Leonard Fein was a social activist and strong supporter of liberal Zionism

leonard feinLeonard J. Fein, an outspoken and often controversial advocate of liberal Zionism, who in 1975 co-founded with Elie Wiesel Moment Magazine, died on August 14 in Manhattan. He was 80.

Fein, who was also known as Leibel, was a resident of Watertown, Mass. An intellectual and a writer, in 1975 Fein gave up his academic career as a professor of politics, social policy and Jewish studies at Brandeis University to co-found with Elie Wiesel Moment Magazine, a publication of Jewish politics, culture and religion. Writing in Haaretz the day after Fein’s death, Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center in Washington, noted that Moment “launched Leibel as the most influential liberal ideologue in American Jewish life.”  Fein, who served as Moment’s first editor, left the magazine in 1987.

A social action and peace activist, Fein also founded Americans for Peace Now and Mazon: A Jewish Response to Hunger, a Los Angeles-based non-profit dedicated to ending hunger in the U.S. and Israel. In addition, in 1997 he founded the National Jewish Coalition for Literacy, a group that combats illiteracy by organizing volunteer tutoring programs for at-risk children.

Since 1990, Fein wrote a column for the Forward newspaper.

Fein’s books include Where Are We? The Inner Life of America’s Jews, and Israel: Politics and People. He was a contributor to The New York Times, The New Republic, Commentary, Commonweal, The Nation, Dissent and the Los Angeles Times.

“In every generation, figures of influence rise to leadership. They reshape the Jewish community in their image. Sometimes they are public intellectuals, sometimes institution builders, sometimes analysts, sometimes power brokers. Rarely does one person embody all of these qualities – and more,” wrote Saperstein in Haaretz. “Leonard (Leibel) Fein embodied all of these qualities.”

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