Rabbi David Polish z”l

Rabbi David Polish z”l

Rabbi David Polish was the founding Rabbi of Beth Emet and its spiritual leader from 1950 until his retirement in 1980. Rabbi David Polish came to Chicago as the rabbi of Temple Mizpah as the Associate Rabbi.

At that time anti-Zionism was very intense within Reform Judaism, and Rabbi Polish found himself caught in the crossfires of Zionist and anti-Zionist beliefs, Beth Emet became a breakaway congregation.

Beth Emet, under Rabbi Polish’s leadership became known as a new kind of Reform Congregation, which talked a good deal about the return to tradition, of commitment to Jewish national ideas, to Zionism, and particularly to the concept of freedom of the pulpit so that a rabbi in our congregation did not feel inhibited — did not have to feel inhibited about maintaining a position on Jewish values or on Universal values for that matter.

Rabbi Polish was also the founding president of the Chicago Board of Rabbis and a founder of the Association of Reform Zionists of America, an organization whose statement of principles he drafted.

Rabbi Polish brought Beth Emet through the period of defining what it means to be a Reform Jew. As a congregation, and a broader movement, we figured out what was important to us and why we existed as a reform Congregation.

Rabbi Polish was a contemporary pillar of the Reform Rabbinical movement, he set a foundation for the Beth Emet community as a rabbi which then Rabbi Peter Knobel continued to expand.

In 1958, Beth Emet had the privilege of hosting a lecture series.

During the lecture, we hosted Dr. Martin Luther King, Theodore Bikel, and Dr. Abba Lerner. We knew how important it was to house MLK that when he was prohibited from getting a hotel room anywhere in Evanston, one of our very own congregants housed him in their home.