Feuer, Leon Israel

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FEUER, LEON ISRAEL (1903–1984), U.S. Reform rabbi, orator, and Zionist leader. Feuer was born in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, and ordained at Hebrew Union College in 1927. He received his B.A. from the University of Cincinnati in 1925, an honorary D.D. from huc-jir in 1955, and an honorary doctorate from Bowling Green University in 1975. He served his entire rabbinic career in Ohio, first at Temple Tifereth Israel in Cleveland (1927–34) and then at the Collingwood Avenue Temple, Congregation Shomer Emunim in Toledo (1934–74), where he also lectured at the University of Toledo. He gaineda reputation as an eloquent and outspoken supporter of liberal social legislation to end racial inequality as well as to protect the rights of workers, the unemployed, women, and children. During the 1930s, Feuer joined forces with Unitarian Minister Rev. Walter Cole to combat the antisemitic radio diatribes of Father Charles Coughlin, raising secret financing to purchase airtime and ghostwriting rebuttal speeches for Cole to broadcast.

Feuer rose to his greatest prominence as an early and influential leader of the Zionist movement in the United States. His book Why a Jewish State?, published in 1942, was the first in the English language to advocate an independent Jewish commonwealth in Palestine. In 1943, he became director of the Washington bureau of the American Zionist Emergency Council, obtaining a year's leave of absence from his congregation to head the effort to persuade U.S. political leaders to support the idea of a sovereign Jewish nation. A consummate lobbyist, Feuer convinced representatives and senators in Congress not only to oppose Britain's White Paper restricting Jewish immigration to Palestine but also to pass resolutions calling for the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine after World War ii. In 1945, Feuer was elected vice president of the Zionist Organization of America and attended the following year's World Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland; as the zoa delegation's floor whip, he was effective at instilling unity of purpose in achieving the goals of this assembly at such a critical juncture in history.

With the establishment of the State of Israel as the Jewish homeland, Feuer returned to active leadership roles in his community and the Reform movement. He was the organizing chairman of the Jewish Welfare Federation of Toledo and served successively as president of the Toledo Zionist District, the Toledo Lodge of B'nai B'rith, the Jewish Community Council, the United Jewish Fund, and the Toledo United Nations Association. After holding several key ccar positions, including chairman of the Committee on Justice and Peace and the ccar-uahc Joint Social Action Commission, and vice president (1961–63), Feuer was elected president of the *Central Conference of American Rabbis in 1963. He was a proponent of stronger Jewish education requirements in the Reform movement, particularly with regard to customs, ceremonies, and Hebrew. Following his term of office (1963–65), he was appointed a public member of the executive of the American section of the Jewish Agency, the governing body of the World Zionist Organization (1966–71). He also served on an International Commission to study revising the wzo. Upon his retirement from the pulpit in 1974, Feuer joined the faculty of Emory University as a visiting professor. He also coauthored two scholarly works: The Jew and His Religion (1935) and Jewish Literature since the Bible (2 vols., 1937, 1941).


K.M. Olitzky, L.J. Sussman, and M.H. Stern, Reform Judaism in America: A Biographical Dictionary and Sourcebook (1993).

[Bezalel Gordon (2nd ed.)]