Fellowship Program

Leon Weiner Dow

Leon was ordained by the Shalom Hartman Institute in July 2001. Since then he has been serving as the Rabbi in residence for the Masorti High School in Talpiot, Jerusalem. Within this role Leon is working with both teachers and pupils of all ages on developing and exploring a meaningful, contemporary approach to Judaism. He has been learning about Tefillah in depth with 11th and 12th graders, with an emphasis placed on introspective, personally meaningful spiritual practice, and teaching and leading a new Beit Hamidrash style program for 9th graders on issues of personal identity. Leon's role also includes acting as a spiritual advisor for students who may come to talk to him about their problems in privacy without fear that they will be judged.

In addition to this position, Leon is involved in an inspiring new project in Tivon, 20 minutes north of Haifa. The project, run by the Midrasha at Oranim, is forming a "lay" community in Tivon, one that will function in a similar way to Jewish communities in the Diaspora, but with the necessary adaptations for an Israeli reality. The urgent need for this project arises from the fact that in general the State, and in particular municipal government have, for some years already failed to provide an adequate sense of community, both in terms of services and care but also in the 'loftier' sense of personal connection and belonging. This is a situation that Leon is eager to help address and repair.

The community that was set up last year assumes responsibility for communal life together with the local municipality. Three groups have met over the past year in order to improve local life in the areas of 1) Culture and Spirit; 2)Social responsibility and 3) Youth Issues. It is in the first of these groups, Culture and Spirit, that Leon is playing a major part. Members of this committee, along with many individuals within the community, have expressed an interest in increasing Jewish practice in Tivon. Leon's part here is not as a traditional 'Rabbi' role, but rather someone who will work together with the community and committee members to create and innovate meaningful Jewish rituals for this unconventional community. Leon will also act as a professional leader to support all the Tivon lay leaders; someone with experience and communal vision to oversee their progress.

In a similar capacity, Leon is also coordinating a small forum of individuals who are doing similar work in this new area of Jewish communal development. This too is happening in the North of Israel as part of the Midrasha project.

Leon is the founder and director of "Ta Shma", an organization that has been providing pluralistic Jewish educational programming to English speaking students in Israel since 1996 [www.tashma.org]. Born and raised in Texas, Leon earned his B.A. in Princeton. In 1991 he moved to Israel, served as a medic in the army and completed his MA in Jewish philosophy at the Hebrew University. He lives in the small community of Nataf in the Judean Hills with his wife Bruria and their three young daughters.