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Rabbis of LA | Rabbi Tova Leibovic-Douglas on the Merits of Spiritual Renewal

Last Sept. 28, Rabbi Tova Leibovic-Douglas introduced The Ritual House, a place for spiritual renewal.
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February 29, 2024
Rabbi Tova Leibovic-Douglas

Last Sept. 28, Rabbi Tova Leibovic-Douglas introduced The Ritual House, a place for spiritual renewal. This was ten days before Oct. 7. “Great timing,” the rabbi remarked with a slight smile.

The timing may have been accidental but it was fortuitous. Between the war-driven rise in global antisemitism and daily anxieties over the Israel-Gaza War, Jews are hungering for spiritual support. This happens to be one of Rabbi Tova’s several specialties.

“The focus is on the individual,” she explained about the Ritual House, “his or her spiritual pathways, working with them through spiritual coaching, energy work, creating rituals.”

The rabbi offered two examples. “It could be a traditional ritual like a Jewish wedding, or it could be – a parent recently told me ‘My third child went off to college, and I am so really sad.’  We create rituals together, tapping into the traditional Jewish ways that we ritualize things.” 

A native Angeleno, the rabbi grew up attending Sinai Temple while learning at Sinai Akiba Academy and Milken Community School. While raised in a traditional family – her grandparents were Holocaust survivors –in her younger days, predictable she was not. 

She was one of Rabbi David Wolpe’s earliest bat mitzvah students in the late ’90s when she shocked her Hasidic-raised father by announcing “I don’t think I believe in God.” Shortly afterwards, the rabbi “gave me good advice, and I stopped talking about it.”

She has been doing “the independent rabbi thing” since just before the pandemic, two years after her 2018 ordination. 

Just before COVID, Leibovic-Douglas was hired by the Beit T’Shuvah treatment center, and she experienced a spiritual crisis. “Rabbi Mark Borovitz and [founder] Harriet Rossetto helped me see there is a way to do this rabbi thing through spiritual counseling,” she said. “That’s what being a rabbi is about,” she added, suggesting a prospective book title, Finding a Way to Do It.

In another case of good timing, when Jews and others were grasping for answers in during the pandemic, Rabbi Tova launched a new project, the Spiritual Care Circle.  

“I think what I am doing is really new,” she said. A small group of eight to 12 persons, they meet weekly, and the rabbi is available in-person and on Zoom.   “Most of my offerings are for all genders,” but with a single stipulation: “It has to be with people who want to be there. I am open to all age ranges, and the majority of people who find me are millennials or Gen Z’s. I definitely work individually with all ages.”

Many of the people who find her are unaffiliated.  “Some are not even Jewish but Jewish-adjacent,” she said. She sees herself as a stepping stone in their journey, helping them find their way.

Her website, https://www.theritual.house, describes The Ritual House mission: “The Ritual House invites you to step into rituals yourself — without a rabbi, priest or guru. We invite you to co-create your spiritual life through our podcast, (The Ritual House) ritual downloadables, circles, spiritual coaching and energy work.”

The five-month-old Ritual House combines what she has been doing – Spiritual Care Circles and New Moon gatherings.

When she was in rabbinical school, “if you had told me I would be leading New Moon gatherings, focused on individual spiritual care and spiritual counseling to empower the individual, I would have laughed at you.” 

She gave birth to her two children back-to-back. As a rabbinical student, she would “sort of” detach herself from her kids to be in the Beit Midrash “as long as I had to be.” After her second child, she suffered a severe health issue and also deep spiritual health issues. 

For awhile, “I was broken. Losing faith and finding it all at the same time.”

The young mother remembered “being really sick. In that sickness, I started asking questions, like ‘What matters to me in my life? What is my connection to the Divine?’”

The truth was, “I did not have firm answers. I said to myself, ‘Look, I am going to be a rabbi. I am a mother. I have to figure this out.’” Figuring things out launched her on a unique spiritual path.

During the day she would study Talmud. “At night I would be in the L.A. spiritual scene, and the combination was really like helpful to me because I could connect to myself.”  She would say “Let’s rethink this whole thing authentically. Like, who am I? How do I do it as me? Not what I am supposed to do.’ Not that anyone said that I had to, but it was something I took on.”

Rabbi Tova speaks lovingly of the immense, enduring family support she has received. “My husband is the secret ingredient in me,” she said. “He is really grounded, of this world. He keeps me in check that way. I am really, really lucky.’

The rabbi feels a desire to be part of creating something in every moment, whether with an individual or by thinking big: “How can we live differently, Jewishly, spiritually?”

The rabbi feels a desire to be part of creating something in every moment, whether with an individual or by thinking big: “How can we live differently, Jewishly, spiritually?” She allowed she may be a head-in-the-clouds person, exploring, always seeking. 

Lauding her parents for planting Jewish seeds early for her and her two younger sisters, the rabbi said, “They chose this beautiful communal Jewish life for us.

“It was about learning Torah and the rich tradition we have, which I love so much.” 

Fast Takes with Rabbi Tova

Jewish Journal: Outside of Judaism, what is the most meaningful book you have read?

Rabbi Tova: In high school, As a Driven Leaf, by Milton Steinberg, changed my life.

J.J.: Your favorite Jewish food?

Rabbi Tova: My Bubbe, Of Blessed Memory, made gefilte fish, and her homemade horseradish.

J.J.  What is your favorite spare time activity?

Rabbi Tova: I love a day when I can be both in nature and at a museum or good restaurant. If I can do those in the same day, I have won the lottery.

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