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I Met an Israeli 'dentist/rabbi'

Rabbi Mark Shapiro
Sunday, February 28, 2016


Dear Friends -
I met an Israeli dentist on Friday evening by the name of Eli Levin.
Except Eli isn't only a "dentist."  He is also a Reform Rabbi in Ramat Hasharon, a suburb of Tel Aviv.
I'd like to tell you his story…
First, let me tell you how we met. 
As part of the rabbinic convention Marsha and I attended during the last week, we were among a group of rabbis and spouses who attended services at Eli's congregation last Friday evening.  We welcomed Shabbat with his congregation and then joined the congregants in a delicious potluck dinner.
After the meal someone from our group asked Eli how he had begun a professional career as a dentist and then found his way into the rabbinate.
He explained his journey by telling us how he grew up in Israel only attending services once a year.  On Kol Nidre, his father would take Eli to a local Orthodox synagogue where they would hear Kol Nidre, recite a few prayers, and then quickly make their way home.
That was Judaism for Eli until somewhere in his late 30's (after he had become a dentist), he and his wife with their two children were vacationing in Wales during September.  It was the afternoon before Kol Nidre and Eli decided he wanted to go to services.  When he looked in the phone book, the one listing he found was for a Reform congregation.  He was sure this was good news because, if nothing else, he assumed the Reform service would be short!
Off they went for the "short" service.
Except short doesn't describe what happened. 
In Eli's words, "The service wasn't like any service I had ever attended.  The music was of a higher caliber.  There were instruments to enhance the experience.  And the Rabbi gave us clear page directions, offered commentaries on what was happening, and even enhanced the service with poetry.  I was moved and touched.  So much so that when the service ended and I looked at my watch, I realized that over two hours had flown by.  If this was what Judaism could be, then I knew I had discovered something fabulous in Wales."
Indeed he had.
Eli told us that when he returned to Israel, he went to the Reform rabbinic school in Jerusalem.  They told him his dentistry degree wasn't enough for admission to rabbinic school.  He needed more Jewish background, which he then went about pursuing.  While working as a dentist to support his family, Eli got a Bachelors degree in Judaica and then a Masters degree as well.  After that, he was accepted into the rabbinic school.  In 2013, he was finally ordained as a Reform rabbi in Israel.
And that is how the dentist became a rabbi.
And that is what I wanted to share with you, Sinai congregants.
It's the story of someone who discovered something unique and spiritual in a Reform Temple:  prayers he understood, ideas that were spiritual and sustaining, plus music that touched his soul.
The experience made Eli Levin, the dentist, into a rabbi.
I wonder if the same experience (which can be had weekly at our Sinai Temple) might not touch each of you in your own way.   Something sacred happens in our sanctuary every week.  
Eli Levin had to go all the way to Wales to taste it for the first time.  You need only visit 1100 Dickinson Street for your opportunity.  
I can't guarantee a new career for you, but I can guarantee that you'll be enriched by what we do together in our holy place.

Shabbat Shalom.
Rabbi Mark Shapiro

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