Stephen Wise Free Synagogue mourns the passing on Monday, August 16, 2021, of Rabbi Richard G. Hirsch, father of our Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch; father-in-law of Alison Hirsch; and grandfather of Abigail Hirsch. He was predeceased by his beloved wife Bella Hirsch.
Rabbi Richard Hirsch z”l has been called the architect of Reform Zionism and the worldwide movement for Progressive Judaism. He was founding director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism in Washington, D.C., from 1962 to 1973, and he helped pass the landmark Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1965. In 1973, he moved to Israel with his family to become executive director of the World Union for Progressive Judaism.
The Hirsch family memorialized Rabbi Richard Hirsch in a letter Tuesday and outlined plans for a memorial to take place in Israel in the near future
Israeli President Isaac Herzog said in a statement: “Rabbi Hirsch was a genuine Jewish pioneer. He charted his own remarkable course, based not on popularity or prestige but on his unclouded intuition, his broad understanding of shifting realities and his deep connection to the Jewish People and the State of Israel.”
“Rabbi Richard Hirsch was a gentleman of great warmth and brilliant humor, an exemplar of social justice and a magnificent storyteller. He was a friend of my father’s, the late President Chaim Herzog, and a friend of mine. I mourn the loss of this great visionary and beloved Zionist leader.”
“At a time when so many think that human rights and Zionism pull in the opposite direction, here is a leader who proves by his own life that the struggle for Zionism and the struggle for human rights are one and the same,” said former Jewish Agency chairman and activist Natan Sharansky.