Lewis M. Barth - Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion
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Lewis M. Barth, Rabbi, Ph.D., MAHL, MA, PSYD, DD

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Professor Emeritus of Midrash and Related Literature

HUC-JIR/Los Angeles

Rabbinical Program, Los Angeles
Academic Field: 
Research Interests: 
Rabbinic biblical interpretation ; Midrashic texts and manuscripts ; Reform Brit Milah (ritual circumcision) ; Aramaic; Psychoanalysis; Aggadah and Rabbinic Tales; Pirque d'Rabbi Eliezer (Chapters of Rabbi Eliezer)

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Rabbi Lewis M. Barth is Professor Emeritus of Midrash and Related Literature, and former Dean, at HUC-JIR's Skirball Campus in Los Angeles. He is a native of Los Angeles, graduated from UCLA, studied at HUC-JIR/Los Angeles and was ordained (1964) and received his Ph.D. (1970) from HUC-JIR/Cincinnati. He has been on the faculty at the Los Angeles Campus since 1969 and served as Dean from 1970-1979 and again from 1997 to 2006. Every other summer for over twenty years, he taught about Judaism, Jewish values and aspects of rabbinic literature in Berlin to German Protestant theology students at the Institute Kirche und Judentum. Since his retirement from the deanship he continued to teach at HUC until June, 2012. He also holds a Doctorate in Psychoanalysis from the Institute of Contemporary Psychoanalysis in Los Angeles, (February, 2016), where he received his psychoanalytic training; his psychoanalytic practice is in Encino, CA..

During his deanship, Rabbi Barth was primarily responsible for bringing Rabbinic Ordination to the HUC’s Los Angeles Campus, initiated a program that has now become the Institute for Judaism and Sexual Orientation, taken a leadership role in bringing to the College the Maurice Amado Sephardic Studies Curricular Project and served as the HUC’s liaison with the University of Southern California during a period of great expansion of the relationship between the two neighboring institutions of higher learning. At HUC his courses included Midrash, Aramaic and seminars on Rabbis as Charismatics and Wonder-workers, “the Ten Trials of Abraham,” and Ancient Rabbinic Sermons. As part of the HUC-USC joint Judaic studies program for several years he taught “an Introduction to Jewish History” and created and taught the course “Jerusalem as a Holy City for Jews, Christians and Muslims.”

His scholarly area of interest is Midrash (Ancient rabbinic biblical interpretation). He has edited various Hebrew manuscripts including rabbinic material on the ancient legend of “the Ten Trials of Abraham.” He has also written several articles on Pirqe d’Rabbi Eliezer (the Chapters of Rabbi Eliezer, an exceedingly popular an eighth century midrashic retelling of biblical history of which there are over 30 printed editions, 20 complete manuscripts and hundreds of fragments).

Rabbi Barth is the Founding CoChair of the Brit Milah Board of Reform Judaism and —working with Dr. David James, Founding Chair of the Brit Milah Board—was responsible for a program which has now trained over three hundred physicians and certified nurse midwives as mohalim (officiants at Jewish circumcision). In this capacity he developed and edited the book Brit Milah in the Reform Context, the first major work in Reform Judaism dealing with this subject. Rabbi Barth also edited, with Ruth Nussbaum, of blessed memory, a volume of sermons, speeches and essays of Rabbi Max Nussbaum: Max Nussbaum: From Berlin to Hollywood, A MidCentury Vision of Jewish Life. (Nussbaum served at Temple Israel of Hollywood from 1943-1974 and was a renowned Reform and Zionist leader in the Los Angeles and national Jewish communities.)

His wife, Dr. Joye Weisel Barth, is a practicing psychologist and psychoanalyst; between them they have five adult children and two grandchildren. They reside in Encino, California.

Selected Publications and Edited Works

PARR Reports

“Thoughts on Forgiveness in Psychoanalysis and Judaism,” in Between Jewish Tradition and Modernity: rethinking an old opposition, Essays in Honor of David Ellenson, edited by Michael A. Meyer and David N. Myers (Wayne State University Press: Detroit, 2014), pp. 237-248.

“Midrashic Thinking: An Appreciation and a Caution,” in Midrash and Medicine: Healing Body and Soul in the Jewish Interpretive Tradition, edited by Rabbi William Cutter (Jewish Lights Publishing: Woodstock, Vermont, 2011), pp. 234-242.


Public Lecture Topics
Thoughts on Forgiveness in Psychoanalysis and Judaism
Rabbinic Stories and Ancient Wonderworkers
Mythology and the Causes of Hatred: Contemporary and Ancient Perspectives
“Parashat Metzora: Slander, its Causes and Consequences: Text Study of a Midrashic Understanding”
“Thinking Ahead to Tisha B'av: Text Study of a Midrashic View of Ancient-Modern Social Justice Issues”
The Emergence of Rabbinic Judaism: Continuity or Break with the Past
The Rabbinic Search for Values: The Midrash