December 30, 1999
Rabbi David Glickman
Blending Education with Fun
David Glickman thought he had left Judaism far behind. He arrived in Maui in 1990 to research whales after studying psychology and animal behavior at the University of Hawaii (UH). But the son of a long-time cantor at Congregation Beth Jacob in Los Angeles found himself drawn to the island's small Jewish community. And it quickly became apparent to him and others that he was Maui's most learned Jew. "It brought me back to the Orthodoxy that I had strayed from," Glickman told the Journal.
Now, he is Rabbi Glickman, the spiritual leader of the Jewish Congregation of Maui and Temple Beit Shalom.
Maui, an island of 100,000 full-time residents, is home to an estimated 2,000 Jews. They run the gamut from Buddhists-Jews to Reform and Conservative to Glickman, who is Orthodox. "Let's face it," says the rabbi. "Jews did not come here to be Jewish."
On this idyllic spot of land, the diverse community has reached a kind of idyllic modus vivendi. Several years ago, the community split into two congregations. The reason, says Glickman, seems to have been personal, not doctrinal. One group formed the Reform-affiliated Gan Eden Congregation. Rabbi Bonita Taylor flies in from New York to perform Gan Eden's High Holiday services.
But the bulk of island Jewry, including many Reform Jews, remained with the main congregation. About nine years ago, they acquired a home in a subdivision in Kihei, near the resort area of Wailea, and converted it into a synagogue, Temple Beit Shalom. The two synagogues hold Friday night services there on alternate Fridays, and Temple Beit Shalom holds Shabbat services there every Sat. morning. There is a Jewish area in a local cemetery which all may share.
On Passover Beit Shalom gets 200 people, over the High Holidays 400. Glickman is proud that 1999 was the first year in Maui history that the community celebrated Jewish holidays on the actual day, not on the closest and most convenient Sunday.
Inside Beit Shalom, which is unaffiliated with any movement, Glickman has adopted what may be world's most creative attempt at Jewish unity. There is a mechitzah for dividing men from women in part of the shul, which those who desire may use. Women are counted in a minyan. "Halachically speaking there is very little reason not to," says the rabbi, who attended yeshiva in Skokie, Illinois and received ordination through East Coast Orthodox rabbis. "Some people think we're too liberal," he says, "and some think we're too Jewish. But everyone is welcome." Tourists especially. "If it weren't for visitors, we wouldn't have a minyan on Shabbas," says Glickman.
Glickman now leads services, runs his congregation's small Hebrew school, teaches adult education, and counsels. And he has carved a new life for himself as spiritual leader, not a whale researcher. Three weeks ago he married Jodi Lynn Sato, whom he met at UH. Jodi's six year-old son Jacob is the only child in the Maui public school system who wears a kippah. "It's hard to find a nice Jewish girl out here," says Glickman, "but I did."
The Jewish Congregation of Maui can be reached at (808) 874-5397 or email@example.com.