Well versed: Rabbi skilled in fields of law, music, sports and education


By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Dan Horwitz’s website lists him as a rabbi, educator, consultant and community builder.

Add to that roster: attorney, mediator, musician, and sports enthusiast. Horwitz holds dual degrees from the University of Michigan — a master’s degree in kinesiology/sports management and a juris doctor from the law school where he was a dean’s scholarship recipient; chief justice of the Michigan Central Student Judiciary; contributing dditor to the Michigan Journal of Race & Law; and education director of the Jewish Law Students Association.

“Growing up with parents who both worked in and on behalf of the Jewish community, I knew from a young age that I wanted to be a Jewish communal worker as well,” he said. “When I looked at those running the major Jewish nonprofit organizations nationally, many had advanced law and business degrees, in addition to some holding advanced Jewish degrees. I was always much better with words than numbers and enjoyed the study of law — both Jewish and secular — so law school was a natural fit.”

Horwitz, who also has master’s degrees in Jewish Studies from Gratz College in Melrose Park, Pa., and in Jewish education from Hebrew College in Newton Centre, Mass., earned his undergrad degree, cum laude, from Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass.

“After having a great undergraduate experience at Brandeis University — with its total student population around 3,200 — heading to law school at a Big Ten school that has the culture, tradition, student population size and sporting excellence that Michigan does was an amazing experience,” he said. “I played pickup basketball four days a week while in law school and loved that there was always a game going on due to the sheer number of students on campus.”

A member of the State Bar of Michigan, Horwitz is a Michigan SCAO-approved mediator who has served as a volunteer mediator at the Oakland Mediation Center, and in the Southfield and Novi district courts.
“I'm generally in awe of how poorly we communicate with one another,” he said. “Mediation speaks to me as a vehicle for helping to frame issues, so that our disagreements can be focused instead of all-encompassing.”

Ordained as a rabbi by the Mesifta Adath Wolkowisk, a rabbinical academy in Woodmere, N.Y., and a member of OHALAH: The Association of Rabbis for Jewish Renewal, and of the Michigan Board of Rabbis, Horwitz is currently the associate rabbi for over 300 families at Congregation Shir Tikvah, a Reform/Renewal community in Troy.

“Shir Tikvah is an incredibly special community,” Horwitz said. “Many institutions pride themselves on being warm and welcoming — Shir Tikvah definitely walks the walk.”

He said he’s been privileged “to share both in people's joys and sorrows, to have been welcomed into their homes and hospital rooms, and to be part of a community that loves to sing,” he said. “The folks at Shir Tikvah take their community — but not themselves — very seriously. It’s a wear what you want, love who you want, be who you are — without judgment — kind of place, which I find very meaningful and refreshing in today's religious communal landscape.”

As the senior jewish educator at Michigan State University Hillel in East Lansing, Horwitz is an educator and spiritual counselor for students and for 10 other Michigan universities catered to by Hillel Campus Alliance of Michigan (H-CAM).

“It’s a very special thing to be able to spend a couple of days each week working with college students,” he said. “I get to swear when I teach without needing to worry about offending, and most importantly, I’ve found that the students open up to me and recognize I can be a trusted confidant as they sort through their own challenges and development into adults.”

Before returning to Michigan this past June, Horwitz spent 2.5 years in Chicago and Washington, D.C. as the rabbi and director of immersive learning for Moishe House, heading the Jewish Education Department for the global leader in Jewish young adult engagement and education.

The empowerment-centric model has young adults, in their 20s, living in group homes of three to five people, charged with hosting a half-dozen community-building programs each month open to the young Jewish adult population in their city, in addition to their full-time work or graduate studies.

There are now more than 70 such houses in 15 countries around the world.

During a period as mid-western regional director for the organization, Horwitz managed group homes in Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis, Denver, Dallas, New Orleans and Mexico City and cultivated donors throughout the country.

“Detroit has had a couple of these houses over the past few years, with one now in Royal Oak,” he said. “What’s beautiful about the model is that instead of organizations and institutions trying to figure out how to attract young adults to their programs, instead, the young adults are charged with creating their own programs and community, and are provided the resources and support to do so. The model is particularly one that resonates in metro Detroit, as many of our young adults are entrepreneurially inclined.”

A native of West Bloomfield, Horwitz and his wife Miriam — a certified freelance American Sign Language interpreter – make their home in Huntington Woods, with their infant son Jonah.

Horwitz’s father Arthur is the owner and publisher of The Detroit Jewish News, and his mother, Gina, is a senior major gifts officer at Wayne State University College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Horwitz’s brother Adam is a fourth year Ph.D. candidate in clinical psychology at U-M and his sister Stephanie, a dual American-Israeli citizen and a U-M grad, serves in the Israeli army as a tank instructor.

“It becomes very personal for me when people ignorantly portray the Israeli army as being comprised of Jews thirsting for Arab/Muslim blood,” Horwitz said.

Fluent in Hebrew, Horwitz has traveled to Israel many times, including as a Taglit Birthright Israel staff member and trip leader. He spent five months studying at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

“There's something very special about communicating in one’s second language with native speakers, with appreciating incredible food — I’m a hummus enthusiast to put it mildly — and with connecting to a land that for millennia my ancestors have turned their hearts towards while in prayer,” he said.

In 2013, Horwitz spent two weeks as the rabbi-in-residence for Kehillat Beijing, a progressive Jewish community in China.

“It was fascinating having the chance to explore Chinese culture and also special and humbling to see Jewish families actively gathering together for community and prayer in a part of the world largely devoid of Jews,” said Horwitz who enjoyed visiting the Great Wall of China.

A violinist in the Detroit-based Klezmer band, “Klezundheit!”, Horwitz enjoys baseball, basketball, bridge, guitar, salsa dancing and cooking, and is a board member and Gratitude Team Co-Chair of NEXTGen Detroit, a program of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit.