It is with deep sadness that I write to tell you that Leibel Fein – former NIF Board member, IC member, and champion of the Israel we believe in –died early this morning. A great light has gone out.
For me, and for many of us, Leibel was the father of our Jewish social justice movement. I truly believe that the American Jewish communal landscape would look very different, and much worse, had it not been for him. Not only did he play a critical role in building and leading progressive Israel organizations like NIF and Americans for Peace Now, but he also worked hard to build a better American Jewish community. He launched projects like Mazon: A Jewish Response to Hunger, The National Jewish Coalition for Literacy and Moment Magazine. His commentary in the Forward remained a beacon of sanity in a sometimes crazy Jewish world. He spent countless hours teaching the next generation of progressive Jewish leaders how to lead. And he did all this with a wonderful and wicked sense of humor, even (and especially) during difficult times. I try to keep that example in mind now.
On a personal note, Leibel was a mentor and dear friend to me. I will miss him terribly. It makes me particularly sad that he died while the Israel he loved so much was in such turmoil and darkness. But it makes me happy that we are remembering him here. We all stand on his shoulders. I know he would appreciate us appreciating him.
Condolences may be sent to Leibel’s brother and sister-in-law: Rashi and Ruth Fein. The funeral will be on Sunday at 11 a.m. at Levine Chapel on 470 Harvard Street in Brookline, MA. In a particularly beautiful gesture, the family has asked that gifts in Leibel’s memory be made to the Nomi Fein Fellowship Fund. Contributions can be made online at www.nif.org/nomifein or mailed to the New England NIF office at 437 Newtonville Avenue, Newton, MA 02460. Checks should be made out to the New Israel Fund with “For Nomi Fein Fellowship” on the tag line.
May Leibel’s memory be a blessing. May we continue his work of building a better America, a better Israel, and a better world.