Rabbi Arthur J. Lelyveld, senior rabbi emeritus at Cleveland's Anshe Chesed-Fairmount Temple and internationally known as a major figure in Reform Judaism, died in Cleveland Monday at the age of 83.
An outspoken advocate for social justice, brotherhood and civil rights, Lelyveld went to Hattiesburg, Miss., to help register black voters during the turbulent "Freedom Summer" of 1964.
There, he was beaten and seriously wounded by segregationists. The next year, Lelyveld received an award for distinguished service to the NAACP and the cause of freedom. He was on the board of trustees of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Social Change.
Born and raised in New York City, the rabbi graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Columbia University, working his way through college by playing banjo and guitar.
Confessing that he wavered between careers in journalism and the rabbinate, Lelyveld, whose maternal grandfather was a rabbi, chose the latter, mostly at his father's urging. He earned his master of Hebrew letters degree from Hebrew Union College and later received honorary degrees from HUC and the Cleveland College of Jewish Studies, where he was a senior teaching fellow.
Lelyveld also was adjunct professor of religion at Case Western Reserve University and was Bernard Rich Hollander lecturer in Jewish thought at John Carroll University.
He lectured extensively throughout the United States and abroad. A passionate Zionist since the early l940s, Lelyveld made more than 30 trips to Israel and received numerous awards for his efforts on behalf of the Jewish state.
A prolific writer of numerous articles and monographs, Lelyveld was author of two books: "Atheism is Dead" and "The Steadfast Stream: An Introduction to Jewish Social Values," published in l995.
During his 57-year career in the rabbinate, Lelyveld served as president of the American Jewish Congress, Central Conference of American Rabbis, Synagogue Council of America and the American Jewish League for Israel.
Lelyveld is survived by his wife,Teela; sons Joseph and David, both of New York, and Michael of Arlington, Mass.; daughter Robin of Bethesda, Md.; and five grandchildren.