Our Rabbis

Devorah Marcus, Senior Rabbi

Since joining our Temple Emanu-El family in July 2013, Rabbi Devorah Marcus has led our congregation with enthusiasm, joy, humor, and song. She brings an emphasis on building our community, deepening the ties between congregants, and encouraging everyone to be life-long learners and pursuers of peace and justice in the world.

About Devorah Marcus

Growing up in Orange County, CA, Rabbi Devorah attended Camp Swig (now Camp Newman) from an early age and was raised in a Reform Jewish household. She received her Bachelor of Arts from Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois in 1998 with a degree in Speech Communications and two minors in Music and Religious Studies. Following college she served as a youth coordinator at a congregation in northern California for two years before pursuing an opportunity that allowed her to move to Milan, Italy to serve as a music teacher. After returning from Milan, she began pursuing her dream of becoming a rabbi and started her rabbinical studies in the summer of 2003 at Hebrew Union College. Rabbi Devorah received Smichah (Rabbinic Ordination) on May 18, 2008 in Los Angeles the morning after she and her husband, Sebastian Eickholt, were married in Newport Beach. It was a fabulous weekend!

Here at Temple Emanu-El, Rabbi Devorah has continued her work of building community and creating life-long learners. Through classes such as “Pirkei Avot” and “Torah for the Table,” she works to help congregants of all ages feel a sense of belonging to their Judaism and to each other. In her own words, “As your rabbi, my role is to create bridges to connection, relationship and community. In this way, we all become God’s partners in living deeper lives and making sure no one is ever alone. By finding ways to bring Judaism’s relevancy and meaning into every moment of our lives, we partner with God to make the classroom our world, and to make the world our classroom.”

Benj Fried, Associate Rabbi

Rabbi Benj’s goal is to help bring Jews of all ages closer to community, Jewish learning and a life of meaning.

He works with the Adult Education Committee to enhance our learning experiences, with our Youth Groups and our Torah School.

About Benj Fried

Rabbi Benj was raised in the San Francisco Bay Area where he was a singer and soloist in his synagogue’s High Holy Day choir. During his undergraduate years at Stanford University, he did research in Organic Chemistry and Neurobiology, and received his B.S. in Biology. He was involved with Hillel on campus, and discovered his interest in working in the Jewish community. Following his years at Stanford, he attended Harvard Divinity School, receiving his Master’s Degree in Theological Studies, and began rabbinic school at Hebrew Union College in 2012.

While in school, Rabbi Benj served as student rabbi at Congregation Shir Ami in Castro Valley, Shir Ha-Ma’alot in Irvine, and Temple Judea in Tarzana. During the summer months, he worked for the Religious Action Center, URJ Camp Kalsman, and pursued a graduate certificate in nonprofit management. In 2016, he received his Master’s of Jewish Education from HUC and wrote a curriculum guide using Hassidic stories as a gateway for teenagers to cultivate their spiritual lives and develop values and integrity. His rabbinic thesis, entitled “Playing with Leviathan,” seeks to use chaos theory as a basis to construct an innovative God concept.

Martin S. Lawson, Rabbi Emeritus

Rabbi Lawson is the Rabbi Emeritus of Temple Emanu-El in San Diego.  He served as rabbi of the congregation for thirty-six years, retiring in June 2012.  He was born in Muskegon, Michigan and was raised in Miami Beach, Florida.  Rabbi Lawson is married to Anita Satlof-Lawson and they are the parents of a daughter, Bethami, and son, Joshua and his wife, Nicole and proud grandparents of Zoe and Talia Lawson.

About Martin S. Lawson

He was Assistant Rabbi at The Temple, in Atlanta, until 1976 when he came to San Diego as the Assistant Rabbi of Temple Emanu-El. In 1978 he became the Senior Rabbi and in 1993 was honored with a contract through retirement. Rabbi Lawson was a founder of, and an Instructor at the San Diego High School of Jewish Studies which has now become the Community Jewish High. He is also a founder and former Director of the San Diego Jewish Academy, a community Jewish Day School having almost 800 students. He was the Chairperson of the San Diego Task Force on Holocaust Commemoration for the Jewish Community Relations Council of the UJF. Rabbi Lawson was the first Chairperson of the UJF Synagogue-Federation Committee. He is on the National Rabbinic Cabinet of the United Jewish Communities.

In May 1999, he received the Doctor of Divinity degree, Honoris Causa, from the HUC-JIR. He is a past President of the Pacific Association of Reform Rabbis and also has served three times as President of the San Diego Rabbinical Association, and received the first award for Rabbinic Leadership from the UJF of San Diego County.

Marty and Anita are truly enjoying retirement. They fill their time with travel, study, teaching and, most important, visiting their children and grandchildren in Los Angeles.

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