Dublin native Rabbi Theodore Lewis died last month in a nursing home in Brooklyn at the age of 96. He served as the spiritual leader of the Touro synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island for 36 years. Appropriately Danny Boy was played at his memorial service last week.
Lewis was born in 1915 in Dublin where he attended Dublin College. Later he matriculated at university in London and later the Mir Yeshiva in Mir, Poland. Upon completion of his rabbinical studies Lewis found his way back to Ireland as the rabbi at the Adelaide Road synagogue, the largest synagogue in Ireland. Lewis then ventured to the US to become the rabbi at the oldest synagogue in the United States, Tauro Synagogue.
In 1959 he appeared on the Television show “To Tell the Truth” as the only Irish-born rabbi living in the United States.
Apparently in Lewis’ case, you can take the rabbi out of Ireland but you can’t take the Irish out of the rabbi.
He was certainly blessed with the gift of gab. And a brogue to match. According to a former Hebrew school student, “(Lewis) was an amazing public speaker…his face always reddened slightly. He had a strong brogue when addressing his attendants.” So strong was his brogue in fact added another former student, “It was not like European accents we’re used to. He was so much fun to listen to.”
Lewis was also remembered as one to have shared his love of his homeland with others. Said Saul Woythler of Lewis “…(he) would occasionally return home to visit his family in Ireland and on at least one occasion brought back small gifts for Newport families. I still have the little porcelain leprechaun on a leaf that he gave to our family.”
The rabbi, mentor, teacher, doctor of letters, scholar, author of “Sermons from Tauro Synagohue”, and proud Irishman will sorely be missed on both sides of the Atlantic. For Lewis “the pipes, the pipes are calling, From glen to glen and down the mountainside”.