Rabbi Lewis M. Barth, Ph.D. Professor Emeritus of Midrash and Related Literature and Former Dean of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion’s Jack H. Skirball Campus in Los Angeles, received the Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, at HUC-JIR’s Graduation Ceremony in L.A. The convocation took place on Monday, May 14, 2012 at 3 p.m. at the College-Institute, 3077 University Avenue.
Rabbi Barth has the distinction of having twice served HUC-JIR as Dean, first from 1971-1979 and again from 1997-2006. In this capacity, he was responsible for bringing a full Rabbinic Ordination program to the Los Angeles campus. He also initiated the program that became the Institute for Judaism and Sexual Orientation and took a leadership role in providing a home for the Maurice Amado Sephardi Studies Curricular Project.
When he was first named to the position, the College-Institute was beginning to relocate its campus from the Hollywood Hills to a site adjacent to the University of Southern California, and Rabbi Barth became a key liaison between the institutions as their relationship expanded. Through the Jerome H. Louchheim School of Judaic Studies more than USC 600 undergraduates annually take Jewish studies courses with HUC-JIR faculty.
Rabbi Barth’s other accomplishments are prolific. He is Founding Co-Chair of the Brit Milah Board of Reform Judaism, a program that has now trained nearly 300 physicians and certified nurse mid-wives as mohalim, or officiants at Jewish circumcision. He is the author of Brit Milah in the Reform Context.
A gifted teacher and colleague, Rabbi Barth’s scholarship and expertise has been recognized at educational institutions and academic societies here and abroad; for many years he taught at the bi-annual summer program of the Institut Kirche und Judentum in Berlin. He specializes in rabbinic biblical interpretation and the study of manuscripts of Midrash texts. He is also interested in the application of computer technology to the study of Hebrew manuscripts.
Rabbi Barth received a bachelor’s degree from UCLA and a master’s degree in English Literature from the University of Chicago. He was ordained in 1964 at HUC-JIR’s campus in Cincinnati, where he also completed his Ph.D. At this time he is a Research Candidate at the Institute of Contemporary Psychoanalysis in Los Angeles where he is engaged in psychoanalytic training.