Alan Lew (1943-2009) was an aspiring Zen Priest, author, poet, television host, activist, teacher, and conservative rabbi in Northern California. Lew served as the rabbi of Congregation Eitz Chaim in Monroe, New York and as the first chaplain of the Jacob Perlow Hospice of Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City before moving to San Francisco in 1991 to lead Congregation Beth Sholom until his retirement in 2005. Along with Zen Master Zoketsu Norman Fischer, Lew founded Maker Or, the very first Jewish meditation center attached to a synagogue.
Along with Zen Master Zoketsu Norman Fischer, Lew founded Maker Or, the very first Jewish meditation center attached to a synagogue. While at Beth Sholom, Lew became a noted activist, participating in numerous protests and sit-ins on behalf of the homeless and against capital punishment.
Having earned an M.F.A. at the University of Iowa Writer’s Workshop in 1970, Lew was already an accomplished writer of poetry and short stories, and published a book of his poems in 1980 titled 8 Monologs. Lews love of writing combined with his passion for studying traditional Jewish texts that he developed in seminary informed his homiletics. He went on speaking tours, taught at a number of rabbinical training institutes, and appeared on numerous television and radio programs. He served a ten year stint as the host of CBS’s weekly interfaith talk show Mosaic on KPIX-TV in San Francisco.
In 1999, Lew published One God Clapping: The Spiritual Path of a Zen Rabbi, which he wrote together with his wife Sherril Jaffe Lew, that documented the ten years he spent as a Zen practitioner and how it led him back to Judaism. In 2003, he published This Is Real and You Are Completely Unprepared: The Days of Awe as a Journey of Transformation, and in 2005 he published Be Still and Get Going: A Jewish Meditation Practice for Real Life. In 2005, Lew retired from Beth Sholom to focus on promoting Jewish meditation practices at synagogues across the country.
In 2009, while teaching conservative rabbis at the Jewish Theological Seminary’s Rabbinic Training Institute in Baltimore, Lew died at the age of 65.
Gift of Sherril Jaffe Lew in 2015.