It is with great sadness that we inform you of the death of our beloved teacher, friend, and colleague, Rabbi Richard Levy, on Friday, June 21.
It hardly risks exaggeration to call Rabbi Levy a giant of our generation. He began his rabbinical career, within weeks of his ordination from HUC-JIR in 1964, in jail, after desegregating a pool in St. Augustine, FL, under the leadership of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Later, in Los Angeles, he served as rabbi at Leo Baeck Temple, and subsequently led both UCLA Hillel and the Los Angeles Hillel Council. Finally, as Director of the School of Rabbinical Studies at the Jack H. Skirball Campus until 2009, Rabbi Levy oversaw the shift to a full-fledged rabbinical program. He continued as Rabbi of the Synagogue and Director of Spiritual Growth until 2014.
Ever the intellectual and spiritual thinker, Rabbi Levy emerged in these years of organizational leadership as a major liturgist. He contributed to the 1975 Gates of Prayer, and beyond the Movement, he edited and translated On Wings of Awe, On Wings of Freedom, On Wings of Light. In 2017 he completed his translation of and commentary to the Book of Psalms, called Songs Ascending.
Perhaps Rabbi Levy’s influence is most associated with his 2005 book, A Vision of Holiness, in which he reworked the 1999 CCAR “Statement of Principles for Reform Judaism,” the platform he championed as the CCAR President and which enshrined our Movement’s shift to greater traditionalism. In this chapter of his career, Rabbi Levy, as much as any single person, was responsible for the flavor and orientation of Reform Judaism as we widely experience it today.
Most of all, our HUC-JIR community knew Rabbi Levy as our colleague, teacher, and dear friend of many years. For all his professional genius, Rabbi Levy was, for us, the rabbi who sought to excavate his own soul, as well as the souls of those whom he encountered—always asking piercing questions posed with a remarkable gentleness and unabashed human interest. He was not above a wry smile and ironic remark, nor did he shy from an ideological argument. But he emanated indiscriminate kindness and warmth, the ultimate mark of his personality and legacy.
Watch Rabbi Richard Levy’s 2014 Los Angeles Ordination Address here.
Funeral services and burial will be held on Tuesday, June 25 at 11:00 am at Hillside Memorial Park, 6001 W Centinela Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90045.
The livestream of the funeral service will begin at about 10:50 am. Please click here and scroll down to join the livestream for “Large Sanctuary.” Enter the password (all lowercase) rlevy and click submit. When “Keeping Families Together” appears, press play. If you have any problems, please contact Hillside Memorial Park at 310.641.0707.
Shiva will be held on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday evenings at 7:30 pm at Leo Baeck Temple, 1300 N Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90049.
May God console the daughters of Rabbi Levy, Sarah and Elizabeth, and their families, together with their fellow mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.