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Leonard I. Beerman (April 9, 1921 – December 24, 2014) was an American Reform rabbi. He served for 37 years at Leo Baeck Temple in Los Angeles [1] as founding rabbi. He was known for his liberal political activism, his support of interfaith dialogue, and his advocacy of peace and a two-state solution in the Middle East.[2]


Leonard Beerman
TitleFounding Rabbi of Leo Baeck Temple (Los Angeles, California)
Leonard Irving Beerman

April 9, 1921
DiedDecember 24, 2014 (age 93)
SpouseMartha Fechheimer Beerman 1945-1986 (her death)
Joan Willens Beerman 1988-2014 (his death)
ChildrenJudith, Eve and Elizabeth = 5 (2 stepchildren)
ParentsPaul (deceased) and Tillie Grossman Beerman (deceased)
Alma materPenn State
ProfessionReform rabbi
OccupationFounding Rabbi
Jewish leader
SuccessorRabbi Sandy Ragins
ProfessionReform rabbi
SynagogueLeo Baeck Temple, Bel Air


Beerman was born in Altoona, Pennsylvania[3] to Paul and Tillie Beerman. His father was a traveling salesman of women's lingerie, and his mother was a homemaker. He spent some of his later childhood in Owosso, Michigan, then returned to Altoona and studied at Penn State, from which he graduated in 1942.[4] He served but did not see combat in the United States Marines during World War II, studied for the rabbinate at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, and briefly joined the Haganah in 1947 while studying for his rabbinical degree in Israel. In a later interview Beerman said that his pacifist convictions arose during his five months experience with the Haganah.[2][5]

After receiving his rabbinical ordination and a master's degree from Hebrew Union College, he and his wife moved west in 1949 to take the pulpit at Leo Baeck Temple, which was then a new congregation with 28 families. As the temple grew in size and influence, and ultimately moved to a campus in Bel Air, Beerman became known for his political activism, his opposition to the Vietnam War, his support for interfaith dialogue with Christians and Muslims, and his willingness to criticize actions of the Israeli government and its defense forces. He held a longtime position as "rabbi-in-residence" at All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena.[2] Beerman acknowledged his own agnosticism and found a structure for his personal theology in the pantheism of Baruch Spinoza.[6]

Beerman retired from Leo Baeck Temple in 1986.[6] His first wife, Martha, died suddenly a few days after his retirement celebration.[7] He also lost an 8-year-old granddaughter to sudden death in 1993.

Personal lifeEdit

Beerman married Joan (Willens) in 1988. He has three children with Martha: Judith Beerman O'Hanlon, Eve Beerman, and Elizabeth Beerman Rothbart, two stepchildren, Elara and Scott Willens. He shares six grandchildren: Matthew, Kate (deceased), and Emma O'Hanlon, Emily and Michael Rothbart, and Leo and Evan Willens.


Beerman died at the age of 93 of congestive heart failure in the early hours of December 24, 2014 at Cedars-Sinai Hospital. He had been ill for a few months after dealing with multiple health issues. His last public appearance was at Leo Baeck Temple on October 4, 2014, where he gave his Yom Kippur sermon. He is survived by his second wife, Joan, three children, Judith (Neil) Beerman O'Hanlon, Eve Beerman, and Elizabeth (Lew) Beerman Rothbart two stepchildren,Elara Willens and Scott (Marina) Willens and four grandchildren-- Matthew and Emma O'Hanlon, Emily and Michael Rothbart and two step grandchildren, Leo and Evan Willens.[5][8] David N. Myers, Chair of the UCLA History Department and a close friend of Beerman, has edited a collection Rabbi Beerman's writings, "The Eternal Dissident: Rabbi Leonard I. Beerman and the Radical Imperative to Think and Act," set to be released May 16, 2018.


  1. ^ Rabbi Beerman at Leo Baeck Temple
  2. ^ a b c Kurt Streeter (26 November 2014). "At 93, Rabbi Leonard Beerman still stirs passions with pacifist views". Los Angeles Times.
  3. ^ "Leonard Beerman". Encyclopaedia Judaica., also available here at HighBeam Research.
  4. ^ "Rabbi Leonard Beerman Interviewed at Leo Baeck Temple", University of Southern California California Social Welfare Archives, April 3, 1997.
  5. ^ a b "Rabbi Leonard Beerman, known for political activism, dies", Jewish Telegraphic Agency, December 25, 2014.
  6. ^ a b Beverly Beyette, "Roast Yields More Light Than Heat: Event Kicks Off Celebrations for Retired Rabbi Beerman", Los Angeles Times, December 10, 1986.
  7. ^ Martha (Fechheimer) Beerman Obituary Archived 2014-12-25 at, The American Israelite, December 14, 1986.
  8. ^ Kurt Streeter, "Leonard Beerman dies at 93; pacifist rabbi of L.A.'s Leo Baeck Temple", Los Angeles Times, December 24, 2014.

External linksEdit