new rabbi ready to meet
Express Staff Writer
River Jewish Community is officially on the map. With the hiring of
Rabbi Martin Levy, 50, it is only the second Reform Jewish community
with a full-time rabbi in Idaho. Boise’s Ahavath Beth Israel is the
he’ll be a bit of a "circuit rider" as one of only two
rabbis in the state. "It’s going to be exciting."
moved here from Houston with his fiancé Mollie Oshman last week, will
hold his first Shabbat Service this Friday evening at St. Thomas
Episcopal Church in Ketchum.
he is a competitor and rallies to challenges. His skills range from
building communities in the areas where he has served to ice skating
Teaneck, N.J., he went to college at Amherst in Massachusetts and
studied at the Hebrew Union College in New York City, where he graduated
position was a huge departure for Levy. But the congregation in
Amarillo, Texas, where he stayed for four years, still considers him
their rabbi, and he returns often to perform weddings and funerals.
he moved on to Congregation B'nai Israel in Galveston, which is the
oldest Jewish temple in Texas.
Levy returned to New York for two years, but the lure of the West proved
a stronger draw than being near his home. He says he especially missed
the friendliness in Texas, and the slower pace of living. "There
were more things I could do as a leader there." He points out that
in New York, babbis, like bagel shops, are on every other block.
returned to the Houston area, and began what he calls his own spiritual
journey. "I wanted to get far away and see what the Jewish world
was like in the rest of the country." As Temple Beth Tikvah’s
first-full time rabbi, Levy helped to build a temple a year and a half
ago ¾ an experience that bodes well for the WRJC’s long-range plans,
which include building a temple some day.
the WRJC has 135 families as members, many of them only live here two to
three months during the year, says Levy. But the numbers of permanent
is a rekindling of interest since the mid 1980s," he said. Many
people are coming back to their roots, and want to take classes to help
them understand what the prayers mean, he added.
soon be teaching Hebrew classes for both children and adults and the
first Bat Mitzvah is already planned.
accommodate the growth, the WRJC has office space for the first time in
Ketchum to be used as a Jewish Community Center.
than Levy’s office there will be a classroom, a library and a Judaica
shop. It will serve as a drop-in center for locals and visitors, said
Adam Koffler, president of the WRJC.
both a new rabbi and the center is a "means of establishing our
community in a more significant manner, he said.
Community Center at 211 Sun Valley Road, will be opened by the end of
meantime, Levy and Oshamn are busy with the move, meeting the
congregation and planning their wedding in Houston in August.
was a nationally ranked competitive skater at 17, and has continued
competing successfully in the senior amateur level in both ice dancing
and freestyle men’s skating, came to the attention of the WRJC through
a skating contact.
Fetter, a member of the Sun Valley Summer Skating School staff for more
than 25 years, is an old friend of Levy’s. Fetter mentioned to WRJC
member Phyllis Kourland that Levy would be perfect as a rabbi here in
the valley. That remark coincided with Levy beginning to look for a new
challenge, further west in the mountains.
full weekends of interviews with the WRJC and conducting Shabbat
Services, he had a "good panoramic view of the congregation."
He was hired earlier this spring.
plans to hike, skate and play tennis, a sport he taught while in
college. He foresees working these pursuits into the children’s
classes. As the main teacher at the center, his classes for adults will
cover philosophy and history and he intends on bringing in guest
also a published writer and is currently at work on a book on
meditations on Biblical stories that he is co-writing with a friend who
is a Catholic priest in Texas.