(JTA) – Israel included a Reform rabbi for the first time in launching its Independence Day celebrations.

Rabbi Richard Hirsch was one of 14 Israelis asked to help light the torch Monday evening marking the start of Israel’s 62nd Independence Day.

The committee naming the honorees, working out of the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, recognized Hirsch for strengthening ties between the Reform movement and Israel.

Hirsch headed Reform’s Religious Action Center in the 1960s, when it played a key role in the civil rights movement. He moved to Israel to direct the World Union of Progressive Judaism in 1973.

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