Rabbi B's Journey
For thirteen years Rabbi Baruch HaLevi served as a congregational rabbi (known as “Rabbi B”), where he 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, he designed and implemented a revolutionary new paradigm for American Judaism and Jewish life, as detailed in his 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 hospitality" and unparalleled inspiration, he successfully overcame demographic downturns, Movement stagnation, rising un-affiliation rates, waning philanthropy, and usual merger failures. Congregation Shirat Hayam became an example of what is possible for an American suburban synagogue and Jewish community in the twenty-first century.
In 2014, Rabbi B and his wife, Ariela, decided to pursue their lifelong dream of making Aliyah (moving to Israel) where he established Rabbi B Initiatives, involved in numerous efforts in building bridges between Israelis growing entrepreneurial and innovation ecosystem and the U.S. market, investors and supporters.
At heart, Rabbi B is a social entrepreneur and spiritual pioneer devoted to creating new paradigms and platforms to promote zionism, Jewish education, Israel engagement, Jewish and Christian relations, impact investment and venture philanthropy.
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, spending 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 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 replicated by rabbis, cantors, lay leaders, ritual committees, churches and pastors because of it's vision, innovation and inspiration.
It was also during this time when Baruch decided to pursue his other passion, counseling people through grief, loss and despair. In 2008 Baruch earned a Doctoral of Ministry Degree, with an emphasis on Pastoral Counseling, from the Graduate Theological Foundation. In 2015 he published his second book, Spark Seekers: Mourning with Meaning and Living with Light, detailing his personal journey through loss and sharing the wisdom gathered from having guided thousands of others through the process.
In 2014, Baruch visited Israel during "Operation Protective Edge" and 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. With the words of his mentor, Rabbi Daniel Gordis, ringing in his ears, "If a place can make you cry, isn't that where you should call home," Baruch and Ariela decided to make aliyah.
In the summer of 2015, the HaLevi's said goodbye to their beloved congregation and moved to Israel where Baruch established Rabbi B Initiatives, and ultimately welaunch, a U.S. based not-for-profit, which connects Israeli innovation and technology with the U.S. Midwest. welaunch equally serves an educational and engagement platform teaching the world about Judaism and Israel through the lens of "the Start-up Nation," Israel's unparalleled success within entrepreneurism, innovation and technological advancement.
In August, 2018 the HaLevis will relocate to Denver, CO to further the mission of welaunch as well as to live closer to family, knowing that they will, one day, return to Israel.
You can learn more about welaunch at www.welaunch.org