Lehrman, Irving

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LEHRMAN, IRVING (1910–2005), U.S. rabbi and leader of the ecumenical movement and of Dade County Jews. Lehrman was born in Tiktin, Poland. The family emigrated when Lehrman was six, and his father, a rabbi, took over an Orthodox congregation in Spring Valley, n.y. Irving was the 12th generation rabbi in his family. His wife of nearly 70 years was herself the daughter of a rabbi, Israel Goldfarb. They met when Lehr man was studying at Brooklyn Law School. Lehrman was ordained at New York's Jewish Institute of Religion, when it was a non-denomination school under the leadership of Rabbi Stephen Wise.

After holding a pulpit at Congregation Shomrei Emunah in Montclair, n.j., he came to Temple Emanuel-El in 1943 and fell in love with South Florida. When he arrived Jews were barred from living in some neighborhoods; apartment houses did not rent to Jews or African-Americans, and Jews were still excluded from the choice hotels. His congregation grew with the city's Jewish population and with the breaking of barriers for Jews in South Florida. The introduction of air-conditioning allowed for a community to live in year-round comfort. He served as chairman of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation/uja Campaign for two terms and as chairman of the uja National Rabbinic Cabinet. Lehrman served on the boards of numerous international, national, and local educational, social, and humanitarian organizations. His influence was felt in Miami organizations within the network of Federation agencies including the Jewish Community Relations Council, the Rabbinical Association of Greater Miami, and the Miami Jewish Home and Hospital for the Aged.

As a condition of his staying Lehrman asked the congregation to build a new building, which they did. He served the congregation for half a century, retiring in 1993, but never quite stepping aside. An "excellent" sermonizer, one congregant recalled 70 years later that "he was magnetic and electrifying. He was the Billy Graham of the Jews."

In 2000, Lehrman was among the first non-Catholics in the Archdiocese of Miami to be honored with Pope John Paul ii's blessing for humanitarian collaborations with the church. His dedication to Jewish education was symbolized by the day school that he founded and that bears his name.

[Michael Berenbaum (2nd ed.)]