Joel D. Newman, Rabbi
BA, BHL, FLBC, DD
Joel D. Newman was born in Cleveland, Ohio and raised in Dallas, Texas, where he graduated from Hillcrest High School. He attended Columbia University in New York, where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in History in 1976, and at the same time attended the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, where he received a Bachelor of Arts in Hebrew Literature degree.
From 1973-1974, he attended the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. When the Yom Kippur War broke out, the University was closed, he worked in the evenings for the office of the Mayor of Jerusalem and he during the day, attended Mosad HaRav Kook to study Talmud and Sofrut. For the rest of the year he learned STaM script and was ordained a “scribe.”
From 1977 until 1981, Rabbi Newman lived in London, England where he attended the Leo Baeck College and received Rabbinic Ordination. During those same years he also attended the Heatherly School of Fine Art and received a Studio Arts Certificate. In June 2008, Rabbi Newman was made a “Senior Fellow of the Leo Baeck College” [the highest grade of membership of an academic institution], London, England. In May 2010, he received a Doctor of Divinity, honoris causa, from the Jewish Theological Seminary, New York.
He was also a Rabbi of two congregations in London, scribe to the Jewish Religious Court of London and Senior scribe to the “Precious Legacy”, repairing and cataloguing the 1,600 Holocaust Torah Scrolls (5 Books of Moses) saved from the Nazis.
Rabbi Newman returned to the United States, where from 1981 until 1992 he served as the spiritual leader of congregations in St. Paul, Minnesota and in Denver, Colorado. From 1983-2007, he also served as the National Chaplain of Sigma Alpha Mu Fraternity.
Rabbi Newman was commissioned a Naval Officer in 1990 and served as a Chaplain with the Marine Corps Reserve in Denver, Colorado. In 1992, Chaplain Newman was the recipient of “Pluralism Award,” from the Naval Affairs Committee of the State of Rhode Island.
In November 1992, Chaplain Newman chose to go on active duty and received orders to the First Force Service Support Group, Camp Pendleton, California. As a Battalion Chaplain he traveled to East Africa (Operation Restore Hope), Ecuador (Operation Amistad) and Japan. The Jewish program that Chaplain Newman ran for the Navy was almost non-existent upon his arrival at Camp Pendleton. During his tenure, it became the largest Jewish program in the Department of Defense. He was presented with the 1995 Distinguished Performance Award for “outstanding performance and exemplary professionalism.”
From 1996-1999 Chaplain Newman was the Regional Rabbi for Navy Region Southwest and was responsible for the Jewish life of the Marines and Sailors on the west coast of California including Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, Naval Hospital Balboa, Naval Air Station, Miramar and Navy Region Southwest. While in San Diego he deployed two times to the Arabian Gulf where he traveled to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain, including the ships in the Persian Gulf (Fifth Fleet). Rabbi Newman also served as the ships’ Chaplain to the USS Chancellorsville during the Rim of the Pacific Exercise in 1998.
From 1999-2002, Chaplain Newman was the Deputy Command Chaplain for Marine Aircraft Group 39 at Camp Pendleton, California. During that tour he deployed three more times to the Arabian Gulf and Afghanistan, including a six-month deployment with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit as the Air Command Element Chaplain aboard the USS Boxer (LHD-4).
Chaplain Newman arrived at the United States Naval Academy in June of 2002 where he served as the Chaplain for the 1st Battalion and 3rd Battalions and as an Ethics Instructor in the “Moral Reasoning for Naval Leaders” Ethics Class taught to sophomores. While at the Naval Academy, he spent three years in the design and planning of the new Commodore Uriah P. Levy Jewish Chapel. He also deployed once to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in support of the Anti-Terrorist Detainee Operation and a sixth time back to the Arabian Gulf for Operation Iraqi Freedom.
From June 2005-2008, Chaplain Newman returned to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton where he was the Deputy Command Chaplain at the base. Since his return to California, he has deployed four more times to the Persian Gulf in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and twice to Djibouti, Horn of Africa (Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa). He has also made extensive visits in 2006, 2007 and 2008 to Bases of the Pacific Fleet in Hawaii, Japan, Singapore, Guam and to Okinawa, Japan. His ninth, tenth and eleventh deployments in 2006 and 2007 to the Arabian Gulf sent him to Al Anbar Province, Western Iraq (Al Taqaddum, Fallujah, Ramadi and Al Asad), Kuwait and Bahrain.
From June 2008 until August 2011, Chaplain Newman was the Group Chaplain for Marine Aircraft Group 39 at Camp Pendleton, California. While at MAG 39 he deployed a twelfth and thirteenth time to the Arabian Gulf (2008), first conducting services and visiting the ships in the Arabian Gulf and Bahrain and later (2009) traveling back to Operation Iraqi Freedom – Iraq a third time in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. During September and October of 2009, Rabbi Newman traveled through Kuwait on his way to Afghanistan for his tenth “combat deployment” in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. In Spring and Fall 2010, and then again in Spring 2011, he was a Pacific Fleet/Marine Forces Pacific Special Envoy to multiple Pacific military bases on Guam, Japan, Okinawa and at sea, aboard the aircraft carrier, USS George Washington (CVN73). In the winter of 2010 Rabbi Newman joined up with the Aircraft Carrier Battle Group Carl Vinson (CVN71) to offer counsel and services. In March 2011, Chaplain Newman completed the course of study and passed the written and oral exams and received the Fleet Marine Force qualified officer warfare device.
From September 2011 until June 2014, Chaplain Newman was the Command Chaplain at Naval Base Coronado, which includes the Naval Amphibious Base and San Clemente Island and supports the U.S. Pacific Fleet and 27,000 military and civilian personnel. In the fall of 2011 Rabbi Newman traveled throughout the Pacific providing High Holy Day services to all branches of service. In the spring of 2012, Rabbi Newman left on his 15th combat deployment to the Persian Gulf visiting the USS Abraham Lincoln Battle Group and USS Enterprise Battle Group and Bahrain and Oman. In the fall of 2012 and 2013, he again, traversed the Pacific providing High Holy Day services.
Chaplain Newman has been certified as a director of the nationally renowned marriage preparation class, P.R.E.P. (Prevention Relationship Enhancement Program), a facilitator and instructor in T.Q.L. (Total Quality Leadership) and as a facilitator in Critical Incident Stress Debriefing. He also has taught the Stephen Covey Institutes’ 7 Habits for Highly Effective People”. He also is the creator of “Attaining 15%” – a marriage program designed to help the military couple beat the 85% divorce rate in the military, while learning more about destructive communication that leads to domestic violence.
Rabbi Newman retired from the Navy on 01 June 2014 after over 23 years of honorable service. He is currently the rabbi of B’nai Vail Congregation in Vail, Colorado.
Rabbi Newman is married to the former Janet Frosh, who was a visiting Professor with the School of Education at the University of Maryland and is a school enrichment tutor through her company Clear Learning. She completed her Ph.D. in Education at the University of Denver in 1997. They live in Vail, Colorado and have two children.
Michelle Cohn Levy, Cantor
Michelle Cohn Levy is 31 years old and moved to the Vail Valley in the summer of 2015. In dozens of congregations, she has led participants in hundreds of services, and is very excited to join the B’nai Vail family to lead the congregation in song.
Since the age of fourteen, Michelle has been teaching and leading secular and Jewish music in various capacities. She spent 13 summers at OSRUI, a Jewish overnight camp, as a camper and then staff member. Since 2005, Michelle has attended Hava Nashira, the Reform movement’s annual intensive song leading and music workshop. Michelle also served as the songleader for her region of NFTY, and her synagogues Religious and Cultural Vice President. Living in Israel for a year, Michelle taught English at an Elementary school, and spent five years as a synagogue early childhood music educator.
Michelle skillfully engages adults, teens and children alike to join her in song with charismatic enthusiasm, love for Judaism and passion for music using her voice, guitar, and ruach.