“Rabbi Dave” Levy Pretty Fly for a Rabbi

Chris Nickels

Rabbi David Levy, or “Rabbi Dave,” as he calls himself, is the new Jewish Chaplain and Director of Jewish Life at Colgate.

Levy comes to us from Syracuse University, where he worked as the Director of Jewish Education.

Levy was attracted to Colgate because of its size. Here, he can work with a tighter community of students; Syracuse University has around 3,000 Jewish students.

“I was looking to work with students on a smaller campus, because I think that a lot more can get done sometimes on a smaller campus where there’s generally less bureaucracy,” Levy said. “I’m excited to have a little bit more direction over the program as the sole Jewish chaplain here, which is terrific.”

Levy finished his undergraduate work in a joint program between Columbia University and the Jewish Theological Seminary, and he completed the Rabbinical and graduate programs of the Jewish Theological Seminary. He is affiliated with the Syracuse Board of Rabbis and the Board of the Hebrew Day School.

Levy did not always aspire to become a rabbi; he originally planned to become a lawyer. But these days, Levy jokes, “I’m an expert on a different kind of law.”

As the Jewish chaplain of both Hamilton College and Colgate, Levy has a wide range of responsibilities.

“I’m the formal Jewish advisor to the Colgate Jewish Union [CJU]. I serve in a rabbinic capacity for all Jewish functions that need to happen on campus. I’ll be administering the High Holiday services over the next couple of weeks,” Levy said.

Levy is still settling into his new position, but has high hopes.

“I really want to focus a lot of my energies on engaging Jewish students who haven’t been involved in the CJU before, and finding ways to get involved with Jewish life, and really engaging the campus at large,” Levy said.

To do this, Levy has turned to technology-specifically, the iPod craze, which has swept through college campuses recently. Rabbi Dave has his own weekly podcast, called “Jewish Moments with Rabbi Dave,” which he has made available on both the iTunes music store and his website at www.rabbidavelevy.com.

He hopes that, by making his message more accessible, he will be able to better communicate with students.

Levy said, “It’s important to me to help students who are looking to … make the next step of their Jewish life, whatever that may be. The podcast is a way to send a three-minute message of Jewish inspiration to help students think more about how their religion interacts with their everyday lives.”

Students have already started tuning in. Junior CJU President Ceci Sibony thought that the podcasts were funny and useful. So far, she has been impressed with the new chaplain.

“When I actually met him, his personality and charisma and sense of humor kind of met up to what I had heard about him,” Sibony said. “Overall a very positive first impression.”

Levy has made himself more accessible in yet another way: he is part of an organization called the Keshet Rabbis, which was created to offer counseling services for people dealing with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning (LGBTQ) issues. The Keshet Rabbis have a website which serves as a “phonebook” of contactable rabbis who are available for consultation on LGBT issues.

“This is a really important website to me because it indicates my openness to meet with people who are dealing with LGBTQ issues to discuss how the Jewish community can be a source of support for them, even if that’s not traditionally the way they understood it,” said Levy.

Currently, Levy is gearing up for the Jewish High Holidays. “We’re really excited that the Jewish New Year is starting … We hope that the Jewish community and anybody interested in learning more will come out and join us for those services.”