Rabbi Dow Marmur will be honored by the students, faculty and governors of Regis College at the College's 2005 Convocation in mid-November. After pursuing studies in Poland, Sweden and the United Kingdom, Rabbi Marmur served two congregations in Britain before becoming the Senior Rabbi at Holy Blossom Temple in Toronto in 1983. Rabbi Marmur is well known as an author and senior lecturer at the University of Toronto and has been a leading figure in ecumenical exchange between Christians and Jews in Toronto and beyond. Rabbi Marmur will receive an honorary Doctorate in Divinity.
Citation for Rabbi Dow Marmau – November 12, 2005
Reverend Father Chancellor. It is an honour to present to you Rabbi Dow Marmur for the degree of Doctor of Divinity honoris causa.
Forty years ago, the Roman Catholic Church issued Nostra Aetate, the historic document of Vatican II which proclaimed the desire for a deeper and more respectful relationship with the Jewish people. Nostra Aetate was an act of contrition on the Church’s part; it was also an act of hope.
Over the last forty years much has been accomplished in the area of Jewish-Christian relations, particularly in Christian Schools of Theology such as Regis College and St. Michael’s College. However, we are only at the beginning of the theological re-imagination that is required if Christians are to welcome Jews in the fullness of their faith.
This afternoon a Jesuit School of Theology is recognizing a Jewish Rabbi as a Doctor of Divinity. Regis College is recognizing that a Rabbi has the gift, the right and the duty to teach us about God. This is an act of faith and of hope which is possible because, in spite of everything, there are those Jews such as Dow Marmur who have never given up the hope that Christians could indeed learn to love their neighbour.
This afternoon we recognize a particular Jewish Rabbi who has made a unique contribution to his people, to society and, yes, to the Church.
Dow Marmur was born in 1935 in . Four years later, his childhood ended when the Nazis invaded his country. The Marmur family fled as far east as where they lived in poverty as refugees. At the end of the war, Dow Marmur and his family were taken by the Red Cross to Sweden . Two months after their arrival, the State of Israel was proclaimed.
It was in Sweden that the young Dow Marmur started to go to school and to excel at his studies. It is also there, as a teenager, that he met Fredzia who would become his wife.
To read Dow Marmur’s Memoir, Six Lives is to understand how much this Doctor of Divinity can also be awarded to Fredzia. According to Rabbi Marmur, his life began when he met her; it was from her that he learned not only love but also faith and hope.
It was in Sweden that a Christian teacher encouraged Dow Marmur to take religion, his own religion, seriously. He decided to become a Rabbi as a way to help his own people and went to London to study at the newly established Baeck College for Reform Judaism.
After graduation, Rabbi Marmur took responsibility for some of the most vital Synagogues in England. He quickly emerged as one of the most credible and original voices in Reform Judaism. He was as critical of the lack of tradition in the reform movement as he was of the rigidity of the Orthodox teachings.
Rabbi Marmur's book, Beyond Survival, established him as a fresh and significant voice in Jewish theology. In this widely read book, he argued that Judaism must be defined not only by its suffering but also by its faith and hope. He challenged his community to define itself not so much by what it was against but by what it was for.
It was this book that brought him to the attention of Jewish Communities in North America . In 1983 he was offered the position of Chief Rabbi at Holy Blossom Synagogue in Toronto . One of the most influential reform synagogues in the world would be profoundly shaped by the leadership of Dow Marmur.
As the Rabbi of Holy Blossom Synagogue, Dow Marmur was exemplary in his exercise of public theology. He initiated a yearly forum on “Philosophy in the City” which brought together academics, architects, city planners and politicians. The forum provided an important space where new ideas and commitments could emerge.
Rabbi Marmur encouraged his congregation to take responsibility “for the good of the city” and initiated various outreach committees. Holy Blossom began to participate in the “Out of the Cold” program for homeless people. Rabbi Marmur became one of the recognized leaders in the Interfaith Social Assistance Review Committee, an interfaith organization that became a major voice on behalf of the common good during the years of “the common sense revolution” of Mike Harris. For Rabbi Marmur, social responsibility was a theological imperative. This Doctor of Divinity takes humanity as seriously as God does.
As a Rabbi, Dow Marmur took every opportunity to speak in public on social and religious issues. He was a frequent commentator in the Canadian media and wrote in secular and religious publications. His comments did not follow any party line, whether religious or secular, and so they were all the more weighty and significant.
Rabbi Marmur was a frequent participant in various Jewish-Christian dialogues and joint projects. He did so with great integrity, faithful to his own convictions in a way that summoned Christians to become better Christians.
We recognize today one of the most significant leaders and theologians in contemporary Judaism. We honour him for his commitment to public life and for his ongoing hope in the Church even when we have had little reason to hope in ourselves. We recognize Dow Marmur as our teacher, our Rabbi.