Incoming Park City rabbi sees ‘humanitarian tragedy’ in Gaza conflict |

Incoming Park City rabbi sees ‘humanitarian tragedy’ in Gaza conflict

Temple Har Shalom has selected David Levinsky to be the synagogue's full-time rabbi. Levinsky, who now leads a Chicago congregation, describes himself as having a liberal religious approach. He is scheduled to take the pulpit in Park City in July of 2015. Courtesy of Chicago Sinai Congregation

The announcement this week that Temple Har Shalom had hired a rabbi came as fighting raged between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

David Levinsky, who will be the second full-time rabbi at the Snyderville Basin synagogue, said in an interview he hopes for a quick compromise that involves a cease-fire. The fighting is a "humanitarian tragedy on both sides," Levinsky said in an interview.

"Any country, when it is being attacked by another political entity, has a right to defend itself" by attacking military targets, Levinsky said about Israel’s move against Hamas.

Levinsky said he supports a so-called two-state solution that would create a Palestinian state alongside the Jewish state of Israel.

"Any just solution would also offer justice to the Palestinians," he said.

Levinsky, who is 46 years old and has been a rabbi for 12 years, describes his religious approach as being liberal, particularly regarding social issues. He supports gay marriage, as an example. He has never been asked to perform such a wedding, though.

Levinsky will take the pulpit at Temple Har Shalom on July 1, 2015, in time for him to lead the synagogue’s High Holy Days services. Joel Fine, the president of the Temple Har Shalom board of directors, said Levinsky accepted the position on Tuesday.

He will succeed Josh Aaronson, who left Temple Har Shalom in mid-2013 for a position at a synagogue in Southern California. Aaronson became Temple Har Shalom’s first full-time rabbi when he arrived in 2002. Rabbi Jim Simon has served in an interim role since the summer of 2013. Simon plans to leave the congregation the day before Levinsky starts.

Levinsky is the associate rabbi at the Chicago Sinai Congregation synagogue. According to a biography posted on the Chicago Sinai website, Levinsky is from the Chicago area and holds a doctorate in religious studies from Stanford University. He has written for the Chicago Tribune on a freelance basis and writes poetry, the biography says. He was a rabbi at a congregation in Palo Alto, Calif., prior to the Chicago position, it says.

Fine said the congregation’s leadership hopes membership increases under Levinsky from the approximately 260 families now. Levinsky’s current congregation in Chicago has approximately 900 families. Fine said the leadership hopes the religious school expands and that Levinsky engages the Jewish community and the wider community at large. He said he anticipates the rabbi will be an "active voice in the Jewish community."

Fine said Temple Har Shalom and Levinsky reached a multiyear contract.

"I was just really struck and enamored with the community," the rabbi said.

Levinsky said he and his family — a wife and a 10-year-old son — plan to live in Park City. He said the family enjoys nature and camping, calling the area an "incredibly beautiful" place. Levinsky is a guitar player who was a member of a rock ‘n’ roll band in the early 1990s called the Lilacs.

Levinsky said some of his efforts as a rabbi in Chicago have involved building better relations between the Jewish community and moderate Muslims as well as with other religions. He said he has also worked with interfaith families.

Some of his recent sermons he mentioned as being notable include those about forgiveness, Judaism and the afterlife and the situation in the Gaza Strip.

"The goal of a sermon is to inspire people, to improve their lives and improve the world," Levinsky said.

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