I come from a long line of rabbis.
A very long line. The first rabbi in this line for whom there is historical evidence was Rabbi Meir Katzenellenbogen (1482–1565), who was the chief rabbi of Padua, Italy. According to legend, he was a direct descendent of King David. Don’t get too excited, it’s just a legend. I can trace my family’s lineage because the leading rabbinic families in Europe kept records and family trees and my father, of blessed memory, had his parents’ family tree which goes back to the early 1700s.
My Hebrew name is Lavey Yitzchak, and I was named for my great grandfather who, in turn, was named after one of the most important and revered Hasidic rabbis of his generation, Reb Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev (1740 – 1809). I am his 8th generation direct descendent. Reb Levi Yitzchak was a unique figure in 18th century Hasidism. He was one of the only early Hasidic masters who served both as the head of the rabbinical court and the leader of the Hasidic community. He was both an intellectual and a mystic, equally at home in his head and his heart. His teaching was scholarly and erudite; his practice was ecstatic; his essence was compassion.
My name, and my ancestor’s presence in my life, have shaped the core of my Jewish being. I am well versed in traditional Jewish texts, and enjoy teaching about the history and development of Jewish ideas, critical contemporary issues through a Jewish lens, and Torah and Talmud for the sheer pleasure of it. At the same time, I thirst for the teachings and practices of the Jewish mystics and of the early Hasidic masters – the students of the Ba’al Shem Tov and the Maggid of Meztritch (including my holy namesake). I am grateful to Prof. Yosef Dan who first introduced me to this world at the Hebrew University. As I began to immerse myself in Kabbalah and Hasidut, I was welcomed by extraordinary teachers and mentors. Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi z”l touched my heart and showed me a depth of spiritual life I could not have imagined. Rabbi David Cooper z”l offered me friendship and the gift of Jewish meditation. Prof. Melila Hellner-Eshed and Rabbi Arthur Green guided me into the Zohar and gave me tools to learn it. Sylvia Boorstein, Jonathan Omer-Man, Rabbis Sheila Peltz Weinberg and Jeff Roth deepened my meditation practice and taught me how to teach. Wherever I go on my spiritual journey, I know they are with me.
Here is my truth.
My spiritual life requires teachings, texts, stories and melodies that touch me in my deepest heart (thus, Omek HaLev) and a joy that comes from seeking Presence. My journey is to be in community with others who seek a profound spirituality, who will explore the mysteries and secrets found in the books of mystics, who will celebrate Jewish holy time with utmost joy, who will engage in spiritual practice with courage curiosity, and compassion, who wish to know something of the Mystery.
I offer this invitation to you:
Let us be companions on this journey together. As you peruse these pages, perhaps you will feel something calling to the deepest part of your heart.
I have been blessed over my life to have served the Jewish people in a variety of contexts.
For almost two decades I served as rabbi and spiritual leader of Congregation Kol Shofar in Tiburon, California, where I helped build a community based on the principles of Torah study, personal spiritual quest and practice, and engaging in acts of social justice. I most recently served as Director of Jewish Life of the Peninsula JCC (Foster City, CA) where, in addition to creating public Jewish educational programs, I conceived, founded and co-created Shalem, a Jewish Wellness initiative offering holistic wellness and well-being programs inspired by and infused with Jewish spiritual wisdom.
Previously, I served as the Director of the Council for Jewish Life – a community think-tank engaging in identifying underserved populations and addressing critical issues – at the Federation of Greater Los Angeles. I was the Director of Jewish Education at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan, a faculty member at CLAL – the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, and a faculty member of the Wexner Heritage Foundation.
Teaching is my soul’s calling.
Wherever I have gone, I have taught. In addition to teaching for CLAL and Wexner, I have taught for the Institute of Jewish Spirituality, for the Industrial Areas Foundation (a national leader in faith-based organizing), and have lectured extensively across the country on subjects ranging from rabbinic and Jewish thought to Kabbalah, Hasidism and contemporary Jewish spirituality.
I am a Senior Rabbinic Fellow of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, and am certified as a Jewish mindfulness meditation teacher by the Institute of Jewish Spirituality. I was ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary, and trained as a lay-therapist at the Alfred Adler Institute in New York.