CCAR Convention Rabbis

The Leaders of Leaders

Rabbi Harry Danziger

L’dor vador.  Generation to generation.  I never understood the opening of Pirki Avot more than when we honor and celebrate our colleagues who have been 50 years in the rabbinate.

Moses received the Torah from Sinai and transmitted it to Joshua; Joshua to the  elders; the elders to the prophets; and the prophets handed it down to the men of the Great Assembly. They said three things: Be deliberate in judgment, raise up many disciples, and make a fence around the Torah.

At the Shacharit services the first morning of our conference, we honor those who have reached the milestone moment of 50 years in the rabbinate.  I always tear up as they are called to Torah along with their spouses as we honor theses rabbinic families. The rabbis and their spouses, these leaders have given of themselves to bring Torah to the world.  They have taught and comforted and lifted up the Jewish people and built bridges to the non-Jewish world.

This year “my rabbi” was celebrated for his 50 years as a rabbi. Rabbi D, as I always still lovingly call him, read Torah this year for his classmates ordained by the College-Institute in 1964.  Rabbi Harry Danziger, rabbi emeritus of Temple Israel in Memphis, TN taught me, encouraged me, helped me, and mentored me to become the rabbi I am today.  Always embracing me with motivation was his beloved partner in life, Jeanne Danziger. It was their direct encouragement that helped nurture me through my teens and college years to consider becoming a rabbi and urging me to apply to the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.

The HUC-JIR Class of 1964 at #CCAR14
The HUC-JIR Class of 1964 at #CCAR14

Rabbi Danziger’s leadership of our congregation and the Memphis Jewish community and his work on interfaith relationships was always a model for me of the possibilities that would be available. His leadership of our Conference as president of the CCAR also showed me the absolute necessity of rabbis supporting rabbis.  His care and leadership led our Conference through a critical period with his usual deliberate judgement and diligence and menschlikite, which to me always beams through his bright smile and open heart.

As President-Elect of the Conference, Rabbi D continues to model for me the best of being a leader, a rabbi, and a caring spouse and parent.  I am grateful for his many kindnesses to me.  And that here in the safe and supportive space of our CCAR Convention, we can honor those rabbis who came before us, who raised up many disciples and taught us to protect and uplift the Torah.

Rabbi Denise Eger is the founding rabbi of Congregation Kol Ami and is President-Elect of the CCAR.

Read Rabbi Harry Danziger’s reflections on his 50 years in the rabbinate.

CCAR Convention Rabbis

Celebrating the Class of 1964: “I am a Veteran”

At the upcoming CCAR Convention, we will honor the class of 1964, those who have been CCAR members and served our movement for 50 years.  In the weeks leading up to convention, we will share and celebrate the rabbinic visions and wisdom of the members of the class of 1964.

When you come to a fork in the road, take it. Fifty years ago, I followed the advice of Yogi Berra. I chose to begin my career as an army Chaplain. Having done basic training in the summer before my senior year at HUC-JIR, I went directly to my duty station, Vicenza, Italy. As the first Jewish Chaplain to serve there since World War II, I not only served our three army posts but made monthly trips to an air force base in Aviano. I also made two trips to our naval base in Naples. My three years produced so many wonderful memories. I had the opportunity to represent the Jewish people at the dedication of a bell, melted down from cannons from World War I. I helped to raise funds to rebuild the synagogue in Florence when it was devastated by a flood. I was successful in bringing bagels into the commissaries.

Following my active duty, I returned to the United States and accepted a position with a congregation in Broomall, Pennsylvania. One day, I was invited for dinner with one of my congregants. During dinner, my host mentioned that he was a member of a general hospital reserve unit and that there was another general hospital looking for a Jewish Chaplain. So once again I put on my uniform and joined the 361st General Hospital. I would spend the next seventeen years as its Chaplain; beginning as a Captain and rising to the rank of Colonel. During my time with them, the unit became an evacuation hospital, very similar to MASH. Like MASH, we became very close; so close that one of our nurses, a Catholic, invited me to officiate at her wedding to a Quaker. During the wedding I mentioned that I was asked to do the wedding because we were friends; not realizing the double meaning to the Quakers.

I finally left my friends at the 361st Evacuation Hospital to join a civil affairs unit. The commander was concerned about having a Jewish Chaplain because in the event of war, our assignment would be Saudi Arabia. I assured him that it did not matter whether we wore the tablets or the cross, we would all be lumped together. Unlike any other unit in the military, a Chaplain is more than a Chaplain; I was the religious cultural officer to advise the commander about indigenous religions on the battlefield. It required me to acquire knowledge of the religions and mores of the people in our area of responsibility in the event of war.

It was this knowledge that led to my next assignment as an Individual Mobilization Augmentee (IMA) at the Army Chaplain School. An IMA is a reservist who trains with an active duty unit. My first assignment was to review the curriculum on world religions. As I was about to make a couple of recommendations, I was asked to do it as a staff study. My staff study was adopted by the Chaplain Corps. As a result, our Chaplains were better prepared to meet the challenges of our military engagements in the Middle East. My role changed when I became the first drilling IMA in the Chaplain Corps, which meant that in addition to my two weeks, I reported to the school once a month. In that capacity, I changed the way the IMAs were used. Instead of the school having to decide what to do with them when they arrived, we looked at the courses being offered throughout the coming year and determined the number of IMAs needed for each course. We then informed each one of when he would be coming and what he would be teaching.

Finally, I retired from the army but still longed to work with veterans and so I became a Chaplain at the Northport VA Medical Center and rose to the position of lead Chaplain. My proudest accomplishment at the medical center came about when a Vietnam Veteran approached me about planting a tree for a deceased Vietnam Veteran. I said “why just a tree? Why not a garden to honor all of our Vietnam Veterans? Little did I know what I had begun. There emerged a beautiful garden with a brick walkway, flags, an eternal light and a huge rock with a poem written by a Monsignor who had served as a sergeant in Vietnam. There is a bench dedicated to each of the military services. Our director was so impressed with the garden that he invited Dignity Memorial to bring the Vietnam Wall to our campus. Naturally we needed to build a stage and a patio for the programs around the wall’s visit to our campus. We now hold outdoor concerts there throughout the summer for our Veteran patients and for the local community. The Vietnam Veterans of America, who spearheaded this project, were not done. A Wall of Wars, with monuments to each of the twelve wars in which our Veterans served, will be completed this spring.

I also have taken an active role in both the community and on a national level for Chaplaincy. Among my achievements are the introduction of the recognition of specialization for Chaplains, editing a Book of Rituals, introducing spiritual grand rounds and helping to launch Spirit of Chaplaincy, a semi-annual newsletter to serve as the voice of Chaplaincy. I currently am the chair of the continuing education committee of the Chaplain Field Leadership Council and chair of the editorial board of Spirit of Chaplaincy. I have been honored by receiving the Department of Veteran Affairs Secretary’s Award for excellence in Chaplaincy. I also was nominated by the National Chaplain Center and received the Distinguished Service Award from the Military Chaplain Association (MCA). After receiving the award, I was invited to be a member of the MCA board of trustees. Upon the completion of my initial term on the board, I was elected to serve as its secretary. National Association of VA Chaplains has designated me to head all of the panels to consider those seeking certification in hospice and palliative care.

I am proud to be a Veteran and work with Veterans. As a tribute to them, I wrote a poem, “I Am A Veteran,” which hangs in our medical center and has been put in the Congressional Record.


I am a Veteran

I shivered that cold winter in Valley Forge
And rejoiced at the glorious surrender at Yorktown.
I wept as the flames engulfed Washington
And said “Never again.”
I wore blue and I bled red.
I wore gray and I bled red.
The blood I spilled was to reunite a nation
Of the people, by the people and for the people.
I am a veteran.

I was at Little Big Horn and I prayed;
I was at Wounded Knee and I prayed.
I prayed that one-day the old Americans
And the new Americans would be one people.
I was there to charge up the hill at San Juan;
Knowing that my country was emerging beyond its borders.
I was prepared to make the world safe for democracy.
Young and idealistic, I came to France
To turn back the hordes in this war to end all wars.
I am a veteran.

It was with disbelief that I became
A part of the day that will live in infamy.
Once more I said goodbye to those I loved to protect my country.
Across the vast desert I met the enemy.
I met him on island after island.
I kept my promise to return.
I met him on the beaches of Normandy.
I repelled him from the gates of Bastogne.
I freed thousands from the shadow of death.
I am a veteran.

A small nation cried out for help
And I came because others had been there for me.
A nation was saved.
Ask not what your country can do for you.
Ask what you can do for your country.
Inspired by these words, I responded with courage and bravery
In a war that was hot and a war that was cold.
I am a veteran.

From Ground Zero to the Pentagon to the fields of Pennsylvania,
I saw the carnage and heard the cries. At that moment,
I pledged my life, my property and my sacred honor
Until there will be peace and freedom on earth
For everyone, everywhere.
I am a veteran.

General CCAR Rabbis Reform Judaism

Celebrating the Class of 1964: “The Rabbi of Roundball”

At the upcoming CCAR Convention, we will honor the class of 1964, those who have been CCAR members and served our movement for 50 years.  In the weeks leading up to convention, we will share and celebrate the rabbinic visions and wisdom of the members of the class of 1964.

In retrospect, my life 50 years since HUC-JIR ordination can be characterized as expressing the adage, “you can take the boy out of Brooklyn not Brooklyn out of the boy.” Wherever I have served, in the U.S. military as Senior Staff Chaplain at the NIH, in the Israeli Army reserves, as rabbi of congregations for 50+ years and in seven decades, the street smarts and my Yeshiva education and Brooklyn, New York upbringing have formed and informed my professional work, personal development and way of life. Never have I forsaken my earliest religious indoctrination known as competitive basketball.

I was raised with an older sister, now deceased, and a younger sister. I am the father of three daughters raised through the Israeli school system and the Israeli Army. They are bi-cultural, bilingual, advanced degreed – law, PhD in the states – and they are raising their own Israeli children, my eight grandchildren, in a similar manner – speaking Hebrew and English at home in Israel. Some colleagues know Noga Brenner Samia who lectures at Bina and is HUC-JIR Jerusalem educated. I’m in love with my kids and theirs.

My grandfather snatched my young cousins from the furnaces of the Holocaust and brought them to America. They played a significant part of my childhood shaping later sensibilities. I can truthfully say that WWII and the Holocaust have impacted profoundly on my own life. My “American Jewry & the Rise of Nazism” [YIVO Prize] and my book The Faith & Doubt of Holocaust Survivors [NJB Award Finalist], reflect that reality. I have written and lectured extensively on catastrophe survivors and abductees. To alleviate the heaviness of these subjects, I published humor, including a book called “The Jewish Riddle Collection,” which is now being enlarged and republished. Humor has been an important part of my ministry, whether in the NIH Clinical Center among patients or in congregational life. My children’s book, Escape in Eight Days, scores as an adventure story at the time of the Shoah.

My father was a pious orthodox Jewish man; my mother was a typical Jewish mother, proud, loud and aggressive. My name, Reeve, means contentious, argumentative, contrarian accounting for and justifying the adage teaching k’shem hu. Likely, that is why I and no one else of my Yeshiva crowd departed orthodoxy for Reform. I was Yeshiva raised, traversed non-orthodox religious denominations, and found my spiritual home as a Reform klal yisrael rabbi. For all its deficiencies, I love and am grateful for the Reform religious home – without which – who knows?

I have written extensively: poetry, articles in our CCAR Journal, books and essays on the sociology of religion and the sociology of recreation, as well as research essays on the works of the “discredited” Immanuel Velikovsky, now published in my newest book on the natural catastrophes in the ancient world. I think the poetry I have written about my family discloses the me-est me. I am editor of Jerusalem Poetry of the 20th Century. My most recent book, While the Skies were Falling: The Exodus and the Cosmos, addresses the global reach of the biblical catastrophes and brings forth scientific and forensic technical evidence for their reality.

In my early years of rabbinical seminary, with several classmates, (Sandy Lowe among them whom I cared for deeply) I began a serious course of psychotherapy. I’d recommend it for our Jewish professionals. My hobbies from childhood on include raising turtles of threatened species and releasing them in the wild in their geographical region. Why would a turtle become my totem? Because a turtle makes progress only when it sticks its neck out. I’m also proud of having been credited in the zoological literature for providing the name for the third biblical vulture, “The Israel Desert Condor.”

Over the years I invented a number of inclusionary and wheelchair accessible, non-aggressive ball-playing sports. For example, Bankshot Basketball, is now being played in 300+ cities in the USA and around the world, in hospitals, camps, schools, parks. Ber Sheva, Hod Hasharon and Herzlia feature the sport. In an article about Bankshot, Sports Illustrated, bestowed upon me the title, “The Rabbi of Roundball”, about which I continue to be playfully reminded. That distinction such as it is, like my movie role in The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg, provoke kibitzing by family in every Seder or simcha gathering.

The sport Bankshot has been introduced and now is played in Kuwait. I often wonder what the good folks in Kuwait playing the sport might be thinking when they go to the internet and learn that Bankshot was created by a rabbi. The website,, displays many courts as well as photographs of my Bankboard pieces called SportStructures hanging in the Boston Children’s Museum, MOMA, and other museums exhibiting the pieces as interactive participatory sculpture. The Spirit of the ADA Award is one among a number of such recognitions with which I have been honored for Inclusion of people with disabilities. I’m proud of my work with and for disabled people.

In 1966, I became the first rabbi to teach at St. Vincent College and Seminary in Latrobe, PA offering courses in Introductory Judaism and Jewish Religious Thought. Moving my family to Israel, I lived there for some 12 years. I presently serve as rabbi for Bet Chesed Congregation in Bethesda MD. My article, an alternative methodology to CPE, entitled: “Nons, Nunyas, Appreciative Inquiry and the Aged,” – based essentially on AI theory – in The Journal of Religion, Spirituality & Aging came about as an outgrowth of my NIH hospital chaplain experiences and responsibilities. My book, Jewish, Christian, Chewish or Eschewish: Interfaith Marriage Pathways for the New Millennium, is an outgrowth of my work with interfaith couples and families. It has meant a great deal to a goodly number of readers in the greater Washington area and elsewhere. The book is offered without cost at and is intended to be read before an intro to Judaism.

Rutgers University Transaction Press is scheduled to re-publish The Faith and Doubt of Holocaust Survivors, previously published by Macmillan Free Press and Aronson, with a new introduction I wrote presenting Holocaust survivors’ considered views of the philosophy of our post-Holocaust philosophers, essentially their “repudiation” of the theology of mainstream Jewish thinkers concerning the Holocaust.

In sum, I think of myself as a project-oriented kind of funny guy and rabbi and find myself energized by self-imposed projects as challenges to take on and to enjoy the process.

CCAR Convention News Rabbis Reform Judaism

Celebrating the Class of 1964: “Blessed in Every Way”

At the upcoming CCAR Convention, we will honor the class of 1964, those who have been CCAR members and served our movement for 50 years.  In the weeks leading up to convention, we will share and celebrate the rabbinic visions and wisdom of the members of the class of 1964.

I have spent all but four years of my fifty as a rabbi of Temple Israel in Memphis.

I met my wife, Jeanne, fifty years ago at Temple Israel. Our three sons grew up in Memphis and became b’nai mitzvah at Temple Israel. Our granddaughters became b’not mitzvah there, and a grandson is to become bar mitzvah there next Sukkot. My whole life turned on coming to Memphis in1964.

In the spring of 1959, I had finished two years of pre-rabbinic classes at HUC and the University of Cincinnati. Dr. Samuel Sandmel z”l called me in and suggested that I could start the rabbinic program the next fall a year early. As a result, in 1964, I was ordained a year ahead of schedule. Rabbi James Wax z”l and Temple Israel of Memphis needed an assistant rabbi. In that summer of racial turmoil in the South including the murder of the three civil rights workers in Mississippi, I came to the South.

Welcome to the rest of my life!!

I have been blessed beyond any dreams with my rabbinate. At Temple Israel, I had the challenge and the privilege of orchestrating our transition from a great and historic Classical Reform congregation of the old school to a proud and historic congregation in the mainstream of Reform Judaism. Because I was blessed with a receptive and trusting congregation, the stresses and conflicts that so often accompany that transition were minimal for us.

Thirty years ago, I gave a sermon calling on people to cook for, to drive for, to visit, and to care for other members in time of crisis. I called it God’s Unfinished Business, a reference to our not knowing why bad things happen, focusing instead on what is demanded of us. Hundreds of volunteers have continued that program of gemilut chasadim member to member for three decades. That is one of the proudest achievements of my rabbinate, precisely because it has become part of the lives of so many laypersons as both volunteers and beneficiaries.

My goal for a temple staff was always this: When one of us does well, everyone scheps nachas. For the most part, that has been true with the talented clergy and staff I have worked with. That neshama at Temple Israel was shared by our lay leadership: never adversaries, they have always been true and real partners and friends in the years of my rabbinate and beyond.

Most of my rabbinate was spent in a very large congregation. I am grateful that, nonetheless, I could be “someone’s rabbi.” I could not be what my father z”l was called at his funeral, “a member ex-officio of every family in the community,” but some of my greatest rabbinic moments were being included as a member of a family whether sitting with a couple discussing their coming marriage or sharing with the bereaved after they had suffered a loss.

Not only did the people of Temple Israel welcome me fifty years ago; so, too, did a whole region of Southern Jewry, because Temple Israel is a hub for many small Jewish communities in the South. A highlight of my rabbinate was serving as a long-time rabbinic advisor of SoFTY (now NFTY Southern) and being part of the very beginnings of the Henry S. Jacobs Camp where Jeanne and I still spend an occasional summer week on staff. Our grandchildren, now third generation campers, have joined the many for whom HSJ has been a second Jewish home for over forty years. Since I retired in 2000, I have had the special opportunity to serve Congregation Adath Israel in Cleveland MS monthly and for the yamim noraim. The community there, Jewish and beyond, has become part and parcel of Jeanne’s and my life.

My opportunities to serve our Conference, our movement and my colleagues have been many and wonderfully gratifying. Even in the work of our Ethics Committee or the Commission on Rabbinic-Congregational Relations where we encounter some of the difficult times for rabbis, I found satisfaction in the lay persons who support and work with us, as well as the great mass of colleagues who are overwhelmingly dedicated to our mission. Of course, the honor of being president of the CCAR is a highlight of my rabbinic years, and I prize that honor even as it carried burdens and responsibilities I did not always anticipate.

In my community, I have had the opportunity to teach Judaism for twenty-five years at Rhodes College, to chair the local NCCJ, and to chair the board of Family Service as well as that of the Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association, the largest single social service agency in West Tennessee. I have had the chance to share with able and dedicated clergy from all faiths, going back even to the Sanitation Strike of 1968 which led to the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. To be a rabbi in Memphis in that April and since carries its own sadness but its own mandate and mission.

Finally, the best thing that happened to me in my rabbinate was showing up for work one day in the summer of 1964, hearing a typewriter hesitatingly clicking in an office that should have been empty, and finding a lifelong love in Jeanne. In these fifty years, we have been joined by three sons, Jeffrey, David and Michael; their three wives, Rona, Shara and, most recently, Lindsey; and three grandchildren, Caroline, Madeline and Nathaniel.

I can only wish for our children and grandchildren and for all my colleagues what I feel at this anniversary. As is said of Abraham, I can say, “Va’Adonai beirach et-Tzvi bakol – Adonai has blessed me in every way.”