Rabbi David Clayman, leading U.S. voice in Israel, dies

"He had the ability to engage Israelis on controversial issues without turning them off," said Henry Siegman, who worked with Clayman for 16 years as president of the American Jewish Congress.

Clayman "worked tirelessly for Middle East peace, for interfaith understanding and toward improving the communication between the secular and religious communities," the U.S. ambassador to Israel, Daniel Kurtzer, said at the funeral.

One of Clayman's lasting achievements was helping to establish the Jerusalem Conference of Mayors, an annual meeting that has attracted mayors from around the world to meet with their counterparts in Israel.

In the last few years, Clayman was disappointed by the regression on an issue that animated his life: compromise on peace with Palestinians. But he never gave up.

"I don't make light of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount," he told Israel's Ha'aretz's Anglo File section in 2001. "But it's nice to live in New York, Philadelphia and L.A. and know that the Temple Mount is in our hands. But what is really to see up there? Mosques. And for what price?"

Clayman was well suited to link the American Jewish and Israeli communities because he himself straddled both worlds.

Born in Boston, he graduated from Harvard and earned his rabbinical ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary. He later served as a U.S. Navy chaplain and a congregational rabbi in Philadelphia until 1970, when he made aliyah.

After moving to Israel, Clayman "was clearly one happy guy. It changed his whole life. Aliyah for him was essential, and it worked," said Theodore Mann, who was president of AJCongress in the mid-1980s.

Clayman also was a fellow of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and a frequent lecturer on Israeli and Jewish affairs.

He is survived by his wife of 47 years, Roz, and children Tamar, Daniel and Jonathan.