Daniel B. Syme, Rabbi Emeritus of Temple Beth El, the oldest Jewish congregation in Michigan, and one of the most revered voices in the American Jewish community has been named one of the recipients of The PuLSE Institute’s inaugural Arun Gandhi Award for Global Justice.
Syme, a transcending voice for racial justice was inducted in 2010 into the Martin Luther King Jr. International Board of Preachers at Morehouse College in Atlanta, and Lifestyle magazine’s readers once voted him as one of 18 North American Jews “who will be most influential in shaping the future of the Jewish community in the 21st Century.”
The Gandhi Award, which was instituted in 2019, is named after Dr. Arun Gandhi, the 88-year-old grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, who has been a standard bearer in fighting for marginalized communities around the world and a member of the National Advisory Board of The PuLSE Institute. Dr. Gandhi was among the first global leaders to answer the call of The PuLSE Institute, Detroit’s national anti-poverty think tank and became a member of the organization’s brain trust.
“This award is in recognition of your longstanding and unwavering commitment as a conscientious and transcending religious leader who has demonstrated a willingness to address issues affecting marginalized groups across all communities,” The PuLSE Institute wrote in its nomination of Syme. “In pushing for causes significant to the overall moral essence of the Civil Rights Movement, you have shown that members of the faith community can be a powerful force to the historic calling for equality.”
The letter added, “The work you have done for decades as a faith leader is in line with the vision of Dr. Gandhi, the lessons from his grandfather and the moral dictates of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who avidly followed the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi marked by his historic visit to India. Your commitment reflects Dr. Gandhi’s mission for the light of justice, peace and equality to prevail over the darkness of discrimination and hate.”
Syme called the award a significant recognition of his decades of service to humanity.
“It is a great honor to be nominated for the Gandhi Award, especially as it comes from The PuLSE Institute. Throughout my life, I have tried to advance decency and caring in our society, most especially through my work in Black – Jewish relations, suicide prevention, and resistance to hate and oppression,” Syme said. “The PuLSE Institute has offered me an opportunity to join a coalition of caring people, led by Bankole Thompson, a leader who epitomizes the goodness that is possible in each of us as well as the entire leadership of the Institute. I accept this award with gratitude and humility, and hope that my personal work will continue to measure up to the high standards you have established.”
Syme is a published author or co-author of 24 books, on topics such as Jewish parenting, youth suicide prevention, Christian-Jewish relations, Jewish social action, ritual, theology and Jewish education. He is the founder of the Single Soul Suicide Prevention program of Jewish Family Service.
Attorney Tina M. Patterson, the President and Director of Research at The PuLSE Institute, said Syme’s work is deserving of such an honor.
“Rabbi Daniel Syme has a strong commitment to racial justice. He is a religious leader who cares about the issues of disenfranchised communities and has worked to build upon the historic Black-Jewish relations that was crucial during the Civil Rights Movement,” Patterson said. “He believes in the human potential and enhancing humanity with a commitment to lift up those who are ignored, which in line with Gandhi’s legacy.”
Bankole Thompson, the nationally acclaimed Black journalist and cultural critic, who is the executive dean and editor-in-chief of The PuLSE Institute, and whose influential work on race, democracy and poverty inspired the founding of the Institute, said Syme has been a consistent ally in the fight against racial and economic injustice.
“Rabbi Syme stands out in the faith community for his significant outreach and willingness to join forces with those who come from different backgrounds and experiences but have a common vision to combat racism and inequality. That is why he has been a transcending force and this award is to put the spotlight on not only his contributions, but also to show that his brand of principled faith leadership is needed today,” Thompson said. “I have known few faith leaders in public life who have demonstrated Rabbi Syme’s level of commitment to coalition building in addressing the most complex issues facing us.”
Thompson, who delivered the keynote address for the Detroit region of the American Jewish Committee’s 2012 Annual Distinguished Leadership Dinner, added “Rabbi Syme continues to be a powerful model for how we must engage other communities outside of the Jewish community with mutual respect in order to address the common good. He knows we are all bound in the same garment of destiny.”
Syme will be honored later in 2023 alongside other recipients who will be announced soon.