Welcome, Rabbi Michael Lewis
He loves history and baseball and couldn’t be more excited about moving to Dallas to be Temple Emanu-El’s newest rabbi.
“There has been something exciting happening in the DFW area for a long time, especially its ability to harness energy in younger people,” says Rabbi Michael Lewis. “I’m also excited to be going to a Reform congregation that is so dedicated to Judaism.”
When Rabbi Lewis begins work at Temple on June 28, his programmatic focus will be youth and teen engagement; young adults; conversion and interfaith families and LGBTQ+ outreach, in addition to his rabbinic roles of teaching, worship, preaching and pastoral care.
Any initial thoughts about your arrival at Temple?
I’m looking forward to engaging 20s and 30s as they connect with their Jewish identity, and to helping teenagers and younger kids develop and understand a sense of their place in the Jewish community.
Is there some aspect of Dallas that is proving to be different from what you expected?
Dallas is a gay mecca, which was surprising to me. I think one thing that is so important, both in our country and as Jews, is breaking out of the bubbles we might live in. I view the Jewish tradition as trying to help us figure out how to be in community with one another even when we disagree with others. There’s something beautiful about a place still trying to figure out who and what it is; I gather that sense a little bit from Dallas.
Yes, people figured out how to make it beautiful despite few natural resources. If you roll with the Israel analogy, Israel is where it is because it’s the crossroads of three continents. Dallas has managed to become the crossroads of the United States in a number of ways.
Share a bit about your journey to the rabbinate.
I worked in politics after earning my undergraduate degree, and I realized I was missing community-building and connecting with people. I came to see the rabbinate as a path to allow me to learn, teach, be a community leader and to help the Jewish people grow.
You are a self-described history nerd. What will future historians say about American Judaism in 2022, and Reform Judaism in particular?
There’s this outburst of Jewish cultural, literary and religious contributions to the Jewish story. We are in the middle of one of those moments. Through movies, television, literature and other cultural artifacts, we are contributing to the enduring Jewish conversation.
Reform and Conservative Judaism have to be authentic and valid for reasons other than that they are not Orthodox Judaism. We tend to look over our shoulders and say [of Orthodox Judaism] ‘that’s the religion I’m not practicing.’ Our version of Judaism is deeply rooted in the questions that our tradition has been asking for the past 3,000 years: How do you adapt and assimilate to the modern world and its cultural mores while maintaining the roots and traditions that got you there. Part of what I want to do is continue to frame the conversation to say our Judaism is authentic and real and necessary.
And when you’re not working?
I’m a big baseball fan: Oakland A’s and LA Dodgers. I also admire Corey Seager and Marcus Semien, two new Rangers players this year. Other than that, I love reading, playing in adult sports leagues, visiting breweries and spending time with friends on Shabbat.