It is with the heaviest of hearts that we note the death of David J. Steiner, z”l , who was killed today in a bus accident in Uganda.
David, from Chicago, was a dear friend of Ameinu and an active member in the Habonim Dror movement since childhood. As Ameinu has begun to organize new programming in communities around the country David rose to the challenge creating several Ameinu-associated activities. He was a pioneer in our new more informal and grassroots model of progressive Zionist community organizing. David also has been an important contributor to Ameinu’s national work providing thoughtful writings and event programs that fused Jewish scholarship, Israel education and social justice engagement.
David was a talented filmmaker and director of the award-winning Saving Barbara Sizemore, a film about the successful campaign by students from the Barbara A. Sizemore Academy who fought to keep their school open after the Chicago School District voted that it be closed. David, his son and several students from the Sizemore Academy were in Uganda to screen the film at the Nile Diaspora International Film Festival. While others were injured in the accident, David was the only fatality.
We remember David as a passionate activist, a fighter for justice and peace, a lover of Israel and the Jewish people, a powerful writer, a deep and thoughtful teacher, a student with an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, an adventurous traveler, a joyful soul, a wonderful friend…a true mensch.
While we have tried to share some of our memories and impressions of David, his spirit can best be appreciated from his own words on the meaning of Judaism, Zionism, Israel and humanity — a piece that was deeply meaningful to all of us at Ameinu. We hope it will be meaningful to you as well.
Please explore David’s writings and stories further below in this post and share your memories of David with us and his world of friends.
May David’s family and friends find comfort in their experiences with him that will live forever. And may David’s memory be a blessing for a world that will be a far poorer place for David’s absence.
Kenneth Bob, Ameinu President Gideon Aronoff, Ameinu CEO
I am a Zionist — By David J. Steiner
I am a Zionist, a liberal Zionist, a “beautiful soul” as my detractors would have it, and “I will not die but live” (Psalm 118:17) because my mission is too important. I am an heir to that divine command, “Walk in my ways and be innocent (Genesis 17:1).” And I take my inheritance seriously.
My identity was ascribed in Egypt and assumed at Sinai. Not only did I chose to be a Jew, I was also labeled one, but I will not allow labels to tell me who I am; not by Pharaoh, not by the Romans, not by the Spanish, or even the Nazis. I will continue to “choose life (Deuteronomy 30:19),” as my earliest teachers prescribed, and I will do so from a position of independence, not fear. I am a Jew.
I will not make idols out of land, nor put ideals before human lives. I am a Jew.
I will not censor, nor deal falsely, nor lie to cover my shame. I am a Jew.
I will rebuke my fellow and try not to transgress in the process because I am bound to all of Israel. I am a Jew.
I shall not defraud my neighbor, nor rob him of his land or his human rights. I am a Jew.
The wages of my foreign laborers will not remain with me all night until the morning, nor shall I exile his children from the land of their birth. I am a Jew.
I shall not curse the deaf, nor put a stumbling block before the blind, because I seek honest discourse with just outcomes. I am a Jew.
I will not stand idly by as the blood of my neighbors is shed by my own countrymen. I am a Jew.
I will not hate my brother in my heart; and will reason with my neighbor, and not allow sin on either account. I am a Jew
I will not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of my people but shall continue to love my neighbor as myself. I am a Jew