A Great Loss for our Movement

Rabbi David Forman, z”l
There are times when you can really understand the ancient Jewish mourning practice of tearing one’s clothing when hearing of a death. That’s precisely how I felt this morning when I learned of the death of my colleague Rabbi David Forman, who died at the age of not-quite-66 years old while waiting for a liver transplant.
Rabbi Forman was a Reform rabbi — one of a noteworthy and notable group of Reform rabbis who made aliyah and who threw their destiny in with that of the Jewish state. He was also the son-in-law and brother-in-law of rabbis, including one Orthodox rabbi; I used to imagine what their family seders were like. He made aliyah in 1972, and served in the IDF, and authored several books — each one skillful in its commentary and conversational in its tone. I loved his regular columns in the Jerusalem Post. David always told the truth.
But the best thing about David was his vision. He founded Rabbis for Human Rights in 1988 and served as its chairman from to 1992, and again in 2002-03. RHR is primarily concerned with the plight of Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza. In 1994, he was a member of the Israeli delegation to the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony for laureates Yasser Arafat, Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin. The greatest thing about David was that he never subscribed to some of the more promiscuous Israel-bashing that exists within the Jewish world. Yes, he often criticized Israeli policy — but always, always, as a Zionist and as a deep lover of the state of Israel. In that spirit, he directed the Israel office of our national Reform movement, and in that role, he was a pioneer in the effort to achieve¬†religious pluralism in Israel.

It is ironic (as if there are ironies): David died during a time when the issue of religious pluralism is very much on the international Jewish agenda. It is even more ironic that he died several days after Herzl’s 150th birthday.

Judaism has lost a great teacher and role model. May his memory be a blessing.


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