Founder of Jewish outreach group to speak in Youngstown



Rabbi Naomi Levy, spiritual leader of Nashuva in Los Angeles, will bring messages relating to resilience, growth and spirit during a scholar-in-residence program this weekend at Congregation Rodef Sholom, 1119 Elm St.

The founder of the innovative Jewish outreach organization in June 2004 was the first female Conservative rabbi to head a pulpit on the West Coast. Newsweek magazine named her in its “top 50 rabbis in America” list.

The website, notes the Hebew word Nashuva means “we will return” and refers to “returning to life, to self, to dreams, to community, to hope and to God.”

Rabbi Levy said the outreach organization offers webcasts of services. Recently for the High Holidays, some 24,000 logged on. The rabbi, who served at Mishkon Temple in Venice, Calif., for seven years, left that position to write “To Begin Again,” “Talking to God” and “Hope Will Find You.”

She said she started Nashuva to reach unaffiliated Jews and others searching for a spiritual place. Services are focused on prayer and meditation, and usually are outdoors and often at the beach or in a state park. Monthly social action programs are pivotal events.

“We want to be out in the world,” she said. Nashuva is not based in a building.

For the scholar-in-residence program, Rabbi Levy will present three lectures. “Resilience — Life Under Construction” will be at 7:30 p.m. Friday. This program is part of the Dr. Sidney M. Berkowitz Lecture Series; it is free and open to the public.

Saturday programs will be “Growth — Small Steps to Big Changes” at 10:30 a.m. and “Spirit — The Power of Prayer” at 5:30 p.m.

Reservations for programs are appreciated by calling the temple office at 330-744-5001.

Rabbi Levy said her talk on resilience will focus on how to handle life when things are difficult.

“What tools will help us cope and be able to live a vital, beautiful life?” she said will be addressed.

She added that many know someone who is “embracing life” even though he or she faces a lot of stress or problems. “We wonder what our response would be,” she said, adding “we also could have empathy and reach out to others.”

As for growth, Rabbi Levy cited a story from the Bible during the Jews’ exodus from Egypt, where they faced the Red Sea in front of them and the Egyptians to the rear.

“They were trapped. One of the lessons is about moving forward,” she said. “They stepped into the sea and it parted.”

She likened that to people “taking a step forward and seeing what opens up.”

Spirit involves the power of prayer, she said. She admitted in the Jewish community, many are challenged in the prayer area. That’s because some may not be well-versed in Hebrew to say and understand the prayer.

“We have to find our own voice in prayer ... then it will come alive,” she said. “Using our own words, it comes from our hearts and souls.”

Rabbi Levy entered the Jewish Theological Seminary’s rabbinical school in 1984. “I wanted to be a rabbi since I was 4 years old,” she said.

“It was a longing and a calling.”

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