Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Rabbi Richard Levine, 75, remembered as influential Jewish advocate By Barbara S. Rothschild

Source: http://www.jewishvoicesnj.org/news/2014-03-05/Home/Rabbi_Richard_Levine_75_remembered_as_influential_.html
For the Voice PDF
March 5, 2014

Rabbi Richard A. Levine, who served as the spiritual leader of Burlington County’s only Reform synagogue for 41 years, died Friday evening at Virtua Hospital, Voorhees, following a long illness. He was 75 years old and was surrounded by his family when he passed away at 8:22 p.m. Rabbi Levine was a well-known, influential and beloved Jewish advocate in South Jersey, Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley.

“Jewish tradition tells us that those whom God calls home on the Sabbath are considered especially meritorious,” said his oldest son Ari Levine. He described his father as a passionate Zionist who embraced the scholarly life as well as the sporting one.

Rabbi Emeritus of Adath Emanu-El in Mount Laurel since his 2005 retirement, the Voorhees resident continued to teach adult courses there -- the school wing is named for him -- and to contribute to special events and services. He gave a sermon at last year’s Yom Kippur services and was a steady presence at the Lois Levine Arts Weekend,  a longtime annual event that honors his late second wife, and at the annual  Scholar-in-Residence Weekend, a dream of his that came to fruition during his last year as senior rabbi.

“If life is a tapestry, then Dad was content to labor from the back, fixing up the loose ends, confident in the knowledge that his work would create something of incredible beauty and meaning,” Ari Levine said. That applied to the rabbi’s synagogue, his work with Jewish youth, and his blended family, Ari added.

Rabbi Levine was the first full-time rabbi to serve Temple Emanu-El of Willingboro, as the congregation was known when he arrived shortly after his ordination in 1964. At that time, his son noted, the congregation had fewer than 50 families, was meeting in a private home, and had just acquired the land for its first synagogue building.

Under Rabbi Levine's leadership, the congregation grew to over 500 families, but after demographics changed and membership declined, he led the procession from Willingboro to the temple’s new home in Mount Laurel in 1997. There, he fastened the mezuzah to doorposts leading to the sanctuary of what by then was known as Adath Emanu-El. In Mount Laurel, membership again swelled to more than 500 families.

“At a time when many people move from community to community, my father devoted his entire career to Adath Emanu-El and to the Greater Philadelphia Jewish community, Ari Levine said.  “As a result, he was able to touch many lives, and often many generations in the same family,”

Debra Neilson of Mount Laurel, a member of the congregation for the past 22 years, said her heart is broken. “Rabbi Levine was such a huge part of my life, and I considered him not only my spiritual leader but a friend,” Neilson said.

“My world was shaped around the synagogue he built. He created a beautiful home for many of us seeking a loving, warm synagogue to be part of,” Neilson said. “Starting at Temple Emanu-El in Willingboro, and later Adath Emanu-El in Mount Laurel, Rabbi Levine led his congregation with humor, knowledge, kindness and love.”

“He was an intricate part of many of our lives and will forever be a part of our family history,” said Neilson, who added that Rabbi Levine officiated at all of her family’s b’nai mitzvot and confirmations and converted her husband and her daughter, who was adopted from Korea. Rabbi Levine also gently guided the family through the loss of parents and grandparents, but Neilson also recalled his “cheesy” sense of humor and ability to play the shofar.

Rabbi Levine was born on July 14, 1938 in Brooklyn, N.Y., the youngest of Julius and Theresa Levine’s three children. 

“He was passionate about all things Brooklyn, especially his beloved Brooklyn Dodgers,” his son recalled.  “He loved all sports and was famous for infusing his teachings with sports analogies. The rabbi earned varsity athletics letters in high school and college.

Rabbi Levine graduated from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania with a bachelor's degree in economics, with the thought of following his father and brother into the family accounting business. He enjoyed his years at Penn, particularly his time on the track team. In later years, he would proudly display a college yearbook photo that featured him and a perhaps more-famous member of the team, Oscar-nominated actor Bruce Dern. But he felt a higher calling.

He was ordained as a Reform rabbi at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York City in 1964. Displaying his sense of humor when asked why he majored in economics as an undergraduate, he would say, “I always wanted to be the first rabbi who really understood his contract!” On a more serious note, he often said that as a rabbi, he was a true “modern Renaissance man.”

The rabbi’s passion for sports continued throughout his lifetime. “Generations of bar mitzvah boys still remember his challenging them to one-on-one basketball games as an inducement to further study,” Ari Levine said.  During the 1980s and ’90s, Rabbi Levine co-anchored a Philadelphia Eagles' television pregame show called “A Higher Power,” which blended enthusiasm for his Eagles with humor and theology. 

Rabbi Levine's other great passion, besides his family, was Israel and its place in the hearts of all Jews.  His first trip to Israel was on a Young Judaea trip in 1955, seven years after the Jewish State was founded.  He remained passionate about Israel throughout his life, making more than 25 trips -- and leading 11 congregational trips -- to the Holy Land.

He was an ardent supporter of the Jewish National Fund (JNF), and led Adath Emanu-El to plant more trees in Israel than any other New Jersey congregation, an accomplishment that resulted in his name being placed on the JNF Roll of Honor in Jerusalem.  

Early in his career, Rabbi Levine was tapped to help lead the song and Israeli dance program at Camp Kutz, the Reform Movement's youth leadership training institute in Warwick, N.Y.  The hope was that this might spark a greater sense of spirit in his students, who could then infuse that feeling throughout NFTY, the Reform movement's youth program.

“His efforts succeeded beyond anyone's wildest dreams,” Ari Levine said.  “My father gave license to a new generation of voices such as the late (singer-songwriter) Debbie Friedman, Cantor Jeff Klepper and Rabbi Daniel Freelander, and they in turn helped to change the way Jews relate to one another and to God. Whenever a congregation sings a Debbie Friedman or a Jeff Klepper song, an echo of my father's teaching can be heard.”

Debbie Friedman wrote her first song, “And Thou Shalt Love,” while living with Rabbi Levine and his family in Willingboro.  Later, Rabbi Levine helped to inspire the careers of Cantors Anita Hochman of M'kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, Leon Sher of Har Sinai in Pennington, and Cantorial Soloist Sandra Messinger of Adath Emanu-El.

“To the man who shaped so many lives, including mine, and gave his all to create a better world, I wish Rabbi Richard Levine peace,” Messinger said.

During his tenure at the synagogue, Rabbi Levine introduced many arts programs for Jewish self-expression in addition to social action and musical programs. He instituted “Ask the Rabbi” nights, home-study classes, and “kallot” retreats at Camp Harlam in the Poconos.  He was also a driving force behind the synagogue’s “Bikkur Cholim” committee, with some members making gifts for seniors and the sick, while others visit the Jewish patients and seniors. 

Said Adath Emanu-El Rabbi Benjamin David, “Rabbi Levine was a rabbi's rabbi, a mensch, a friend, and a truly precious soul.”

Added Dr. Steven Gitler of Cherry Hill, current president of Adath Emanu-El,“Rabbi Levine was our spiritual leader, our teacher, our song leader, our confidante, and our friend for well over 40 years.  He leaves an incredible legacy that will live on for many, many years to come.”

Bruce Grossman of Cherry Hill, president of the temple from 1992 to 1994 and a member since Rabbi Levine married him and his wife, Karen, in 1976, said the rabbi’s moral compass is his everlasting gift. Rabbi Levine officiated at the b’nai mitzvah of Grossman’s three children and at his daughter’s wedding.

“It was no coincidence that Rabbi Levine passed shortly after the beginning of our Shabbat service on Friday,” said Grossman, who chaired the Tribute Committee during Rabbi Levine’s last year as rabbi and now chairs Adath Emanu-El’s Ritual Committee.

“This service, whose theme was ‘L’Dor V’Dor’ (From Generation to Generation), was led by our senior and junior youth groups,” Grossman said.  “I believe that at the time of Rabbi’s passing, it was a moment of Heavenly confluence, when G-d spoke and declared: ‘On This Night, You Shall Ascend Up To Me, and Take Your Place Upon the Holy. For You Have Not Strived To Be Moses, You Have Strived to Be Rabbi Levine, and You Shall Be Honored Among the Righteous.’”

Rabbi Levine was the first and only South Jersey rabbi to serve as president of the Greater Philadelphia Board of Rabbis, speaking on behalf of the Jewish community on July 4, 1976, at Independence Hall.  He also served locally as president of the Tri-County Board of Rabbis and on the boards of the Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey, Jewish Family and Children’s Service and the Department of Jewish Education and Continuity, as well as on the regional boards of Reform Rabbis and the Jewish National Fund. He chaired human relations commissions and ethics boards in Willingboro and Voorhees.

Rabbi Levine chaired two Central Conference of American Rabbis committees – the Retirement Committee and the Audit Committee – at the same time, and was the CCAR’s Carenet coordinator for the Delaware Valley Region for the program’s duration. He received an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from HUC-JIR in 1989.

For many years, Rabbi Levine was a guest lecturer at five regional high schools, where he spoke on such topics as “The Concept of Self and Interrelations with Others.” He was a longtime regular at Vito’s Pizza in Cherry Hill, where the staff expected “Rabbi Levini,” as they called him, to pop in weekly for two slices of cheese pizza.

Rabbi Levine is survived by his wife of 28 years, Judith Chaikin Levine; children Ari (the late William Monnich Jr.) Levine, Ron (Kim) Levine, Brian (Iris Caesar) Golder, Jason (Lisa) Chaikin, Deborah (Chealsea Nather) Golder, Matthew Chaikin, Samantha (David Halpern) Chaikin, Yael (Doug) Emenecker and Shira (Lior) Keet; his sister, Rhoda (the late Dr. Jack) Cohen; his brother, Robert (Helen) Levine, and 13 grandchildren. His first marriage, to Judith Gittelsohn, ended in divorce; his second, to Lois Golder, ended with her death. 

Relatives and friends are invited Tuesday beginning at 10 a.m. to Adath Emanu-El, 205 Elbo Lane, Mount Laurel, where funeral services will begin promptly at noon. Interment will follow at Locustwood Memorial Park, Cherry Hill.  Overflow parking for those not going to the cemetery will be in the rear lot of Fellowship Community Church at 1520 Hainesport-Mount Laurel Rd., with shuttle service to the synagogue and back.

Shiva will be observed at Adath Emanu-El on Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., with Minyan services at 7 p.m. Other shiva times will be private.

Contributions may be made to the Rabbi Richard Levine Good Works Fund, c/o Adath Emanu-El, 205 Elbo Lane, Mount Laurel, N.J. 08054. Contributions will be divided among his favorite charities, including Adath Emanu-El, the Jewish National Fund and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.



Rabbi Richard Levine, 75, Prominent South Jersey Leader



Source: http://www.jewishexponent.com/community/2014/03/rabbi-richard-levine-75-prominent-south-jersey-leader

Barbara S. Rothschild | JE Feature March 3, 2014
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Rabbi Richard Levine

Rabbi Richard A. Levine, who served 41 years as the religious leader of Burlington County’s only Reform synagogue, died Feb. 28 following a long illness. He was 75 years old and lived in Voorhees, N.J.

“Jewish tradition tells us that those whom God calls home on the Sabbath are considered especially meritorious,” said Levine’s oldest son, Ari. He described his father as a passionate Zionist who embraced the scholarly life as well as the sporting one.

Rabbi emeritus of Adath Emanu-El in Mount Laurel since his 2005 retirement, Levine continued to teach adult courses there — the school wing is named for him — and contribute to special events and services.

Levine was the first full-time rabbi to serve Temple Emanu-El of Willingboro, N.J., as the congregation was known when he arrived shortly after his ordination in 1964. Under his leadership, the congregation grew from 50 to more than 500 families. But after demographics changed and membership declined, in 1997 he led the procession from Willingboro to the temple’s new home in Mount Laurel, by then known as Adath Emanu-El. There, membership returned to its previous levels.

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., Levine graduated from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania with a bachelor’s degree in economics, thinking that he would follow his father and brother into the family accounting business, Ari Levine said. But he felt a higher calling, his son continued, and went on to become ordained as a Reform rabbi at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York in 1964, where he later also earned an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree.

Displaying his sense of humor when congregants asked why he majored in economics, he would say, “I always wanted to be the first rabbi who really understood his contract!” 

The rabbi’s passion for sports was evident during the 1980s and ’90s when he co-anchored a Philadelphia Eagles' television pregame show called A Higher Power, which blended his enthusiasm for the team with humor and theology.

Levine's other great passion, aside from his large blended family, was Israel. He visited the Jewish state more than 25 times, including leading 11 congregational trips.

An ardent supporter of the Jewish National Fund, he led Adath Emanu-El and its congregants to plant so many trees that his name was placed on the JNF Roll of Honor in Jerusalem. Based on the plaques in a grove known as “The New Jersey Forest,” Adath Emanu-El has planted more trees than any other congregation in the state, Ari Levine said. 

Early in his career,  Levine was tapped to help lead the song and Israeli dance program at Camp Kutz, the Reform Movement’s youth leadership training institute in Warwick, N.Y.

“My father gave license to a new generation of voices such as the late Debbie Friedman, Cantor Jeff Klepper and Rabbi Daniel Freelander, and they in turn helped to change the way Jews relate to one another and to God,” Ari Levine said.

Friedman wrote her first song, “And Thou Shalt Love,” while living with Levine and his family in Willingboro.

Adath Emanu-El Rabbi Benjamin David called his predecessor “a rabbi's rabbi, a mensch, a friend and a truly precious soul.”

Levine was reportedly the first and only South Jersey rabbi to serve as president of the Greater Philadelphia Board of Rabbis, and spoke in that role on behalf of the Jewish community on July 4, 1976, at Independence Hall. 

He also served in South Jersey as president of the Tri-County Board of Rabbis and on the boards of the Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey, Jewish Family and Children’s Service and the Department of Jewish Education and Continuity, as well as on the regional boards of Reform Rabbis and the Jewish National Fund. He chaired human relations commissions and ethics boards in Willingboro and Voorhees.

In addition to his son Ari, Levine is survived by his wife, Judith Chaikin Levine; daughters Deborah Golder, Samantha Chaikin, Yael Emenecker and Shira Keet; sons Ron Levine, Brian Golder, Jason Chaikin and Matthew Chaikin; sister Rhoda Cohen; brother Robert;  and 13 grandchildren. 

Contributions may be made to the Rabbi Richard Levine Good Works Fund, c/o Adath Emanu-El, 205 Elbo Lane, Mount Laurel, N.J. 08054. Donations will be divided among his favorite charities, including Adath Emanu-El, the Jewish National Fund and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. 


Rabbi Richard A. Levine

Source: https://web.archive.org/web/20150920155522/http://articles.philly.com/2014-03-04/news/47863668_1_adath-emanu-el-first-full-time-rabbi-rabbi-levine
Posted: March 04, 2014

Rabbi Richard A. Levine
Rabbi Richard A. Levine


Rabbi Richard A. Levine, 75, of Voorhees, the longtime leader of what is now Adath Emanu-El, the Mount Laurel congregation, died of complications from a blood disease on Friday, Feb. 28, at Virtua Voorhees medical center.

He was "a rabbi's rabbi, a mensch, a friend and a truly precious soul," Rabbi Benjamin David, senior rabbi at Adath, said in biographical notes written by Rabbi Levine's son Ari.

Born in the Sheepshead Bay neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y., Rabbi Levine earned a bachelor's degree in 1959 at the Wharton School.

He was ordained in 1964 after graduating from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York City, which gave him an honorary doctor of divinity degree in 1989.

Rabbi Levine in 1964 became the first full-time rabbi for the 50-family congregation at what was then known as Temple Emanu-El in Willingboro.

The congregation moved to Mount Laurel in 1997 and became Adath Emanu-El, the rabbi's son said, serving 500 families by the time he retired in 2005.

In the 1960s, Rabbi Levine was the song-and-dance program leader at Camp Kutz, a Reform youth leadership institute in Warwick, N.Y.

"Whenever a congregation sings a Debbie Friedman or a Jeff Klepper song," his son said, referring to artists whom Rabbi Levine taught, "an echo of my father's teaching can be heard."

Rabbi Levine was a former president of the Greater Philadelphia Board of Rabbis, a former president of the Tri-County Board of Rabbis in South Jersey, as well as a board member of the Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey.

Beginning with a Young Judea trip in 1955, he made more than 25 trips to Israel and, because he was a supporter of the Jewish National Fund, his name is on an honor roll of that organization in Jerusalem, his son said.

Rabbi Levine is survived by his wife, Judi; five sons, Ari and Ron Levine, Brian Golder, Jason and Matthew Chaikin; four daughters, Deborah Golder, Samantha Chaikin, Yael Emenecker, and Shira Keet; a brother; a sister; and 13 grandchildren. His first wife, Lois Levine, died in 1982. He is also survived by his former wife, Judith G. Fales.

A visitation was set from 10 a.m. Tuesday, March 4, at Adath Emanu-El, 205 Elbo Ln., Mount Laurel, 08054, before a noon funeral service there, with interment in Locustwood Memorial Park in Cherry Hill.

Donations may be sent to the Rabbi Richard Levine Good Works Fund at the above address for Adath Emanu-El.

wnaedele@phillynews.com

610-313-8134 @WNaedele

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