TORONTO (JTA) – Rabbi Gunther Plaut, a major figure in Reform Judaism, died in Toronto.
Plaut, a former president of the Canadian Jewish Congress who wrote widely on human rights, died Wednesday at the age of 99. He often was quoted by media around the world on issues pertaining to Reform Judaism.
He published a volume of commentary on the Torah and haftarah that has become the standard text used by the Reform movement; it took 17 years to write. In later years he turned to fiction, publishing two novels and a collection of short stories.
Plaut, a native of Germany who fled the Nazis in 1935 and came to the United States, held pulpits in Chicago and St. Paul, Minn., before moving to Toronto’s Holy Blossom Temple, where he was spiritual leader from 1961 to 1977. He became the temple’s senior scholar in residence in 1978.
After receiving his U.S. citizenship in 1943, he enlisted as a chaplain in the U.S. Army and served as a frontline chaplain in Belgium and Germany. He was ordained a rabbi from Hebrew Union College in 1939.