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Rabbi Daniel Syme: A ‘Distinguished Warrior’

Urban League to honor Rabbi Daniel Syme at its 40th annual dinner March 21.

By Jackie Headapohl

Rabbi Daniel B. Syme, rabbi emeritus at Temple Beth El, has been chosen as a “Distinguished Warrior” by the Urban League of Detroit and will be honored at its 40th annual dinner on Thursday, March 21, at the Detroit Marriott in the Detroit Renaissance Center.

The Urban League supports programs and operations in youth development, workforce development and training, adult education, economic enrichment, and health and wellness.

Throughout his career, Syme has been a vocal advocate of suicide prevention. He created “Hand of Hope,” an educational resource program teaching kids and parents about the warning signs of suicide. He partnered with national sports teams, celebrities and athletes to spread awareness and raise money to curb the epidemic of suicide. He is the co-executive producer of a documentary called Death is Not the Answer and is the founder of the Single Soul Suicide Prevention program of Jewish Family Service.

That was not the reason he was chosen as a Distinguished Warrior, however, according to N. Charles Anderson, president and CEO of the Urban League of Detroit, “although his work in preventing and ending suicide is certainly a bonus,” he says.

“The reason we chose Rabbi Syme,” Anderson says, “is because of his years of work building relationships between the black and Jewish communities and his work in breaking down the walls of discrimination. He’s never stopped working.”

But, more importantly, Anderson says, “He draws on his life’s experiences to bring compassion, caring and determination that accomplishments alone cannot convey.”

His late father, Rabbi Robert M. Syme, became active in the civil rights movement when Syme was just a child. “African American leaders such as Judge Damon Keith, Rev. Charles Adams and Rev. Nicholas Hood visited our house,” said Syme, who is a member of the advisory board of the Coalition for Black and Jewish Unity.

Syme shared his father’s vision and has spent his career working to strengthen the relationship between Detroit’s Jewish and black communities as well as building interfaith bridges where he could.

“When we were discussing candidates for this year’s Distinguished Warriors, I could not believe Rabbi Syme had not already been chosen!” Anderson said.

Syme is the first rabbi chosen for the honor. He will join fellow Distinguished Warriors Glenda Price, president emeritus of Marygrove College; James Thrower, president and CEO of Jamjomar Inc.; Vernice Davis Anthony, president and CEO of VDA Health Connect; and, posthumously, Lawrence C. Patrick Jr., an attorney and civic leader, at the March 21 dinner, which begins at 5:30 p.m.