Rabbi Lewis M. Barth is Professor Emeritus of Midrash and Related Literature at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Los Angeles and former Dean. He is a native of Los Angeles, graduated from UCLA, studied at HUC-JIR’s Los Angeles Campus and was ordained and has his PhD from HUC-JIR in 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-JIR until June, 2012. He is presently a Research Candidate at the Institute for Contemporary Psychoanalysis in Los Angeles, where he is in psychoanalytic training; his psychoanalytic practice is in Encino, CA.
During his deanship, Rabbi Barth was primarily responsible for bringing Rabbinic Ordination to the HUC-JIR’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-JIR’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-JIR 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-JIR-USC joint Judaic studies program, for several years he taught, “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 Pirkei d’Rabbi Eliezer (the Chapters of Rabbi Eliezer, an exceedingly popular 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 Co-Chair of the Berit Mila Board of Reform Judaism and—working with Dr. David James, Founding Chair of the Berit Mila 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 Berit Mila 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 Mid-Century 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.