Rabbi Joel Matthew Chazin, 84 of Shaker Heights, died July 11, 2020, at the Cleveland Clinic Hillcrest Hospital due to COVID-19.
Joel’s life was dedicated to the study and teachings of Jewish religion, ideas and culture to the number of congregations that he passionately served throughout his life. Born in Jamaica Estates in the New York City borough of Queens to Maurice and Mary Chazin on Dec. 22, 1935, Joel graduated as the valedictorian of Jamaica High School, received a full academic scholarship to Amherst College and finished his studies as a rabbi at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City. After college, his post-graudate studies included studies in medieval Jewish history at the Jewish Theological Seminary and studies towards his Ph.D. in theology and literature at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Va. He married Linda Levine, a spirited artist and art educator in 1967. She stood by his side as a friend and partner for the many decades of their marriage.
Joel officiated with devotion at congregations in New York, Connecticut, Michigan and Florida, however his happiest times were the last 20 years he spent as chaplain to the residents and staff at Montefiore in Beachwood.
Joel was a board member for NAJC; chair of the Cleveland certification committee of the Association of Professional Chaplains; vice president of the Lorain Clergy Association; president of the Board of Rabbis of Palm Beach; a member of the executive committee at the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy; a member of the board of trustees of the Lorain Community/St. Joseph Regional Health Center Foundation; a member of the board of trustees at the Fair Housing Project, Lorain County Urban League and the Interfaith Committee of Palm Beach County Hospice; and was also involved in the Democratic National Committee, the Sierra Club, NARHAL, Planned Parenthood and the Rabbincal Assembly.
What characterized his rabbinic life were the profound sermons he delivered throughout his career. They were imbued with both biblical and Talmudic scholarship, as well as his deep love of American and European history and literature. He sought ways to help his congregants see the beauty and complexity of human relationships and to hold unwavering tolerance that must soften our decisions in times of conflict. In addition, Joel had a fierce loyalty to the Jewish people everywhere and especially the state of Israel.
He was a fervent believer in justice and feared for American democracy at this time. Recently, Joel found pleasure in reading and explicating the works of Franz Kafka, and also returned to studies in Jewish mysticism, having been invited to teach these subjects.
In general, he loved reading The New York Times and many Jewish and secular magazines. Joel loved movies and British mystery series, and talking to congregants and family. Despite his slim physique, he had an enormous sweet tooth. He loved nothing more than munching on croissants and pastry from On the Rise and Stone Oven, and adored European chocolate bars.
He leaves behind his wife, Linda; sister, Judith Bennahum of Albuquerque, N.M.; three children, Shoshana Chazin of Shaker Heights, Shayna Bach of Cleveland Heights and Aryeh Chazin of Boca Raton, Fla.; five grandchildren, Willow, Annie, Zev, Eli and Aliza; and numerous nieces and nephews.
Services were held July 14 at Mount Olive Cemetery. Family requests no visitation.
Contributions in memory of Joel can be made to Montefiore.