Catholic university confers a doctorate on a rabbi

May 21, 2015 by J-Wire News Service
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Rabbi John Levi has received an honorary doctorate for his outstanding contribution to Jewish-Christian relations and interfaith dialogue and to the building of a robust multicultural Australian society.

The doctorate was awarded the Australian Catholic University in Melbourne at a ceremony held at the city’s convention centre,

Margot Hillel

Chair Academic Board Professor Margot Hillel, Rabbi John Levi and Deputy Vice Chancellor/Chief Operating Officer Dr Stephen Weller

The citation reads:

John Levi’s giant mind, immense curiosity and ability to share knowledge makes him a natural-born teacher – a skill he has taken to the highest level as one of Australia’s most eminent leaders and historians. It is his ability to teach not preach that has placed him as an influential architect of interfaith activities across the country and internationally.

The first Australian-born rabbi grew up and was educated in Melbourne. While the city has always had a large Jewish community, as a child he remembers a distinctly Anglican environment where “Catholics were swept to the corner and Jews whispered: They were frightened to be seen or heard.” All that has now changed, and communities of all religions and flavours thrive and mix. It is John’s firm opinion that religious communities enrich Australia and he has contributed enormously to engineering the change in social attitudes.

After studying in Cincinnati and Jerusalem, in 1960 he returned to Progressive Judaism’s flagship synagogue in Australia, Melbourne’s Temple Beth Israel, which was his home congregation, and served there for 37 years. He is now Rabbi Emeritus of the congregation. He has taught courses in Judaism at the Yarra Theological Union and at Catholic Theological College and has been involved in interfaith activities at Australian Catholic University.

He has given distinguished service to the Australian Liberal movement, including playing an instrumental role in founding and sustaining other Progressive Jewish congregations in Australia, New Zealand and South East Asia.

Not content to stick to chalkboards, John was pioneer in Australian ethnic broadcasting on Radio 3EA and 3ZZZ, and founder of the Jewish Program on SBS radio. He has also written many significant essays and articles for books and journals and several books on Progressive Judaism and Australian Jewish history, including a comprehensive biographical dictionary of Australian Colonial Jewry and a biography of his mentor Rabbi Dr Herman Sanger.

John was one of the founders of the Council of Christians and Jews in Victoria, and a key figure behind the creation of the national organisation. He has served as representative of the Jewish community on many interfaith consultations and in talks and presentations, appearing with an array of pre-eminent scholars from around the world.

In recognition of his outstanding contributions, he was appointed as a Member of the Order of Australia in 1981 in recognition of his “services to religion.” He is also a recipient of the Centenary Medal. Monash University awarded John the degree of Doctor of Laws (honoris causa) for his contribution to the community and to Australian Jewish history in 2006.

With no plans to slow his workload, he is amused by the gift of prayer books sent to his congregation with the inscription “on the occasion of his retirement” – an event that is not yet imminent.

Chancellor, I request that you bestow on Rabbi John S Levi AM BA DipEd (Melbourne), MA in Hebrew Letters (Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati), MA, PhD (Monash), Doctor of Divinity (Hebrew Union College, Jerusalem) the highest honour of Australian Catholic University, Doctor of the University (honoris causa) in recognition of his outstanding contribution to Jewish-Christian relations and interfaith dialogue and to the building of a robust multicultural Australian society, one in which each faith community is able to thrive and contribute to the well-being of all and the common good.


2 Responses to “Catholic university confers a doctorate on a rabbi”
  1. sidney bloch says:

    Mazal tov John for another well-deserved hono. It is phenomenal how much you have initiated and accomplished during your distinguished career. May you continue to do so for a long time to come.

    • John Levi says:

      Thanks Sidney. I am now Dr Dr Dr Dr –but who is counting???
      Best wishes

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