Alan Lew papers
The Alan Lew papers contain materials ranging from his coursework at the Jewish Theological Seminary, his unpublished poetry and short stories dating as far back as the 1960s, early drafts and manuscripts of his published writings, materials relating to his sermons and public speaking, as well as personal correspondences and materials relating to his life as a rabbi and public speaker. Additionally, this collection contains material of years spent researching and writing his unpublished book on the history of his family, The Life That Ran Through Me, which he finished shortly before his death and considered his life’s work.
- 1970 - 2006
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This collection is open for access.
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Limited duplication of materials allowed for research purposes. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.
Biographical / Historical
While meditating at a retreat in Tassajara to prepare for his ordination as a Zen priest, Alan Lew (1943-
2009) was motivated to take a different path that would lead him to becoming an author, poet,
television host, activist, teacher, and an influential conservative rabbi in Northern California. After
graduating from the Jewish Theological Seminary in 1988, he 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.
Along with Zen Master Zoketsu Norman Fischer, Lew founded Maker Or, the 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.
Alan Lew Papers, Page 2 of 4 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.
25.5 linear feet (17 record boxes)
Language of Materials
The Alan Lew papers have been arranged into 5 series based on original order and content type. Series 1: Homiletics Series 2: Life-Cycle Talks Series 3: Clippings Series 4: Writings Series 5: Mosaic Series 6: Computer
- The Alan Lew Papers
- Processed by Samantha Mat, 2017; Finding Aid by Samantha Mat with assistance from Jane Thaler and Joshua Siary, 2017.
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