David Lefkowitz Sr.
David Lefkowitz Sr. was born in 1875 in Hungary, at the time known as the Austro-Hungarian Empire. As a young child, he immigrated to New York City with his mother and three brothers. Lefkowitz Sr. and one of his brothers were placed in the Hebrew Orphan Asylum for care, where they learned English.
After going to rabbinical school and leading Temple B’nai Jeshurun in Ohio, David Lefkowitz Sr. moved to Dallas, Texas and led Temple Emanu-El as the head rabbi. He staunchly opposed the rise of the KKK – often vocalizing his opposition in the presence of members, despite threats – and was a Founding Executive Committee Member of the Dayton Branch of the NAACP. While in Dallas, Lefkowitz co-founded Texas A&M Hillel, the oldest Hillel Foundation organization in the United States (three years before the national Hillel Foundation was founded at the University of Illinois).
Along with Rabbi Henry Cohen, Lefkowitz Sr. wrote a historical account of Jewish Texans for the Texas Centennial in 1936 after interviewing many settlers and their families (who had migrated from Germany as well as eastern Europe).
Lefkowitz Sr. was happily married to Sadie Braham and had four children.
David Lefkowitz Jr. was ordained as a rabbi in 1937 after training through the Hebrew Union College. He served the congregation of Temple Emanu-El in Dallas with his father as an assistant rabbi, which was the first instance in the American rabbinate where father and son served the same congregation. He then moved to Shreveport, Louisiana and retained his position as senior rabbi until his retirement in 1972. Additionally, he served as a chaplain in the United States Air Force from 1943 through 1946, both in Europe and in the United States. In Europe, he helped homeless Jews in the various centers for displaced persons. David Lefkowitz Sr. was also active in the Reform movement, co-founding both the National Federation of Temple Youth and the Southern Federation of Temple Youth. He served as the president of the National Organization of Retired Reform Rabbis for two years as well.
Lefkowitz Jr. was happily married to Leona Atlas and had three children, David Lefkowitz III (my grandfather), Helen Lefkowitz, and Henry Lefkowitz. These two men are the namesakes of my dad and brother, David Lefkowitz IV (who received his master’s degree from UVA) and David Samuel Lefkowitz.
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