The Board of Preachers at Morehouse College’s Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel inducted two Atlanta-area Reform rabbis at its 32nd annual induction ceremony Thursday, March 30: Brad Levenberg of Temple Sinai and Ellen Nemhauser of the Center for Israel Education.
Few of the roughly 1,000 clergy members from around the world who have been inducted into the honorary organization over the years are rabbis, and Rabbi Nemhauser is the first female rabbi. Rabbi Michael Bernstein of Congregation Gesher L’Torah was inducted two years ago amid festivities attended by Rabbi Levenberg, who spoke at the presentation of the chapel’s Gandhi King Ikeda Award for Peace.
“I’m very honored, very humbled, and I intend and am committed to continue the work that needs to be done,” Rabbi Nemhauser said.
Terry Walker Sr., the director of chapel relations, said Rabbi Nemhauser’s induction in part reflects the chapel’s effort to make the board more inclusive in recent years.
A place in the Board of Preachers carries no responsibilities, but its members “have exhibited a commitment to and/or promise for using their positions of religious leadership to promote peace, tolerance, interfaith understanding, healing, reconciliation, moral cosmopolitan social progress, agape justice and care for the ecosystem,” according to information provided by the King Chapel.
“It’s very exciting. It was a great morning, very spiritually charged, very emotional,” Rabbi Levenberg said. “It was fantastic to be in the King Chapel, sitting there on that particular stage.”
Inductees are not told who nominated them or why, but Rabbi Nemhauser is active in interfaith work in Atlanta through organizations such as the Faith Alliance of Metro Atlanta and the Jewish Community Relations Council. She noted that multiracial and multifaith programs overlap in Atlanta.
She is about to provide the Jewish leadership on her fourth World Pilgrims trip, which brings equal numbers of Christians, Jews and Muslims. A July World Pilgrims trip will take her to northern California, and one around Labor Day will go to South Africa.
Rabbi Nemhauser also offered the invocation at the same King Chapel award ceremony in 2016 at which Rabbi Levenberg spoke in 2015.
Rabbi Levenberg said he has seized every opportunity to go to the chapel since helping organize a FAMA visit for a program in 2008 or 2009 and has spoken there for several events. One highlight, he said, was when his 11-year-old daughter, a civil rights activist herself, got to read part of a King speech at a candlelight vigil in January.
“Unofficially, that piece of paper that signifies the induction … casts a pretty big shadow,” Rabbi Levenberg said. “It’s a reminder that by virtue of my induction, it is an investment in a career ahead that I’ll continue doing work for civil justice, for civil rights, for equality and for accessibility for all people.”
Although no tasks are required of board members, Rabbi Nemhauser said the assumption is that the inductees are all “actively engaged in peace work, bettering the world, interfaith, multiracial — we’re all actively involved.”
She said other female rabbis in Atlanta and around the country are worthy of King Chapel recognition for their justice work. “Their time will come.”