On June 6, Rabbi Michael Lerner, the founder of Tikkun Jewish community and editor-in-chief of Tikkun magazine announced that he was honored to be invited to speak at funeral services of world boxing legend Muhammad Ali to be held on Friday.
“American Jews have played an important role in the continuing fight for social justice and peace, so our presence in this memorial will be a testimony to the very many in our community who celebrated Muhammad Ali’s courageous fight for peace, social justice, and a world in which love and generosity wins out over fear, hate, militarism and domination. As a religious Jew and rabbi I wish to honor this comrade in the struggle for ‘tikkun olam’ – the healing, repair and transformation of our world. And as a representative of the Jewish world I want to reaffirm our solidarity with Muslims around the world,” Rabbi Lerner said.
The funeral service is scheduled for Friday in Louisville, Kentucky – Ali’s hometown. Ali died last Friday at the age of 74. He had Parkinson’s disease for over 30 years.
Former US president Bill Clinton of Monica Lewinsky fame will deliver a eulogy. Other speakers will include Jewish actor Billy Crystal, who is known for his imitation of the Champ, Ali’s wife Lonnie Ali; his daughter Maryum Ali, and sportscaster Bryant Charles Gumbel along with representatives of Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Mormonism and Catholicism.
Rabbi Lener has quite a checkered past. For example, British Jewish writer and pro-Palestine activist Paul Eisen called the good rabbi, Snake-oil Doctor.
“When I became active in Deir Yassin Remembered and first came into contact with Palestine solidarity, Michael Lerner was, along with Marc Ellis, probably the most prominent of all the ‘good Jews’ i.e, those Jews who, to misquote my self “just wished Israel wouldn’t behave quite so badly and stop embarrassing us all in front of our friends”. He ran an outfit called ‘Tikkun’ which roughly translates as ‘healing’ – the idea being that it was considered a Jewish mission to somehow heal the world and apparently Rabbi Lerner was the man to do it. I only met him once – when he came to London to address a meeting of other good Jews (some of those guys were genuinely good). He reminded me of a kind of travelling ‘snake-oil doctor’ so much so that when he began his address, Afif Safieh suggested he save his marketing for after the meeting,” wrote Paul Eisen on January 2, 2014.
On December 13, 2015, professor Steven Plaut (University of Haifa) in a post published by the Jewishpress.com called Lerner an ‘antisemite’ and ‘Rabbi Impersonator’, meaning he was never ‘ordained’ as a rabbi.
Though the Organized Jewry ran a vicious campaign against Muhammad Ali and the Nation of Islam for decades for supporting Palestinian cause – some moderate Jews have different views of Muhammad Ali. For example, in 2013, Jewish boxing promoter Bob Arum told JTA that he had to confer with Elijah Muhammad, former leader of the Nation of Islam, before signing Ali. Arum claimed that Elijah Muhammad was never antisemitic towards me. He was anti-white for sure, but never anti-Semitic.