Applying the Present to the Past: The Experiences of Five Civil Rights Rabbis in Context of Contemporary Leadership Theory
Rabbi Brad Levenberg, Ph.D. is a 2021 graduate of the PHD Program in Leadership and Change at Antioch University.
Rabbi Dr. Brad Levenberg at his Dissertation Defense.
From L-R: Dr. Aqeel Tirmizi, Committee Chair, Dr. Samual K. Joseph, Committee Member, Dr. Donna Ladkin, Committee Member
- S. Aqeel Tirmizi, Ph.D., Committee Chair
- Donna Ladkin, Ph.D., Committee Member
- Rabbi Samuel K. Joseph, Ph.D., Committee Member
archival research; civil rights; leadership; leadership theory; rabbi; social justice; South; synagogue
This dissertation examines the experiences of five civil rights-era rabbis (William Silverman, Randall Falk, Alfred Goodman, Irving Bloom, and Burton Padoll) to highlight their contributions, leadership approaches, struggles, and achievements with a particular emphasis on social justice. As each of the rabbis drew from their understanding of the richness of the Jewish textual canon, the study includes a survey of Biblical, Talmudic, and contemporary Jewish sources that laid the groundwork for their rabbinic activism and which compel rabbis today. The study dramatically highlights those texts as providing applicable strategies with regard to leading a congregation with a “prophetic” voice, knowing when to speak out, and how to do so, strategies that inspired—and inspire—rabbis to engage in work intended to make their communities more just and equitable. Each of the five rabbis featured in the dissertation produced vast amounts of correspondence, sermonic materials, and other writings, making archival research a particularly useful methodology to explore the volumes of primary sources and provide insight into the individual and collective experiences of these rabbis. Particular attention is further paid to context as a means of highlighting and distinguishing the choices that these rabbis made as leaders of and within their communities. The dissertation contributes to the leadership legacy of these rabbis by contributing new and relevant materials to scholarship around the civil rights movement, the American Jewish experience, and the intersection of the two. Four contemporary leadership theories are highlighted through their experiences (Transformational Leadership Theory, Servant Leadership Theory, Relational Leadership Theory, and Courageous Leadership Theory), which, in turn, makes current scholarship in the field of leadership and change accessible to clergy. Additional theories of leadership are also explored through these exemplars, as is the introduction of a composite theory of leadership based upon the shared experiences of these rabbis. This dissertation is available in open access at AURA: Antioch University Repository and Archive, https://aura.antioch.edu/ and OhioLINK ETD Center, https://etd.ohiolink.edu/.
Levenberg, B. G. (2021). Applying the Present to the Past: The Experiences of Five Civil Rights Rabbis in Context of Contemporary Leadership Theory. https://aura.antioch.edu/etds/709
Jewish Studies Commons, Leadership Studies Commons, Quantitative, Qualitative, Comparative, and Historical Methodologies Commons, Race and Ethnicity Commons, Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies Commons, Social Justice Commons
Bradley G. Levenberg
ORCID Scholar ID #: #0000-0001-9727-6596
Brad Levenberg grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio where he was regularly sent to the office of the Sunday School Principal for incessantly talking during class. Embracing that “talent” and realizing that all that was missing was a larger audience and a microphone, Brad decided to pursue the congregational rabbinate at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion following his undergraduate education at Antioch College.
He embraced opportunities while in seminary to work as a student rabbi in New Jersey, Virginia, and Ohio, and in chaplaincy settings in New York, but credits his role as a Youth Advisor, working with sarcastic and unruly teens, as the experience that best prepared him for congregational work. An innovator who embraces the mandate to “create positive Jewish memories”, Rabbi Levenberg came to Temple Sinai in Sandy Springs following his ordination in 2006. He utilized his conversational style of teaching and overly-verbose sermons to win the hearts of the congregation and was promoted from Assistant Rabbi to Associate Rabbi in 2009, a position he still holds to this day.
Rabbi Levenberg has served on many boards throughout his career in Atlanta. Because his opinions are not welcomed by his family at home, he serves at present on the boards of the Association of Reform Zionists of America, the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival, the Anti-Defamation League, and Neranena (formerly the Atlanta Jewish Music Festival). He co-chairs the AJC’s Black-Jewish Coalition and serves as chair of the Sandy Springs Interfaith Clergy Association. In May, 2021, he completed his doctorate from Antioch University in Leadership and Change. Rabbi Dr. Levenberg (as he is known by his very proud mother) published a dissertation titled Applying the present to the past: The experiences of five civil rights rabbis in context of contemporary leadership theory in which he explores the leadership legacy of five social justice rabbis. He enjoys sharing his findings as Scholar in Residence, in various sermons, at dinner parties and cocktail receptions, and with his friends and family. Truth be told, Rabbi Dr. Levenberg does not need an audience to be entertained by his own whimsy.
Rabbi Dr. Levenberg is married to Rebecca Levenberg, a defender of the arts through her work at the Woodruff Art’s Center as the Director of Foundations and Grants, and is the parent of Ilana, a high school student who is deeply invested in Black Rights, and Evan, a middle school student who is struggling with determining whether he will become a YouTube star or a professional NBA player. Rabbi Dr. Levenberg’s family contributes greatly to his sense of optimism and appreciation of joy as well as to an increasing collection of grey hair.