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Kronish, Leon


KRONISH, LEON (1917–1996), U.S. Reform rabbi and Zionist leader. Kronish was born in New York and received his B.A. from Brooklyn College in 1936. He studied under Mordecai *Kaplan at the Jewish Theological Seminary (1937–38) and then attended the Jewish Institute of Religion (jir), where he was ordained by Stephen *Wise in 1942. huc-jir awarded him an honorary D.D. degree in 1967. He served as an associate rabbi at Huntington Jewish Center, Long Island, New York (1941–44) before moving to Miami Beach on a self-pro-claimed mission to bring a Zionist and Jewish presence to "the American Negev." He realigned a 40-member storefront Conservative congregation, the Beth Sholom Center, with Reform Judaism, renamed it Temple Beth Sholom, and it grew into a leading center of Jewish worship and culture in the South, with a membership exceeding 1,200 families. Kronish actively campaigned to weaken discriminatory practices and change laws throughout south Florida that were antisemitic and racially biased. He also campaigned for the separation of church and state in Miami's public schools and challenged Miami Beach residents, nearly three-quarters Jewish, to adopt a policy of permitting the busing of African-American children from black neighborhoods to Miami Beach schools.

The *Six-Day War was a watershed for Kronish, who expounded his ideas in two articles: "Yisrael Goralenu"("Israel is Our Destiny," 1968) and "The Zionist Mitzvot" ("The [Ten] Zionist Commandments," 1977). Under his motto "Bring Israel to America and America to Israel," he became the personality most identified with the "Israelization" of Reform Judaism. Kronish was a founding member of the *Association of Reform Zionists of America (arza) in 1977 and was instrumental in creating permanent committees on Israel for the *Central Conference of American Rabbis – which he also chaired – and for the *Union of American Hebrew Congregations (uahc). He advocated that individual congregations establish Israel committees and supported the launching of Reform kibbutzim. He called on Jews to visit Israel, to link with Israeli families, and respond politically when Israel is in need. He endorsed a policy that required entering rabbinical students to spend their first year in Israel and lobbied for the resolution that the ccar would host conventions in Israel. In south Florida, Kronish led the effort for El Al to fly to Miami and for the Israeli government to open a consulate there. He initiated a national program for students to study in Israel for a semester and receive American educational credits. All during this time (1970–85), Kronish also served on the Board of Governors of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Through leadership roles in the *Labor Zionist movement and the State of Israel Bonds Organization, Kronish forged close relationships with Israeli leaders Golda Meir, Abba Eban, and Yitzhak Rabin. He assisted in the founding of the Histadrut Foundation of the United States (1965), and served Israel Bonds as chairman of its rabbinic cabinet in the 1970s and national chairman in the early 1980s. In recognition of his fundraising, Kronish was awarded the Prime Minister's Anniversary Medal on the occasion of Israel's silver anniversary in 1973. Kronish Plaza in Miami Beach and the Leon Kronish Memorial Lecture sponsored by huc-jir in Jerusalem honor his myriad contributions.


H.A. Green, Gesher Vakesher, Bridges and Bonds: The Life of Leon Kronish (1995).

[Bezalel Gordon (2nd ed.)]

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