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Rabbi Levin announces plans to scale back role at Beth Torah


Rabbi Mark Levin plans to assume a reduced role at Congregation Beth Torah, the Reform congregation he has served since 1988, in 2014. Members of the congregation were informed of his decision in a letter emailed to them late Monday evening by President Michelle Cole.

“I would love to continue as a rabbi at Congregation Beth Torah after June 30, 2014, but not with my current job description. I look forward to working with our board of trustees to find a mutually agreeable manner by which I can continue to serve the congregation, its people and our community,” wrote Rabbi Levin in his letter to congregants.

Cole said it will be daunting to consider a future without the congregation’s “founding rabbi and inspirational leader.” But the 20 months notice he has given the congregation will allow it to properly plan for a seamless transition.

“The goal for July 1, 2014, is clear — to find the proper balance of Rabbi Levin’s continuing involvement in our congregational life and a path forward to new spiritual leadership. The board will be forming a committee to consider all of the issues and options to insure the best possible future for our congregation. We will be in touch with the entire membership frequently as we move through this process,” Cole said.

Rabbi Levin was ordained by Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) in 1976. He began his rabbinic career as the assistant rabbi at The Temple, Congregation B’nai Jehudah in Kansas City in 1976. He has been the congregational rabbi for Congregation Beth Torah since its inception in 1988. He serves on a number of boards locally and nationally, writes religion columns for the Kansas City Star, and answers questions for the “Ask the Rabbi” service of the Union of Reform Judaism.

A father of three grown children and the grandfather of one, Rabbi Levin has become aware in recent years that there are things he would like to accomplish in life that aren’t possible while serving as the senior rabbi to the Reform congregation that serves approximately 650 members.

“Some of them, like counseling people confronting mortality, can be achieved at Beth Torah; and others not,” he said. “My work does not leave adequate time for reading, writing, reflection and expanding my personal possibilities.”

The rabbi, who will be 65 years old in 2014 when he plans to scale back his duties at Beth Torah, notes that the congregation has been his “life’s work and fulfillment for a quarter century.”

“We set out to create a ‘modern American Judaism in southern Johnson County.’ In many respects we did not know where we were headed. Our successes have been the result of the combined efforts and the vision of many people, including the Beth Torah staff, the wonderfully dedicated and generous presidents of the congregation, scores of volunteers who have given of their time, energy and funds, and, of course, the most superb membership in the world,” he said.

He noted that Beth Torah has been the fulfillment of his professional dreams and he is “very grateful to have had this magnificent opportunity.”

“I pray and feel confident that we will find a path to continue forward together,” he concluded.