Statement by Ruth Messinger on the Passing of Leonard "Leibel" Fein


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Statement by Ruth Messinger on the Passing of Leonard "Leibel" Fein

Progressive Jewish Leader was a Voice for Justice for All

August 14, 2014 – American Jewish World Service mourns the passing at age 80 of Leonard Fein, a dear friend of AJWS and a prominent progressive American Jewish leader. An unflagging advocate for social justice, Fein was founder and long-time editor of Moment Magazine and a regular columnist in the Forward, both platforms from which he transmitted foundational ideas about social justice and influenced generations of American Jews. A stalwart believer in the power of action, he also founded MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger and the National Jewish Coalition for Literacy.

Leonard Fein was deeply involved with American Jewish World Service and was a strong advocate for AJWS’s work to repair the world by promoting human rights in developing countries. In January of 2004 Fein traveled with AJWS to El Salvador as the scholar-in-residence for AJWS’s first Rabbinical Students’ Delegation, a program that sent emerging Jewish clergy on service-learning trips to inspire and prepare them to return to the U.S. to advocate for human rights and global justice.

Please find below a statement by Ruth Messinger, president of American Jewish World Service:

“I am deeply saddened by the loss of a major public figure and a true progressive visionary in American Jewish life. Leibel was a brilliant man who was the founder and godfather of Jewish social justice in the 20th and 21st century, who made a real difference with more people and more organizations than we can ever imagine.

“Personally, Leibel was one of the first people to engage with me when I came into the Jewish community as a professional in 1998. He shared his belief that Judaism’s texts and traditions must inform our actions in shaping a more just and equal world. I truly loved and was guided by him, and will continue to strive to make the world a better place, in his memory.

“In a column he wrote in the Forward after he traveled to El Salvador with AJWS in 2004, he said:

[The participants] are seized by the organic relationship between the Jewish tradition — our texts, our history — and the pursuit of justice.”

Fein himself lived and breathed this duality every day and transmitted it to all who were lucky enough to have been inspired by his teaching, his writing and his presence.”