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March 14, 2003 - Image 57

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-03-14

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rchiyah members
Carol Dmitruk
of Detroit, Sandy
Hansell of Bloomfield
Township, Harold
and Mary Ellen
Gurewitz of Detroit
and Steve Gutow chat
before the first class
on Jewish Arab

Mary Ellen Gurewitz
chats with Steve
Gutow during a Feb.
7 class he led on
Jewish Arabrelations.

modernity, to accommodate the
demands of both continuity and
change, reformulating ancient beliefs
and practices to meet the needs of our
For Gutow, that means his "level of
observance is not set by the ancient
rabbis but by my own understanding of
how Jewish tradition and Jewish law fit
into the living of a holy life.
"I meditate every day," he said.
"Shabbat is a holy day and I treat it
that way. I've been a vegetarian for a
while, but now I see it in terms of
kashruth and the holy presence of God
within animals. I pray before I eat."
He finds halachah (Jewish law)
important. "I study its demands and its
underlying rationales," he said. "I
believe that each person needs to grap-
ple with its mandates for himself or
herself. I respect those who are more
observant or less observant than I."
Typical of the Reconstructionist syn-
agogue, T'chiyah is inclusive, spiritually
vibrant and egalitarian, in both princi-
ple and practice.
"T'chiyah is participatory, with a
commitment to discussion and under-
standing of Judaism and its concerns,"
Gutow said.
Although he has removed himself
from political and legal work, he retains
many friendships forged there.
Ironically, one of his newest friendships
— made within his rabbinic work in
Detroit — is with attorneys Mary Ellen
and Harold Gurewitz, who typically
host Gutow's weekend visits.
"His background is particularly
appealing to me as one of my clients is
the Michigan Democratic Party," said
Mary Ellen Gurewitz, a union labor
lawyer and politically involved.

'As I have come to know Steve, I am
seeing that he has, in a way, moved
beyond political activism, or perhaps
that he is taking it to a new, more spiri-
tual and ethical dimension. In a deeper
study of Judaism, he seeks the founda-
tion of social responsibility and tikun
olam (repairing the world).
On a more personal level, she refers
to him as delightful and fascinating. "I
am sure we'll continue to follow his
progress and to be friends after he
leaves our congregation," she said.
Not ready to hire a full-time rabbi,
the 26-year-old T'chiyah has enjoyed
the presence of many rabbinical stu-
dents, and Gutow will certainly leave
his mark.
He now is in the process of inter-
viewing for a pulpit rabbinic position
to follow his June ordination. "I'm not
looking to be in the biggest synagogue
in the biggest state," he said. "I'd rather
be in a smaller place where I can be a
friend to the community."
Wherever he finds himself next, he
will go with enthusiasm.
"I love my life — it's a fun life," he
said with satisfaction. Then with his
typical look forward, he added the
words, "So far." O

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In a program exploring Jewish-
Arab relations, Congregation
T'chiyah has begun a series of
monthly lectures titled
"Connections and Conflicts: The
Complex Relationship between
Jews and Arabs — Past, Present
and Future."





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