Rabbi Z. David Levy, 1923 – 2009
Rabbi Zalman (Zolly) David Levy, dynamic, creative and outspoken spiritual leader of Temple B’nai Or from 1962 – 1990, passed away on December 31 after extended illnesses. Son of the late Rabbi Abraham Wolf and Rose Haskell Levy, he is survived by his loving and devoted wife of 25 years, Alice Maleski Levy, daughters Ruth and Debbie, grandsons Micah and Gabriel, sister Evelyn, many nieces and nephews and great-nieces and great-nephews. He was predeceased by brother Simon and sisters Rhoda and Pearl. He is also survived by countless congregants and students whom he taught, befriended and inspired.
Z. David Levy was invested as a Cantor from the School of Sacred Music, Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion in 1952 and was a member of its faculty. He served as Cantor at Congregation Beth El in Norwalk, Conn, and earned rabbinic ordination from HUC-JIR (NY) in 1962. He served his entire rabbinic career at Temple B’nai Or in Morristown, NJ, where he served as both Rabbi and Cantor. In 1966 he served as Dean of the UAHC Summer Institute for the Creative and Performing Arts in Judaism at the Reform Movement’s Camp Eisner bringing such people as Leonard Bernstein, Lazar and Yehudi Weiner there to work with the campers.
Rabbi Levy was a staunch advocate of civil rights, having been arrested in Birmingham, Alabama in 1962 after answering the call of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., for clergy to gather in support of desegregation. He brought a delegation from the congregation to Washington, D.C. for Dr. King’s “March on Washington” and was witness to his “I Have a Dream” speech. He was a force behind the establishment of Morristown’s annual Martin Luther King Day Observances and was deeply involved in interracial and interfaith relations throughout his career. He established The African-American dialogue with local African-American congregations as well as those Newark. He was an outspoken critic of the war in Viet Nam and advocate for the homeless. Among the speakers and musicians he brought to the community through the years were Elie Wiesel, Arthur Goldberg, Abba Eban, Isaac B. Singer, Jane Fonda, Daniel Ellsworth and Ceaser Chavez, Gershon Kingsley and Theodore Bikel. Rabbi Levy was an accomplished musician and composer and was among the first rabbis to lead services with guitar. He was also the impetus for the formation of the Morris Chorale Society under director Wayne Walters. In his final years, he helped to establish at the Temple the county’s first Renaissance Group for seniors. From 1964 to 1990 he served as Resident Lecturer in Contemporary Theology and Post Biblical Judaism at Drew University in Madison, New Jersey. In the last decade of his active rabbinate, he earned a Masters in Social Work Yeshiva University.
Rabbi Levy gave Temple B’nai Or its continuing identity with his devotion to music, social action, youth, interfaith activities, and Israel.
Condolences may be sent to:
Mrs. Alice Levy
c/o Temple B’nai Or
60 Overlook Road
Morristown, NJ 07960
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Rabbi Z. David Levy Endowment Fund of Temple B’nai Or.