Rabbi Ze’ev Harari of Ocala, Florida, age 76, died in October 2022.
Beloved husband of Lynn Dennen Harari. Treasured father of Rabbi Carmit Harari. Cherished brother of Aki (Rina) Harari. Fond uncle of Adi (Asaf) Ayalon and Osnat (Amir) Dahan. Proud great-uncle of Tal, Gili, and Or Ayalon, and Roni and No’am Dahan. Dear cousin of Dita (Sh’muel z”l) Bar Tov, Merav (Tom) Balazs, No’am (Shira) Bar Tov, Gilad (B’ruria) Bar Tov, and their families. Former husband of Rabbi Laura Schwartz Harari.
Born and raised in Haifa, Israel, Rabbi Harari attended Leo Baeck High School. He was exposed to Reform Judaism while studying abroad in Newton, Massachusetts during his junior year, and this led to his involvement in the founding of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism, the Reform Movement’s sister movement abroad. After serving in naval intelligence in the Israel Defense Forces, Rabbi Harari went on to earn a master’s degree in Hebrew Literature from the Hebrew University, and then to study for the rabbinate. He was among the first Reform rabbis ordained in Israel through the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion in Jerusalem.
Rabbi Harari served as rabbi of three congregations in Israel before moving to the United States in the late 1980s. Throughout his 40-plus year-long career, he served as rabbi of congregations throughout the Southeast and Midwest, including Beth Israel Sinai in Racine. He taught religion at various colleges throughout the country, and served as youth advisor for Telem No’ar, the Israeli Reform youth movement. Rabbi Harari worked on the first Israeli Reform Prayer Book, Ha-Avodah She-bahlev, and was the first editor of the Israeli Reform Movement’s newsletter, Shalhevet. He was a leader in interfaith work with Nes Ammim Christian Village in northern Israel and spent multiple summers teaching youth at URJ Camps Eisner and Olin Sang Ruby Union Institute.
Rabbi Harari loved music and singing and participated in the Hava Nashira song-leading workshop at URJ Camp Olin Sang Ruby Union Institute for nearly a decade. He believed that music should be participatory and help connect people to the liturgy, psalms, and other sacred texts, and to that end he incorporated much communal singing into his services. Rabbi Harari’s goal was to build community, and in addition to singing, he often used food to bring people together. An avid cook, Rabbi Harari continued to make the family recipes he learned in his mother’s kitchen, not only at home but in his congregations as well. He delighted in teaching young and old alike, and in his later years, he especially embraced the joy of Tot-Shabbat, complete with puppets and dancing.
Rabbi Harari loved to laugh and had a great sense of humor. He loved people and especially appreciated the relationships that he built with his congregants and community members throughout the years. He was active in interfaith work in the communities where he served as rabbi, and he called many fellow clergy people of multiple faiths his friends. Rabbi Harari found his passion in the Jewish tradition and loved his work as a rabbi. A kind, wise old soul, he will be missed dearly.
Service held Oct. 16, at Temple Beth Shalom, Ocala, Florida.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism, 13 David Hamelach, Jerusalem 9410125, Israel, www.reform.org.il.
Arrangements by Chicago Jewish Funerals – Skokie Chapel.