Jewish Comedian Billy Crystal, Rabbi Michael Lerner to Give Eulogies at Muhammad Ali’s Funeral
Jewish comedian Billy Crystal and Michael Lerner, founder and rabbi of the Beyt Tikkun Synagogue in Berkeley, Calif., are among those scheduled to give a eulogy at Muhammad Ali’s funeral on Friday in Louisville, Kentucky.
After news broke on June 3 about the legendary boxer’s death, Crystal posted on Twitter a video of his performance at Ali’s retirement tribute in 1979, with the caption, “For the greatest man I have ever known.” The performance, titled “15 Rounds,” had the three-time heavyweight world champion roaring with laughter, as Crystal did impressions of the boxer while recapping his life.
Rabbi Lerner, who is founding editor of Tikkun Magazine, fought beside Ali as an anti-Vietnam War activist. When Ali refused to adhere to the US government’s policy of conscription, he was banned from boxing for more than three years, according to The Jewish Chronicle.
The rabbi wrote on Facebook on Monday that he is “deeply humbled and honored” to be invited to speak at the funeral of the world famous boxer, who lived with Parkinson’s disease for more than 30 years and passed away at the age of 74.
“It has been several decades since I worked with Muhammad Ali in the peace movement challenging the Vietnam War,” he added. “The US government indicted both of us for our nonviolent actions against that war. But that was many decades ago. So imagine my surprise to receive a call on Sunday morning from Muhammad Ali’s family who invited him to be a speaker at the funeral/memorial ceremony this coming Friday.”
In an article published in Tikkun Magazine, Rabbi Lerner payed tribute to 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,” he said.
Entertainment Tonight reported that the funeral service on Friday will include a poetry reading and several eulogies from Ali’s close friends, family members and former President Bill Clinton.
There will also be an Islamic funeral prayer program held in Ali’s honor on Thursday at the Freedom Hall in Louisville, the site of his last fight there in 1961, when he defeated Willi Besmanoff.