The Hickory Jewish Community's History

image description

Interesting facts and details about our history are available in the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life.

Meet the Rabbi

Joan Lenowitz has been the Rabbinic Intern and then the full time Rabbi of Congregation Ohev Sholom of York, Pennsylvania, over the past 6 years. Rabbi Lenowitz was ordained in May 2011 by the Academy for Jewish Religion, a 56 year old pluralistic seminary in New York, which ordains both rabbis and cantors for all denominations, and she is committed to an inclusive approach to Jewish worship, practice, and dialogue, combining the richness of our tradition with sparks of innovation and creativity.

Before entering rabbinical studies Rabbi Lenowitz was a professor of Finance and Economics at the University of North Carolina, at North Carolina State University, and at San Diego State University, having earned a B.S. at Cornell University in Human Relations, an MBA at the University of Delaware, and a PhD in Finance and Economics at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. In 1995 she and her husband, Len Rogoff, were the founders of a thriving grass-roots congregation in Chapel Hill, NC where there had never been a congregation, and where she directed the Religious Education Program and served as the main prayer leader, during its early years.

What prompted such a radical shift in professions? The experience of learning more deeply about her tradition in the course of establishing the new congregation opened her mind and heart more fully to the beauty and wisdom of our tradition. Furthermore it was a time in her life for giving back for all the blessings she had received and being a Finance Academic was not a suitable path for this.

A highlight among her experiences as a rabbinic student was when Rabbi Lenowitz spent several months in Israel studying and aiding the budding movement throughout Israel of “secular” Jews reclaiming their Jewish tradition, which had been monopolized by ultra-orthodox dominance of religious life in Israel for so long. New, independent congregations began springing up, doing the prayer service and learning “their way,” reawakening the spiritual life in Israel among the so-called “hiloni,” secular Jews. This is a phenomenon which has continued to strengthen and grow and Rabbi Lenowitz created connections between some of these communities and her own seminary in New York.

Serving as Intern Chaplain at UNC Hospitals in 2006 allowed her to combine two of her favorite forms of engagement, assisting those in need of healing, and working to build relationships in an interfaith community. Rabbi Lenowitz led healing services for patients, families, and hospital staff and was invited back to the Hospital to lead such services after she completed the program. When not in shul she will often be found out on the biking and hiking trails or indulging in music and the arts. Her two wonderful children, Lilah and Aaron are her greatest earthly sources of joy and inspiration.