New leaders take helm for Ojai's faithful
By Jesse Phelps
Two of Ojai's religious institutions
are welcoming new leadership.
Kehilat Ha'Aloneem, the synagogue located in Meiners Oaks, recently
bid adieu to its old rabbi and this month is greeting new rabbi
Micah Hyman. Meanwhile, across town, the Lutheran Church of Our
Redeemer held a service of installation on Sunday for new pastor
The rabbi, who lives in Los Angeles, worked for years at Camp
Ramah, a camp for Jewish youth on Fairview Road. Barbara Aaronson,
president of the congregation, said he had such an effect on
the kids and families there, many of them wholeheartedly recommended
him when the rabbi position came open.
We are so excited," said Aaronson. "He's full of joy
and zest and caring. We all love him. We got a young rabbi that's
really interested in the kids. Because of his camp experience,
he just really relates well to young people. They flock to him.
He's very warm and enthusiastic."
Rabbi Hyman was raised in Los Angeles. He received a bachelor's
degree in history from the University of Michigan. While still
an undergraduate, he spent one year in Israel with friends, where
he was involved with a children's theater. In his senior year,
he said, he realized he had a lot more to learn about Judaism
so he decided to attend rabbinical school.
After attending the University of Judaism for two years in Los
Angeles and spending another year in Israel, followed by three
years at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City, he
was ordained as a conservative rabbi in 1999.
Conservative rabbis respect Jewish cultural traditions and rituals
without the stringent adherence of the orthodoxy. For instance,
said Aaronson, Hyman eats kosher - by eating vegetarian.
While in Israel, Rabbi Hyman started studying art history, which
continued in New York City for several more years, leading to
a degree in Jewish Art History. Upon ordination, he became assistant
director at Camp Ramah for three years. In addition, he taught
art history at the University of Judaism and learned Arabic at
the University of California at Los Angeles.
In 2002, he became the rabbi of the only conservative synagogue
in Paris while their regular rabbi was on a one-year sabbatical.
He's credited with helping expand their outreach program in the
outskirts of Paris.
Paris was chosen, said the rabbi, because his wife, Erin, who
is a student of French literature of the 19th and 20th centuries,
obtained a fellowship to do research there for her doctoral thesis
at UCLA. Her plan is to teach at a university.
The couple has no kids - yet - though they say they are "eagerly
waiting for the joys of children" in their home.
The rabbi and Erin say they are "very excited to be with
the Kehilat Ha'Aloneem. We already feel comfortable and welcomed
by the members of the shul."
Pastor Hellwege grew up in Diggins, Miss., where his father was
also a pastor. He graduated from St. Paul's High School, Concordia,
Missouri, in 1959 and St. Paul's College in 1961. He graduated
from Concordia Senior College in Fort Wayne, Indiana, with a
Bachelor of Arts degree in 1963 and from Concordia Seminary in
St. Louis with a Master of Divinity degree on May 26, 1967.
Pastor Hellwege and his wife, Marilyn, were united in marriage
on July 24, 1965. Marilyn's father was also a pastor. She was
born in Trail, British Columbia, Canada, and lived her early
years in Canada before her family moved to Missouri. Marilyn,
who is a teacher, graduated from Concordia Teacher's College
in River Forest Illinois.
The Hellweges have four children: Stephen, David, Joy, and Kristin.
Pastor Hellwege served his vicarage at Immanuel Lutheran Church
in New York, New York. Following his Ordination on June 11, 1967,
he has served as Pastor at trinity Lutheran Church in Peoria,
Illinois (1967 -1971); Zion Lutheran Church in Kalamazoo, MI
(1971-1984); King of Kings Lutheran Church in Omaha, NE (1984-1988);
and Zion Lutheran Church in Atlantic, IA (1988-2003).
The pastor said he enjoys golfing, listening to music, reading,
working on family history and outdoors activities.
He said he came to Ojai because he's got relatives nearby and
he wanted "to get away from the heat and humidity of the
Midwest and the cold of the wintertime."
"I'm taking early retirement," said Pastor Hellwege.
"But I still wanted to keep active in the ministry."
The small congregation and its desire to have him serve on a
part-time basis were a perfect fit.
Pastor Hellwege led services on the third and tenth of August
and said he's found the congregation to be "really open
and friendly people and people that are very welcoming to us."
He says he "looks forward to enjoying California and a new
stage in our lives in semi-retirement."
The Ojai Valley News
to the news
of Ojai's religious institutions are welcoming new leadership
Allen Hellwege, top, and Rabbi Micha Hyman are welcomed by their