Santa Ynez Valley Jewish community installs new rabbi

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On June 12, Deborah Lewis was officially installed as the Rabbi of the Jewish Community of Santa Ynez Valley and a celebration was held in her honor.

Deborah Lewis was ordained on May 31, installed June 12

By Pamela Dozois

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The Santa Ynez Valley Jewish community has a new rabbi, Deborah Lewis. She was ordained a rabbi on May 31 and her installation took place on June 12.

Until she entered rabbinical school in 2015, Lewis was previously the director of information technology for a financial institution in Santa Barbara. She has also been involved in the local Jewish community in Santa Barbara, teaching classes, leading services and participating in life cycle events.

“In 2015, I spent three weeks in Israel as part of an apprenticeship program,” Lewis said. “This was the third time I spent summers in Israel participating in different learning programs. Before I left Israel to return home, it became clear to me that I wanted to pursue a career in the rabbinate. ”

She returned to Santa Barbara and began rabbinical school at the Academy for the Jewish Religion in Los Angeles, where she obtained a Masters of Arts. She commuted to Los Angeles from Santa Barbara every week.

“It was a long, winding road,” she said with a smile. “It took me six years and many miles to be ordained a rabbi. “

Part of the tradition in the Santa Ynez Valley is that there is an interfaith service of thanksgiving usually organized by the Bethania Lutheran Church in Solvang or St. Mark’s-in-the-Valley Episcopal Church in Los Olivos.

Lewis explained that the rabbi who previously looked after the Jewish community was not well at the time and that she was contacted as someone who could step in and represent the community in this service.

“It was my first introduction to the Santa Ynez Valley community,” she said. “At the time, I was a rabbinical student. Unfortunately, the rabbi who had been ill later died.

It was then that Lewis was asked if she would be interested in replacing the former rabbi.

“Last year, in August, I was approached by the president of the Jewish community of Santa Ynez Valley who wanted to discuss any interest I might have in serving the community as a new rabbi,” he said. she declared. “This all happened during COVID. It was a very difficult and interesting time to start serving the Jewish community.

On May 31, Lewis was ordained a rabbi and on June 12 she was officially installed as the rabbi of the Santa Ynez Valley Jewish community and a celebration was held in her honor. His contract is for two years.

“Family, friends, classmates and colleagues came to celebrate me in my new position,” said Lewis. “It was a beautiful day held at a lovely ranch here in the valley.”

“My duties are to run a Friday evening (Shabbat-Sabbath) service once a month, followed by an adult education class on Saturday morning,” she explained. “I provide pastoral care to the faithful who are in need of spiritual care. I preside over life cycle events including funerals, weddings, baby baptisms, bar / bat mitzvahs (majority ceremonies), I celebrate all Jewish holidays such as Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year), Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), Hanukkah and Passover as well as the in-person services of the Santa Ynez Valley Interfaith Thanksgiving Service.

“Being a rabbi for the Jewish community in Santa Ynez Valley is a labor of love,” she said. “I am honored to be their new rabbi.”

Lewis’s service to the community is limited to Santa Ynez.

“I also work for the Jewish Federation of Greater Santa Barbara and my main role is to put volunteers in contact with those confined to the house, so we offer a weekly one hour visit to anyone who wants it,” he said. she declared. “Right now 90% of people are not Jewish. We serve the whole community, not just the Jewish community. This was done by phone until recently.

“All of these people gave me such a sense of purpose in a way that my work in the private sector couldn’t,” she said.

Lewis offers an open invitation to anyone who wants to come to the Jewish community.

“We are a very warm and welcoming community,” she said. “We welcome interfaith couples; we have an open door and welcome all who wish to participate in any way they feel comfortable. Do not hesitate to join us. “

In his spare time Lewis enjoys reading, traveling and spending time with his wife Traci and their three dogs, Lucy, Harvey and Mia.

For more information call 805-693-4243 or email [email protected]


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