Obituaries » Richard Nelson Levy
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June 9, 1937 - June 21, 2019
RABBI RICHARD NELSON LEVY – June 9, 1937-June 21, 2019 Rabbi Richard Nelson Levy was the Rabbi Emeritus of the Campus Synagogue and Director of Spiritual Growth at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion’s Jack H. Skirball Campus in Los Angeles. Previously, he had served as the Skirball Campus’ Director of the School of Rabbinical Studies. He was a Past President of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, in which post he shepherded the creation of the Statement of Principles for Reform Judaism in 1999. Levy was Director of the Hillel Council at UCLA from 1968-75 and then until 1999 as Executive Director of the Los Angeles Hillel Council. His first pulpit was as the Assistant Rabbi at Leo Baeck Temple in Los Angeles from 1966-1968. A 1959 graduate of Harvard University, where he was Managing Editor of The Crimson, he was ordained at HUC-JIR in 1964 and received an honorary doctorate from there in 1984. He was the editor of On Wings of Awe, a High Holyday prayer book, re-issued in a revised edition in 2012; On Wings of Freedom, a Passover Haggadah; and On Wings of Light, a Shabbat evening prayer book. He wrote A Vision of Holiness: The Future of Reform Judaism in 2005, and Songs Ascending: The Book of Psalms in a New Translation with Textual and Spiritual Commentary in 2017. He contributed to the Reform prayer books Gates of Prayer and Mishkan T’Filah, and his translations and commentaries have been used in congregations across the country. He was a passionate advocate for civil rights, social justice, and peace. At the invitation of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., he was part of a delegation of 16 Reform rabbis and one lay leader to stage a public protest against segregation on June 18, 1964 in St. Augustine, FL, where they were subsequently arrested in what is thought to be the largest mass-arrest of rabbis in American history. From their cell, they wrote “Why We Went,” a letter that expressed the rabbis’ commitment to the Jewish and human obligation to fight injustice. He was a co-founder of Bet Tzedek Jewish Legal Services in 1972, one of the founding co-chairs of the Sandra Caplan Community Bet Din in 2002, a member of the J Street Rabbinic and Cantorial Cabinet and Advisory Council, a lifelong member of the Jewish Peace Fellowship, and a member of the board of Americans for Peace Now. Born in Rochester, NY to Miriam (Baker) and Maurice Levy, he was married for 43 years to Carol Elaine (Kretzer) Levy, who died in 2015. He was the father of Sarah and Elizabeth Levy, father-in-law of Connor Kalista and Chad Kenward, and grandfather of Elijah Kalista. His deep wisdom, convictions and care made him a beloved teacher and mentor to so many, and his poetic gifts with language will remain as a lasting testament to his own spirituality and his desire for the Jewish people to feel connected in their relationship with God.