Torat Yovel: The Torah of Jubilee
The Torat Yovel: The Torah of Jubilee yearly celebration was created by the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association to honor those rabbis who have been in the rabbinate for fifty years. Please feel free to donate below in their honor. All donations go to the Rabbinic Campaign for the Reconstructionist Movement, which supports Reconstructing Judaism and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association.
For those interested in learning more about the founding of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, click here.
Michael Luckens grew up in New York City, where it was possible, at the time, to study Hebrew as a foreign language in public school. Shaped by powerful childhood experiences such as robust singing in shul with his father at seudah shlisheet and attending Camp Ramah, his experience of Judaism was one of joy.
By graduate school, he was attracted to writing a dissertation about the life and thought of an 18th-century Hasidic rabbi while, at the same time, working with others of his generation to create new forms of Jewish expression that resonated with the social and political climate of the era.
Following in the footsteps of his father, mother, and sister, Michael attended Brooklyn College. He earned a Master’s in education from the Ferkauf Graduate School of Yeshiva University. In the fall of 1968, Michael was one of the original thirteen students who entered the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, which had just been founded and included a joint doctoral program with Temple University. Michael is the first graduate of the RRC.
During his five years at the RRC, he co-led alternative High Holiday services at the SAJ in New York City and was Rabbi Alan Miller’s summer replacement there. Of those years, Michael recalls, “during those summers, I would lead services on Shabbat morning, and on Saturday night, as a member of the local waiters and bartenders union, I would work in various restaurants, nightclubs, and racetracks. I lived in two civilizations every weekend, each a great learning experience.”
Michael earned his Ph.D. from Temple University while a student at RRC. This was during the Vietnam War and the social and cultural upheaval of the late 60s and early 70s He credits those years of political protest and social change with attuning his consciousness and opening his heart to the needs of others.
Michael began his rabbinic career at a synagogue in the Boston area and later was the rabbi of Congregation Kerem Shalom in Concord, MA, for 34 years. For 16 years, he taught in the Religious Studies Department of Stonehill College, a Catholic liberal arts college south of Boston. He completed a training program in Pastoral Counseling. Various forms of jazz, poetry, and yoga have been touchstones of inspiration and joy throughout his adult life.
Michael lives in Watertown, MA, with his wife, Sharon Schumack.
Check back for next year’s honorees.