Submitted by Congregation Beth Adam
Most people do not come out of retirement once. But for Rabbi Judith Lewis, she decided to do it twice. Her first attempt at retirement was in 2006, when she stepped down as senior rabbi from Temple Israel in the city of New York to pursue teaching at a public high school after being in the rabbinate for 26 years. But shortly after she’d been accepted into the “New York Teachers” program, she was recruited by Riverdale Temple in the Bronx. After nine wonderful years there, she retired for what she thought was for the last time to care for her elderly father.
When Rabbi Lewis was widowed, she took up coral reef renewal as a way to continue the passion for scuba diving she and her husband had shared.
Her friend Rabbi Robert Barr, the founding rabbi at Congregation Beth Adam in Loveland, OH and whom she is writing a book with, reached out to ask if she would be willing to work with him to create the curriculum for the upcoming Beth Adam’s “Our Village” religious school year. Rabbis Barr and Lewis have been friends since they met at the Cincinnati campus of Hebrew Union College. Over the years they have had many conversations regarding Jewish education and how to encourage children to explore what it means to be Jewish. Rabbi Barr knew that Rabbi Lewis would be the ideal person to implement the love of Jewish culture, heritage and learning at the school.
The only obstacle was to convince her to come out of retirement for the second time and move 500 miles away for a year to a city where she did not know anyone. Not an easy endeavor! However, with the passion that Rabbi Lewis has for teaching and the vast experience she has in religious education, she felt compelled to accept the opportunity. She has created and implemented religious school curriculum for over 40 years, having overseen six religious schools during her tenure as a rabbi.
Our Village at Beth Adam offers an innovative strategy grounded in cutting edge education theory. Every segment of the curriculum is taught experientially, and students have the opportunity to utilize various media to explore the academic content; storytelling, videography, arts, music, dance, drama and more.
Beth Adam’s Our Village embraces the idea that learning is a complex process. Teachers strive to engage all of the students’ senses, promoting and deepening their emotional attachments to the joys of Jewish culture. Rabbi Lewis is an avid believer that experiential learning is far more effective and engages students more easily. The school is equipped with resources to implement experiential lessons with a specific, quantifiable objective. There is even a small media studio where students can create a podcast or video utilizing their digital media creativity.
Rabbi Lewis is thrilled to be able to share her practice of preparing students to feel empowered as a member of the Jewish community. And even though she said after the school year ends she will retire for the third and final time, you never know what the future might bring.
Please join Beth Adam Sunday, September 10th at 9:30 am when the congregation will host an open house to introduce everyone from the community who is interested in Our Village. The first day of school is Sunday, October 1st where Sukkot will be celebrated.