Tucson-native and UArizona student, David Lex, wrote a longform article about the life of Rabbi Philip Lewkowicz, known to our community affectionately as “Rabbi Billy,” for his journalism class. In it, David describes Rabbi Billy’s journey to spiritual discovery and teaching, as well as how he came to call Tucson home.
An excerpt from Lex’s piece:
The line to meet with the Rebbe was as long as ever. Any time Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson would open his doors in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, NY to receive visitors, hundreds of people from all over the world would gather. Many were neatly dressed head to toe in black, waiting hours for just a few moments with the Rebbe. Hoping to receive a bit of his wisdom.
To go see the Rebbe, it wasn’t a simple situation,” remembers Rabbi Lewkowicz. “Special times the Rebbe would make himself available to talk to people, and the lines were massive.”
Rabbi Philip Lewkowicz, known to all as Rabbi Billy, is now in constant motion. His hands punctuate his every sentence as he tells me the story of his singular meeting over a video call.
While Rabbi Billy recounts the meeting, he is transported back in time to New York, when his beard was still reddish brown. The sleeves of his white collared shirt are rolled up to his elbows and white tassels called Tzitzit hang down from his waist over black pants. A yarmulke sits atop the energetic 62-year-old’s crown, surrounded by a horseshoe of white hair, but most of his hair is now located on his chin. His beard is grey and white, long and wispy, and when he’s teaching it frames a near-constant smile, interrupted mostly by his stories…