All of these words, and many more could be used to describe Makom Shalom’s spiritual leader, Rabbi Cantor Michael Davis. First, though, we should start with the title – because chances are you won’t find too many congregations led by someone who has been ordained as both Cantor and Rabbi. Indeed, Reb Michael has been a nationally recognized cantor for over 20 years. Reb Michael was born in England and grew up in Israel, where he trained with the Chief Cantor of the Great Synagogue of Jerusalem and in leading Israeli seminaries. He moved to Chicago in 1998, and has been the Cantor at two north suburban synagogues, as well as establishing Reform Cantors of Chicago.
Reb Michael is more than a beautiful voice though; he is truly an engaging and outstanding teacher of both children and adults. When the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center was established, Reb Michael initiated and developed the first three years of Yom Hashoah programming at the Center. As a Cantor on the North Shore, he played a key role in teaching and preparing hundreds of young people for their Bar and Bat Mitzvah ceremonies. He has trained rabbinic students for the past seven years at the Hebrew Seminary in Skokie, and more recently at SVARA, training future rabbis in classic Hebrew and Aramaic text. In 2015, he received smicha, rabbinic ordination, from Rabbi Douglas Goldhamer at the Hebrew Seminary.
Our community prides itself on being open to spiritual seekers from many faiths, and also for bringing our faith into the world through acts of tzedakah (charity) and tikkun olam(social justice). How appropriate that Reb Michael and Makom Shalom would come together! He was a national clergy leader of the Hyatt Hotel workers campaign, working from 2010-2013 on their behalf to secure a fair contract. He organized Jewish and Christian clergy to interview workers and meet with executives of the hotel, and his leadership was featured on the front cover of the Chicago Tribune Business Section. In December 2015, Reb Michael represented the Jewish community at the nation’s largest gathering of Muslims. His rabbinic advocacy for peace and justice in Israel/Palestine has received the recognition and praise of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and in 2017 when he was honored for his interfaith leadership by the MAS-ICNA. Reb Michael also speaks out for justice in Chicago, participating in a December 2016 vigil against violence in our city, addressing other faith leaders at Old St. Pat’s Catholic Church.
Reb Michael truly lives a life that embraces interfaith understanding and social action. Writing on his website, he says “There is new, exciting Interfaith work going on all around us. The new Interfaith transcends social and economic class. It allows us to escape our bubble of safety and push beyond our social comfort zone.” We encourage you to read more of Reb Michael’s wise and inspiring words at his website.
Above all, though, is the gentle grace that Reb Michael brings to the pulpit and our community. He is warm, funny, creative, courageous, generous, engaging, and inspiring. We encourage you to check our events calendar and come meet Reb Michael for yourself -- and see what adjectives you would add!