Rabbi B's Journey
For thirteen years I served as a congregational rabbi (known as “Rabbi B”), where I helped transform a newly merged synagogue into one of the most vibrant, innovative and inspirational congregations in the country. Together, with a team of talented professionals and lay leaders, we designed and implemented a revolutionary new paradigm for American Judaism and Jewish life, as detailed in my book, “Revolution of the Jewish Spirit,” part of a Synagogue 3000 series. Through visionary leadership, cutting-edge programming, re-imagined fundraising and funding, innovative multi-media marketing, bold decision making, radical outreach and unparalleled inspiration, we successfully overcame demographic downturns, Movement stagnation, rising un-affiliation rates, waning philanthropy, and usual merger failures, creating a flourishing center of Jewish life and community.
In July, 2015, after making Aliyah (moving to Israel) with my family, I set forth to fulfill my other professional aspirations, to be involved in Hasbara (Israeli public relations) and combat anti-Zionism. Applying the same vision, innovation, strategic planning and inspiration I demonstrated as a pioneering rabbi, through my consulting company, Rabbi B Initiatives, I have been involved in multiple ventures, all with the ultimate goal of fighting BDS and promoting Israel in creative, impactful and sustainable ways.
Baruch HaLevi received a B.A. in philosophy from the University of Kansas, followed by his M.A. in Hebrew Letters from the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, American Jewish University in Los Angeles, CA. In 2002 hew was ordained as a Conservative rabbi.
In February 2008 Baruch received his doctoral degree in ministry from The Graduate Theological Foundation affiliated with Oxford University.
Upon graduating from college, Baruch set out to fulfill his dream of becoming a motivational speaker and began his career working within the fitness industry in New York City. During this time he began studying Buddhism, mindfulness practice and Yoga, all of which would become centerpieces of his spiritual life and professional practice. Baruch's passion for spirituality led him to discover Kabbalah, re-discover his Judaism, and fall in love with Israel after having moved there to explore Judaic studies, first at Livnot U'lehibanot and then, the Pardes Institute.
In 1996 Baruch moved to Los Angeles and entered the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, spent the next five years studying to be a rabbi where he simultaneously interned during his with his mentor, Rabbi Mordecai Finley, at Ohr Ha-Torah synagogue. During this time he met the love of his life, Ariela and the two were married in 1999, spending their honeymoon year studying, again, in Israel.
In 2002 Baruch accepted a position at Tifereth Israel synagogue in Des Moines, IA. The HaLevi's spent four wonderful years helping to reinvigorate this historic congregation. It was also during this time that the HaLevi family expanded, with the arrivals of Yehuda and shortly after, Maya.
In 2006 Baruch was recruited by a newly formed synagogue in Swampscott, MA, Congregation Shirat Hayam (CSH), to become their first rabbi. The HaLevi's joyfully accepted this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build a synagogue from the ground up. During this time the HaLevi's celebrated yet two more simchas, with the births of Shoshana and then Aviv.
For the next decade Baruch worked to transform CSH into one of the most visionary, vibrant and successful synagogues in the country, as detailed in his book, "Revolution of Jewish Spirit." CSH has become a model of what is possible for the modern suburban synagogue in the twenty-first century. CSH has been visited, studied and the greatest of accolades, replicated in numerous areas, by rabbis, cantors, lay leaders, ritual committees (as well as pastors and churches) because of it's vision, innovation and inspiration.
In 2014, after feeling like he had achieved all he set out to do in his work as a congregational rabbi, Baruch visited Israel on a Jewish Federation Emergency Solidarity Rally during "Operation Protective Edge." During this trip, as rockets were literally raining down upon Israel, where Baruch was visiting in S'derot and other Gaza border towns, he realized his next personal and professional calling. Baruch was awestruck at the courage and fortitude of the Israeli citizens to stand their ground and stay within their communities during such a frightful time. In the words of his mentor, Rabbi Daniel Gordis, "If a place can make you cry, isn't that where you should call home," kept ringing within Baruch's soul. With tears in his eyes, he and Ariela decided on the telephone that this was their next step. This is what their family needed. This was their home. It was time to come home. In the summer of 2015, the HaLevi's packed their bags, said goodbye to their beloved congregation, and moved to Israel where they now reside, in a beautiful northern community called, Eschar, nestled within the Galilee.
Equally, during "Operation Protective Edge," Baruch's professional calling was awakened as he marveled at the IDF's unparalleled and unprecedented efforts it had undertaken in preserving Palestinian civilian lives. In the words of British Colonel, Richard Kemp, "The IDF had fought the most morally clear war, in the most morally upright way, in the history of military warfare." However, after returning to the states, Baruch was astonished, and appalled, at the castigation and accusations being hurled at the IDF and Israel. It was then he felt called to utilize his communication skills and be a part of the war against the rising Israel delegitimization efforts (such as the BDS movement), and to get involved in Hasbara (Israeli public relations), with his mission to spread the truth about the beauty, blessings and goodness of Israel.
Baruch spent the next few months delivering, in numerous settings, his now famed sermon, "Monsters Under Jewish Children's Beds," where he called upon his congregation, community and the world to rise up and fight the BDS movement and speak out on behalf of Zionism. That sermon translated into numerous opportunities for Baruch to get involved in visionary, bold new ways defending Israel against Her enemies and promoting Israel to the world.
Today, in addition to these pro-Israel ventures, Baruch is also busy consulting Israeli tour companies in how to re-imagine the Israel experience for American Christians and Jews, as well as speaking to groups, in Israel and the U.S., on a myriad of topics, especially about the modern miracle of the Jewish homeland, Eretz Yisrael.