Last week the world said goodbye to entertainment superstar Glen Campbell (זצ״ל) who died on August 8 (Av 16) at the age of 81, but most people eulogizing the great singer and songwriter are unaware that Glen and his wife Kim practiced Messianic Judaism and identified as Messianic Gentiles since the early 1990s.
Not only did they observe the Sabbath and the festivals in the privacy of their home, they led Bible studies, hosted community outreach efforts, attended Messianic congregations, and contributed to Messianic Jewish ministries.
Our ministry first crossed paths with the Campbells when the family visited Israel in the early 1990s. Boaz Michael spoke to the Campbell’s tour group and personally connected with Glen and Kim. They began ordering materials from the ministry and, in their words, “Learning the Bible all over again from a Jewish perspective.”
The Campbells attended events hosted by FFOZ and Messianic Jewish conferences. They established a teaching foundation in Phoenix called Torah Study Chavurah, and they brought in scholars from around the world to teach the Jewish roots of the Christian faith. Their Bible study group grew quickly to nearly two hundred people meeting every Saturday.
When Boaz and his family moved to Phoenix in the early 2000s, we reconnected with the Campbells and their local work. Glen and Kim helped us get our feet on the ground in Phoenix. They offered us Glen’s in-house recording studio for creating Torah Club audio, and their generous contributions toward the ministry made it possible for us to publish new books and publications.
Glen had an infectious sense of humor. His quick wit and seemingly endless repertoire of jokes and one-liners added life and levity to every gathering. Kim brought her own special creativity and sparkle to every project she touched. Together, Glen and Kim were a blessing to the Messianic community.
In 2011, after Glen was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, he decided to go public with the diagnosis. He and his family took to the road for a Goodbye Tour with three of his children comprising the backing band. A film crew captured moments from the tour in the moving documentary Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me, a story about Glen, the music, faith, family, and Alzheimer’s. The film garnered a Grammy and a nomination for an Academy Award. Glen wanted the movie to educate people about the disease, so the documentary shared his very personal journey with millions. People all over the world responded—especially those caring for a loved one suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia.
As Kim moved into the role of caregiver for Glen, she recognized how lonely and isolated caregivers feel. Kim took on a personal mission to improve the quality of life for people with dementia and, in particular, their caregivers, whom she refers to as “the second victims.” In August of 2016, Kim launched CareLiving.org, a website and online community to inspire and encourage caregivers. The CareLiving website features regular articles and updates from Kim and a host of guest writers, specialists, musicians, doctors, and other caregivers. It’s not just for people caring for Alzheimer’s victims. The community speaks to anyone who finds himself or herself in the position of fulfilling the mitzvah of providing ongoing care or end-of-life care for another person. FFOZ’s own Toby Janicki contributed a blog post titled “Comforted by Angels” to the site on the occasion of the death of his father who passed away after a long battle with Alzheimer’s Disease last Sukkot. Kim encourages FFOZ readers who are involved with providing care for someone to follow the site through social channels (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram; all @carelivingorg) and become part of the CareLiving community by sharing stories and experiences with others.
The Campbell family conducted a private funeral for Glen. The interment took place the day after his death in accordance with Jewish funerary custom. A Messianic Jewish rabbi conducted the rites and recited the Kaddish. Glen Campbell will be missed by his family, by his fans, and by the Messianic community.