Religions and Spirituality

A Conversation with Westfield Rabbi Doug Sagal of Temple Emanu-El

Rabbi Doug Sagal Credits: Temple Emanu-El

WESTFIELD, NJ —  Rabbi Doug Sagal, aka the Boxing Rabbi, is celebrating his 11th year at Temple Emanu-el of Westfield. The congregation, the largest Reform Jewish congregation in New Jersey, serves 1,100 families.

Rabbi Sagal posts his thoughts about religion, life and philosophy on his blog

 “I study Torah, and I can throw a great left jab.  Not a bad combination!”

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The Alternative Press: Tell us about your family and pets.

Sagal: I am married to Dr Lauren Kaplan, a psychiatrist; we have three children; Michal, Kyra and Coby. We have one cat named Lucky.

TAP: Where were you born and where did you grow up? Where were you schooled?

Sagal: I was born in Morristown , lived for a time in Summit and grew up in Berkeley Heights. I attended Governor Livingston High School, Wesleyan University, Hebrew Union College and Yale Divinity School.

TAP: Where do you live now? Where did you live before this?

Sagal: I live in Westfield. I moved here after serving congregations in Connecticut and Chicago.

TAP: What are your hobbies?  

Sagal:  I enjoy performing magic tricks and for two decades I have trained as an amateur boxer.

TAP: What is the most interesting meal you’ve ever had?  What did you eat and who were you with?

Sagal: The most interesting meal I ever had was about a month ago when I shared a meal with a group of Ethiopian Rabbis in Israel. On the menu were different types of Ethiopian flatbreads, as well as spicy dips that the bread is customarily eaten with. Some of those foods were typically prepared for the Sabbath in the Ethiopian community.

TAP: You have a blog called “The Boxing Rabbi.” What is that all about?

Sagal:  Boxing, and my thoughts about life through the prism of religion and spirituality.

TAP: What has been your proudest moment as a rabbi?

Sagal: Every day is an opportunity to help someone or influence their life in a positive manner.

TAP: What thing is Westfield doing right that other towns in New Jersey should emulate?

Sagal: Creating a vibrant “walking” downtown.

TAP: Your brother has earned himself quite a reputation as the host of “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me - The NPR News Quiz."   Which one of you is more recognizable when you go out together?

Sagal: My brother, of course. It even happened in a kosher Israeli restaurant in NYC. Usually, someone recognizes him and comes up for an autograph.

Editor’s Note: “A Conversation with …” is a monthly series of question and answer articles with Westfield people.

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