Rabbi Allen I. Freehling, a giant in the Jewish community and a champion of human and civil rights passed away peacefully on January 6, 2021, with his wife, Lori by his side. He was 88 years old.
Born in Chicago, raised in Miami, Rabbi Freehling graduated from the University of Miami. At age 30, he enrolled in Hebrew Union College, and subsequently served a congregation in Toledo, Ohio before coming to Los Angeles to begin serving as the Senior Rabbi at the University Synagogue in Los Angeles.
For the next 30 years, his visionary leadership skills, sympathetic ear, wise counsel, and warm embrace helped grow the congregation from a membership of over 200 families to more than 1,000. Under his guidance, the synagogue emerged as a dynamic proponent of Reform Judaism. Rabbi Freehling worked tirelessly as a community activist to improve the lives of all people in Los Angeles. He helped the burgeoning homeless populations. He co-created interfaith dialogues between all faith groups. He was the among the first to officiate at interfaith and same-sex life cycle events. Rabbi Freehling strove to improve black-Jewish relations, leading to a historic meeting in 1988 with the Rev. Jessie Jackson. He was an advocate for the LGBTQ community and advocated for people living with HIV/AIDS during the early days of the HIV pandemic. He was appointed as the first Chair of the Los Angeles County Commission on AIDS, and later became the founding Chair of the International Association of Providers of AIDS Care. He met with Pope John Pope, civil rights leaders, Presidents and parolees and through his words and deeds became known as a pioneering leader and a champion of human rights throughout the world
In 2002, he retired as Senior Rabbi at the University Synagogue and was appointed by former Mayor James K. Hann to serve as the Executive Director of the City of Los Angeles Human Relations Commission, the first Jewish clergy member to manage a municipal department. Subsequently, he served as the Deputy Chief of Staff for now Congressman Tony Cardenas before relocating from Los Angeles to New Orleans where he was an advisor to the city’s Office of Human Rights and Equity and remained active as a leader and participant in the Jewish community.
He will be remembered by his wife, Lori, his children, Shira, David (deceased) and Jonathan and their spouses; his six grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.
Services will be private, but a celebration of his life will be held later in the year. In lieu of flowers, donations in his memory may be made to the Los Angeles Regional Foodbank or a charity of your choice.
Arrangements were handled by Hillside Memorial Park in Los Angeles, California.