Become a digitalPLUS subscriber. $12 for 12 weeks.

Keeping a foot in each world

Rabbi Dan Levin

Title: Senior rabbi of Temple Beth El, Boca Raton.

Other community posts: Member, executive board, Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County; board member, Hillel of Broward and Palm Beach; member, President's Rabbinical Council, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.

Education: Degree in philosophy and religion, Colgate University; master of arts in Hebrew letters, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Jerusalem, Los Angeles and New York City.

Personal: Age 41. Born in Rockville, Md.

Family: Married to Aimee, a housewife. Three children.

A distinctive of your approach to religion?

To synthesize the wisdom and the vitality of our tradition and its texts and ritual meaning with the contemporary world. To make sense and be powerful, you can't leave either world.

Did you always want to be a rabbi?

No, I thought I was going to be a journalist or opinion writer. In high school, I loved writing for the high school newspaper. In college, I spent a year at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and had the opportunity to study Jewish theology and philosophy.

I was a Senate press intern in 1989. The press secretary said, "Do you want to be a newswriter or a newsmaker? Someone who is making a difference or writing about other people who are making a difference?" That's what rang in my head as I headed to Israel in my junior year.

Favorite pastime?

On occasion, golf. My wife and I enjoy a walk in the morning to clear our heads and get a little exercise. And I try to read two or three newspapers a day.

What book have you been recommending lately?

I continually go back to "Man's Search for Meaning" by Viktor Frankl. He wrote about his Holocaust experiences from a psychiatrist viewpoint. He wrote about logotherapy, which finds mental health in meaning. He found that those who had a reason to survive could persevere through the most awful experiences you can imagine.

Written any books?

On Mondays, the Union for Reform Judaism sends out a short essay on the Torah portion. I was the featured writer for the portions from Exodus.

Favorite vacation spot?

Jerusalem is a home and a passion. It's where I discovered Judaism, and where I met my wife. I'm always amazed that it has so much change and so much history at the same time.

Favorite TV shows?

"The Good Wife." I like to see how they include a weekly sdtoryline with ongg struggles of how you build a marriage when there's been a breach of trust.

And if I have a guilty pleasure, my wife and I have been watching "General Hospital" since we were little kids. It's so beautifully mindless. I still TiVo it every night.

Favorite film(s)?

My favorite of all time is "Saving Private Ryan." It reminds me that the life I lead was earned by someone else. And that I need to honor the sacrifice every day.

Favorite music? Favorite performer(s)?

Sting and The Police. The music is complex, and it's about something. They write about matters of the heart and spirit. I also love Itzhak Perlman (violinist) and Andy Statman (clarinetist). And I like Broadway music. "Les Miserables" is my favorite show. And I like "Wicked," for the idea is that a person is more than you think they are.

Do you have a hero?

One is Gandhi. He was never afraid to lead, but he would never lead absent of his principles. It was his belief and his faith that drove his leadership, not the other way around.

I also admire Ben Franklin. Besides being an incredible stateman and writer, he was multi-talented and eclectic. He never seemed to grow old.

Do you have a treasured possession?

One of my father's cousins is a Roman Catholic monsignor. He's worked for Catholic Charities for the poor in New York. When I was ordained as a rabbi, he bought me a beautiful tallit (prayer shawl) with some beautiful embroidery on it.

Something most people don't know about you?

If I could have another career, I think I'd be an actor or Broadway singer. I don't have the talent or presence to do it, but I love theater and movies. I once met a producer on "E.R.," and I said if he needed a rabbi chaplain, I'd be happy to fly out to L.A. Ironically, they did have a rabbi chaplain on an episode, but she was much better than me.

What's the most important thing you've ever learned?

One is that relationships and love are what ultimately matter. I used to think that it was all about finding truth. I think I've learned that it's more about love than truth.

Do you know someone we should profile? Tell James D. Davis, Religion Editor, Sun Sentinel, at 200 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, FL. You may also e-mail him at JDavis@SunSentinel.com or call at 954-356-4730.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
Comments
Loading