On May 8th, 2014, Rabbi Levitt was honored with The American Jewish Distinguished Service Award from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and delivered the following commencement address to the school's graduates:
Some years ago, I was asked to be one of four scholars for a weekend retreat for young leaders prior to a meeting of the General Assembly, which brings together lay leaders from Federations across North America. I was given the following task: Choose your favorite Jewish text and be prepared to teach it in 20 minutes to 100 young leaders. Honestly, I thought it was a somewhat ridiculous idea but I dutifully chose a text (was it my favorite?) and flew to Indianapolis. At dinner the night before the study session, I shared my disdain for this idea with one of the other scholars, noting that four disconnected texts didn’t make for a coherent conversation.
First mistake. It turned out to have been his idea. He tried to convince me that this was in fact a terrific idea and pointed out that different texts from each of us would make for a lively conversation.Read More