Davis comes to St. Louis Park from Congregation B’nai Torah in Springfield, Mass., where he had been since 2010.There, he was responsible for helping transition the congregation past the merger of three area synagogues. Prior to that he was an assistant rabbi at Congregation Beth Israel in Berkeley, Calif. Davis was also a teacher in the middle school classes at both the Jewish day schools of Springfield and Berkeley. Who The Folk is Rabbi Max Davis?
Do feel extra pressure being Darchei Noam’s first in town rabbi?
I do feel a certain added pressure because my understanding is that it has been functioning in a beautiful way for 10 years without a constant rabbinic presence. I think we’re going to have to spend some time in the community figuring out what I can be doing to really help continue to nourish this community that has so much. I’m counting on us to continue the team work. The challenge was part of the attraction of the job.
Is it tough starting with a new congregation the weekend before Rosh Hashanah?
I don’t think of it that way. Rosh Hashanah is a beginning. Not just of the year, but lots of ways. In my mind it’s a really great way to start new relationships. It’s also what happened with my last congregation in Springfield, Mass. Might as well test out all the systems at Rosh Hashanah.
What was appealing about moving here?
The character of the congregation. We did some research from friends. Darchei Noam is a very outgoing and welcoming congregation. It’s a very spiritual community. It was very attractive to us. There’s a lot to like.
At some jobs you get a “honeymoon period.” Do you get an easing-in period to a job like this?
I don’t know; I haven’t had any other types of job. This is the only type of position I’ve known. I think the nature of being a shul rabbi, one of the fundamental principles, is to try and listen and hear where people are coming from. I think that’s important from day 1 or 20 years in.
Where are you from originally?
Why come to the Midwest?
We’ve lived all over. Dalia and I met in New York. My first rabbinic position was in Berkeley. I definitely love being close to family and the familiarity of East Coast living and mannerisms. The community in Springfield was wonderful to us. Ultimately, Darchei Noam looked like a terrific fit for us as a family. It was important to Dalia and me. It’s a community that feels like a spiritual home for us and our children. We had elements of that in other places, but Darchei seems like the right place.
How is settling in going?
I think we’re as settled in as you can be. We’ve tried to prepare the home (for the baby). The outreach from the community is far above and beyond anything we expected. There have been countless visits from the Darchei community who have dropped off food and prepared meals. The outpouring of support from meals to offers of childcare assistance has really been absolutely breathtaking. It was a really powerful introduction to the caliber of people here.
Do you have time for hobbies?
What I like to do is be a father. Whatever that involves, that’s my greatest enjoyment right now. If Dalia and the girls were to go East, I’d probably roam around. That’s what I used to do in college: Take a train, go somewhere, walk around for a few hours.
Favorite Jewish holiday?
I’ve never been asked that in all the interviews I’ve done for different positions. There are so many aspects of so many holidays it’s hard to pin down. Sukkot. I love the smells in the sukkah.
Favorite Jewish food?
Lasagna. Don’t tell me it’s Italian. The first time I had it, my mother made it for me. As far I’m concerned it’s as Jewish as gefilte fish.Click here to nominate your favorite TC Jew to be featured on our weekly Who the Folk?! series!