Rabbi Anna Boswell-Levy had a pretty full summer: She got married in August, and then she and her husband, Josh, an attorney, moved from Pittsburgh to Langhorne, so she could assume the position of spiritual leader at Tzedek v'Shalom, a Reconstructionist congregation in Newtown, Bucks County.
In addition to her pulpit duties, Boswell-Levy, 32, will also serve as religious school director for the congregation, which holds its services and events at Newtown Friends Meeting on Court Street.
Ordained by the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Wyncote in 2006, Boswell-Levy has, for the past two years, served as rabbi for Beth Samuel Jewish Center in the western Pennsylvania community of Ambridge. She explained that part of what drew her to Tzedek v'Shalom was the welcoming nature of the small, close-knit congregation of about 50 families, and its focus on social action efforts within the local community — "something that is very important to me."
What is also important to Boswell-Levy — a self-described "passionate, fun-loving person," known to her congregants as simply Rabbi Anna — is being a friendly, approachable presence, not only to current congregants but, in keeping with the spirit of the shul, to anyone who enters its doors.
"I really want to make people feel comfortable — I wanted to be a rabbi, but I wanted to be me," explained Boswell-Levy. "I'm down-to-earth, and so is the congregation … that is what makes it such a great fit."
Boswell-Levy said that she sees her role as a rabbi to be a "community organizer," and that it's her job to tap into the individual talents of the congregants and help the synagogue grow in the coming years. She doesn't want to be the only person on the bimah; rather, at Tzedek v'Shalom, congregants share in the pulpit responsibilities, such as offering the d'var Torah or initiating deep discussions on issues and causes.
"They don't want me to be the only voice," explained the rabbi, and that participatory environment works for her, in that she enjoys knowing what others are thinking about and interested in. "That's very much what this congregation is about."
Added Boswell-Levy: "I want to share with people … I want to be part of a community and to learn from them as well."