picking up a master's degree in pharmacology, and a doctorate in molecular microbiology along the way. He then abandoned the east coast for California, working as a post-doctoral fellow in developmental neurosciences at Stanford and UC-Berkeley. Employment drew him to Los Angeles, where he taught medical and graduate students and continued his research in developmental neurosciences as an assistant professor at the USC School of Medicine.

In 2000, Rob ever so slightly shifted the scope of his interests in teaching and human cognition, development, behavior and psychology, beginning seminary studies at the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, affiliated with the University of Judaism (now known as the American Jewish University) in Los Angeles. Six years later, of which 18 months were spent in Jerusalem, he re-emerged an ordained rabbi, with a love for text and learning, trained in the ancient scribal art of Hebrew calligraphy, with a deep-set belief in the power of ancient tradition combined with post-modern eyes, and a commitment to transcending the ivory tower via the kitchen table of practical rabbinical work.

Rob communed with nature, taught Torah, ministered to Jews and non-Jews alike and pursued his dreams of making the world a better place, albeit on a local scale, for six years as a congregational rabbi in the southern Appalachians and Asheville, NC. After deciding to take a hiatus from the congregational pulpit, Rob was blessed to find a home at Grinnell College, combining his callings to chaplaincy, interfaith relations, living Judaism, and social justice. Rob is married to Liz Cabelli and they are parents of Tapuz, an 18 lb muscle-bound, world-traveling street cat. They also have three grandchildren in the Pacific Northwest, through Liz's two sons, Gabe and Nate.

Rob's spiritual values center on being present and providing support by walking alongside others on their own journeys. His personal path as a rabbi calls him to be a social activist, a filter for Judaism's earth-religion tradition, a respectful interrogator and a loving heretic in his search for wisdom and justice. Rob apprehends spirituality as the embrace of uncertainty and imperfection.

Some of his favorite quotes include:

"If I am not who you say I am, then you are not who you think you are." James Baldwin

"Optimism is true moral courage." Sir Ernest Shackelton

"If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am for myself alone, what am I? If not now, when?" Hillel

"Do not judge a person until you have walked two moons in his moccasins." Traditional Cherokee

And maybe not even then.

Campus Phone: 

(641) 269-4266


(641) 269-4321

Education / Degrees: 

BA Brown University '78 MS UVA '83 PhD Stony Brook '91 MRS Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies/UJ '02 Rabbinic Ordination '06