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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Alan Lew, One of San Francisco's Great Rabbis, Dies at 65

Posted By on Tue, Jan 13, 2009 at 10:40 AM

In my old job of writing for the city's Jewish newspaper, the standard M.O. for banging out a problem story was "Call five rabbis and see what they think."

Some rabbis picked up a reputation for saying foolish things. Others could be counted on to lose their temper. Others earned reps for happily talking about subjects they knew little about. And a select cadre would always have itelligent and thoughtful things to say -- and make you feel proud that you were lucky enough to interact with such people on a day-to-day basis.

Alan Lew was one of those. The longtime former rabbi at Conservative Beth Sholom just off Park Presidio apparently collapsed and died while taking a jog yesterday at a spiritual retreat. He was only 65.

Within the religious community, Lew was best known for returning to Judaism after becoming an ordained Buddhist priest; he founded a meditation center at his synagogue that survives him. In the greater community, however, Lew was a vocal advocate for the homeless, poor, and afflicted. He routinely led vigils at the gates of San Quentin to protest the death penalty.

Lew was a fundamentally kind and decent man who spent his life making San Francisco a better place. He epitomizes the old Jewish refrain: "May his memory be a blessing."

Photo   |   Brian Geller

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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