Rabbi Joey Wolf
Rabbi Joseph Wolf came to Havurah Shalom in 1987, where he discovered a community hard at work at teaching Torah in a contemporary idiom, along with inventing a spiritual path that took pluralistic cultural opportunities into account. What’s more, he was immediately engaged by activist leaders intent on developing a collaborative model for decision-making and participation. Joey is fervently committed to the idea that all Jews determine what it means to pray and do meaningful work in the world, not just the professional clergy. While teaching texts and both traditional and innovative spiritual practices, he has brought local and global social change issues to the forefront. In particular, he has been a supporter of conflict reduction in the Middle East, and has advocated for strategies to combat poverty.
He grew up in Boston, and he received his BA from Brandeis University in 1973, his MA and ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in 1979, and an honorary doctorate from that institution in 2005. Additionally, Rabbi Joey also spent two separate years studying at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, during 1971-2 and 1976-7. He credits his early years growing up around Boston, time spent with extraordinary peers and mentors in a hotbed of radical inquiry and experimentation, as formative for the work that he does today.
He has served on numerous commissions and boards in the metropolitan Portland area, including an involvement with workers’ rights panels for Jobs With Justice, the Metropolitan Alliance for the Common Good (a coalition of faith-based communities and labor unions working on healthcare, livable wage and housing issues), the founding board of Black Parent Initiative. In 2001, he was a co-founder of a local dialogue group which probed relationships and affinities between Jewish and Muslim and Arab leaders in the community. Joey was recently a member of the national board of Rabbis for Human Rights and serves on the Rabbinic Advisory Cabinet for J Street. He participated in one of the original rabbinic cohorts of the Institute for Jewish Spirituality. In this context, he has invigorated his work to ground Jewish identity in the study of deep texts and intentional spiritual practice. He has led trips to Israel, on which fellow travelers have met with like-minded progressives who pride themselves on their own critical social discourse. In 2008, he led an American Jewish World Service work service trip of Havurahniks to eastern Uganda, which initiated an examination of what it might mean for Jews to confront the extraordinary challenges of a developing world in a way that is honest and meaningful.
Rabbi Joey considers it a privilege to serve alongside the vibrant and creative chorus of voices in Havurah, whose ideas – intellectual, spiritual, political – spark his own. In his spare time, he loves to hike, do yoga, meditate, cook, listen to music, and read and write – and then read some more. He lives in Hillsdale with his wife Lisa, and is the proud father of four children – Simeon, Sarah, Amelia and Gavriella.