The departed rabbi


In 2002, journalist Stephen Fried published "The New Rabbi," a look at the challenges faced by Philadelphia’s Congregation Har Zion Temple in trying to replace its longtime leader, Rabbi Gerald Wolpe. Now Wolpe has died, and Fried has written an appreciation in the Forward that recalls the rabbi’s most noted quality:

What we will miss most is his voice. It was muscular and musical, with an accent that sounded vaguely British at first, but later revealed itself to be all-American, with leftover “aahs” from Boston. When Gerald Wolpe died May 18 at the age of 81, American Jews lost one of our greatest sermonizers, one of our most fascinating and challenging pulpit leaders, and a renaissance rabbi whose dramatic life yielded several distinct acts, each with its own powerful teaching moments.

But Wolpe didn’t teach so much through the written word. His lessons were meant to be spoken, to be preached — and to be heard. So, as is true for the careers of so many congregational rabbis, you really had to be there, to hear that voice.

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