YOU SHOULD KNOW…Rabbis Melissa and Kevin Lefkowitz

Rabbis Melissa and Kevin Lefkowitz (Photo by Rabbi Jason Bonder)

She’s a Reform rabbi at Congregation Beth Or in Maple Glen. He’s a Conservative rabbi who will soon be a spiritual leader at Tiferet Bet Israel in Blue Bell.

Can they make it work? Will they ever see each other on weekends? Do they stand in harsh judgment of each other’s differing approaches to Judaism? (He’s shomer Shabbos; she’s not.)

Rabbi Melissa Lefkowitz and Rabbi Kevin Lefkowitz, married to each other, both chuckle at such questions. They’re in love.

“We got to talking and really never looked back from there,” said Melissa Lefkowitz with a smile in her office at Beth Or, thinking back on the night they met at an AIPAC event in Los Angeles.

“We met over the apps in reality,” added Kevin Lefkowitz during a phone call, explaining how they took the leap of going on a first date. “She’s the most herself person I’ve ever met. She’s just so true to who she is.”

Melissa Lefkowitz started her job as an assistant rabbi at Beth Or in July. She said she’s grateful to be at a big congregation with two experienced rabbis, Gregory Marx and Jason Bonder, from whom she can learn.

Kevin Lefkowitz will begin his full-time role at TBI in July. For now, he’s working part-time at Congregation Beth El in Voorhees, New Jersey.

The couple lives in Ambler with their 3-month-old daughter Rena. This is how they got here.

AIPAC Plus J Swipe

It was late summer 2019. Melissa Lefkowitz was a student at the Reform Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles. Kevin Lefkowitz was in rabbi training at the Conservative Ziegler Institute of Rabbinic Studies, also in LA.

AIPAC hosted an event bringing rabbinic students from different schools together. The future couple sat across from each other by chance.

Once they started talking, they discussed the rabbinic fellowship that AIPAC was promoting. Kevin Lefkowitz had done it. They also talked about how they grew up “similarly,” Melissa Lefkowitz recalled.

“How important Judaism was to us in our daily lives,” she added. “And we both realized at similar points in our undergrad experiences that we wanted to be rabbis.”

Neither of them wanted to date a rabbi. They also realized that they both loved food.

“We just enjoyed each other’s company,” Melissa Lefkowitz said.

The future couple did not even exchange numbers that night. But in November 2019, they connected on J Swipe.

Their first date was at “some dive bar in Los Angeles,” Melissa Lefkowitz recalled. Kevin Lefkowitz, who is from Texas, walked in wearing cowboy boots and a kippah.

“I just thought it was real chutzpah for him to come in his true Texan Jewish spirit,” she said.

They kept dating and became “official” in January 2020, according to Melissa Lefkowitz.

The Pandemic

In March 2020, COVID broke out. Fortuitously, Melissa Lefkowitz and Kevin Lefkowitz lived a three-minute walk from each other in LA. (This was already the case. It did not happen after they started dating. “Everyone in rabbinic school lives in the same neighborhood,” Melissa Lefkowitz said.)

Rabbi Melissa Lefkowitz in her office at Beth Or (Photo by Jarrad Saffren)

As California locked down, Melissa Lefkowitz considered going home to Newton, Massachusetts, but decided against it.

They wanted to spend time together. They “cooked a lot,” “went on walks,” “played a lot of games,” Melissa Lefkowitz recalled. The couple also saw friends in the park.

One day, they went on a hike, according to Kevin Lefkowitz. They had been dating for six months, and they started talking about their future as if it was shared.

“I decided I wanted to propose,” he said.

The Big Move

The couple got engaged in May 2021. In September, they moved to Israel for the Israel portion of Kevin Lefkowitz’s rabbinical education. Then they came back to LA, got married in June 2022 and settled in for Kevin Lefkowitz’s year-long position at Adat Shalom.

By the following summer, it was time to look for full-time jobs and a place to dig roots. They planned to find opportunities in the same city or within a short drive of each other. But Melissa Lefkowitz got her Beth Or offer, and there was no commensurate offer in the area for Kevin Lefkowitz.

They were also expecting.

“So we decided, let’s go plant roots somewhere,” Melissa Lefkowitz said.

The couple moved here in July. Rena was born in October. Kevin Lefkowitz started his part-time job at Beth El, but then Beth Or and TBI congregants started talking. Maple Glen and Blue Bell are 15 minutes from each other.

“There’s a lot of overlap and friendships between TBI and Beth Or congregants. Somebody made the connection that the new Beth Or rabbi is married to a Conservative rabbi,” Kevin Lefkowitz said. “Then they spoke to the search committee, and it was a match.”

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