By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
(Oklahoma City, OK, Feb. 12, 2020) – Rabbi A. David Packman, Rabbi Emeritus of Temple B’nai Israel, died peacefully Monday afternoon, (February 10) in Bethesda, Maryland, according to a release provided by the Interfaith Alliance of Oklahoma.
There will be a Memorial Service for Rabbi Packman on Friday, February 14, at 2 p.m., at Temple B’nai Israel, 4901 N. Pennsylvania, in Oklahoma City. A reception at the Temple will follow. Graveside burial will be earlier in the day on Friday.
A statement released by the Interfaith Alliance of Oklahoma said:
“Rabbi Packman’s leadership, wisdom, intellect, humor, and his presence during important moments in the lives of so many fills us with sadness for his death and appreciation for his life. During his 28 years of leadership at Temple B’nai Israel, Rabbi Packman helped to build extraordinary connections between Jewish and Interfaith communities across Oklahoma.
“Rabbi Packman was a scholar of Jewish and Oklahoma history, taught widely across our state, and was much beloved and respected by the Jewish and general communities. His legacy in Oklahoma City includes the relationships and memories nurtured with so many across our community.”
A native of Philadelphia, Packman received his undergraduate education at the University of Pennsylvania, where he majored in Middle Eastern Studies. He graduated in 1959 with honors and was awarded a Bachelor of Arts degree. He entered Hebrew Union College, the Reform Jewish Seminary in Cincinnati, in 1959. In 1961 he received a Bachelor of Hebrew Letters Degree. In 1964 he was ordained and received a Master of Arts degree with honors.
In 1964, Rabbi Packman entered the U.S. Air Force as a Chaplain, serving in Germany, France and Italy. During that time, he provided rabbinical services to various German and French civilian Jewish Communities. He was also the prison Chaplain for the U.S. Air Force in Europe.
After completing his military service in 1967, Rabbi Packman was accepted at the Ohio State University School of Social Work, where he later earned his Master of Social Work degree.
Packman was awarded Doctor of Divinity degrees, honoris causa, from Oklahoma City University and Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.
Rabbi Packman became the spiritual leader of Temple B’nai Israel of Oklahoma City 9n 1976 and retired in June 2004. He was an adjunct faculty member of the School of Religion of Oklahoma City University, where he also served as University Jewish Chaplain.
Formerly, he was an adjunct faculty member of Southern Nazarene University and after retirement, he served Congregation B’nai Israel (Monroe, Louisiana) part time until December 2013.
Rabbi is past president of Planned Parenthood of Oklahoma City and past president of the Southwest association of Reform Rabbis. He is the past president of the Men’s Dinner Club, a Board member of the Jewish Federation of Oklahoma City, and past Vice-president of the National Conference of Christians and Jews of Oklahoma City.
He served on six governmental entities: as the Mayor’s representative to the City of Oklahoma City Neighborhood Initiative Commission, the Oklahoma State Martin Luther King Jr. Commission, the Health Research Committee of the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST), the State of Oklahoma Bio-Ethics Committee, the Murrah Federal Building Memorial Task Force, and the Work Force Development for Poverty Reduction Project.
Packman served on the Boards of the Oklahoma City Urban League, the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma, the Institutional Review Board of Integris Medical Center, the Community Council of Central Oklahoma, the Downtown Rotary Club, Keep Oklahoma City Beautiful, the Oklahoma County Mental Health Association, the Oklahoma Symphony Orchestra, the Northcare Community Mental Health Center, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis.
He was a member of the State of Oklahoma Bio-Ethics Committee, which drew up the legislation for the new law on Living Wills and Durable Power of Attorney in Health Matters, as well as the Institutional Animal Care Use Committee (IACUC) of the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation.
Throughout his life, Rabbi Packman was active in interfaith work. He lectured at Cameron University, University of Central Oklahoma, St. Gregory’s College, Phillips University, Oklahoma Christian University, South Central Oklahoma State University, Oklahoma Baptist University, the University of Oklahoma, and Henderson State University (Arkansas.)
On April 23, 1995, Rabbi Packman read from Lamentations at the Oklahoma City Murrah Building Bombing Memorial service at the State Fair Grounds. The crowd included President Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Gov. Frank Keating and other government officials honoring the victims, survivors, rescuers, and all who were affected by the Oklahoma bombing.
He served as a leader of interfaith coalitions that support Freedom of Choice; and the Oklahoma City Human Rights Ordinance. The Anti-Defamation League sponsored Rabbi Packman as a delegate to its regional Jewish-Christian Dialogue, as well as the Southern Baptist-Jewish National Dialogue.
Among his numerous accolades, Packman received the Brotherhood Award by the National Conference of Christians and Jews, the Human Rights Award from the Oklahoma Human Rights Commission. the Interfaith Alliance Human Service Award, and the NAACP of Oklahoma City presented him with their “Life Time Achievement Award.”
He was the reorganizer of Oklahoma’s most inclusive Thanksgiving Service, which embraces Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Bahai’s, Muslims, Hindus, Unitarians, and people of all races.
In 2016, Rabbi Packman, known for his ability to develop and nurture relationships with other congregations, came up with the hastag, “HateFreeOKC” in honor of the “41 Against Hate” campaign that year. The campaign brought together 41 congregations which devoted part of their worship services the last weekend in February to emphasize the message of tolerance and respect for all peace-seeking people and their religions.
Packman was a founder and former treasurer of the non-profit Oklahoma Association for Health Ethics and he served on the Advisory Board of Jesus House, and the Board of the Central Oklahoma Human Rights Alliance.
Rabbi Packman is survived by his wife, Nina; their children and their spouses: Keren and Ted Alpert, Kenan Packman and Steve Quinn, and Jana and Mark Greenblatt; grandchildren: Margot, Lucille, and Alexandra Alpert, and Micah and Levi Greenblatt; and brother and sister-in-law Dr. Gerald and Linda Packman.
Note: Information for this article was gathered in part from the Central Conference of American Rabbis website.