Rabbi Eugene Borowitz, leading Reform thinker and teacher, dies at 91


NEW YORK (JTA) — Rabbi Eugene Borowitz, an influential thinker in Reform Judaism, has died at 91.

Borowitz died Friday morning at his home in Stamford, Connecticut, the Forward reported.

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the president of the Union for Reform Judaism, described Borowitz as a “larger-than-life figure in postwar Judaism,” according to the Forward, adding that Borowitz’s “impact on generations of rabbis was immense.”

A longtime faculty member at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion’s New York campus, Borowitz was most recently its Sigmund L. Falk Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Education and Jewish Religious Thought.

According to his biography on the HUC website, Borowitz was the “much honored ‘dean’ of American Jewish philosophers.”

Borowitz was included in the Jewish Publication Society’s “Scholars of Distinction” series and Brill Publishing’s “Library of Contemporary Jewish Philosophers” book series.

Borowitz published hundreds of articles and 19 books, including “Renewing the Covenant” (1991, 1996), which was translated into Hebrew for Israeli readers in 2014; “A Touch of the Sacred, a Theologian’s Informal Guide to Jewish Belief” (2007), and “Choices in Modern Jewish Thought (1983, 1995).

According to his HUC bio, Borowitz was the only Jew to have served as president of the American Theological Society.

His 1974 work, “The Mask Jews Wear,” won the National Jewish Book Award in the category of Jewish thought. Borowitz was also a founder and longtime editor of Sh’ma, a Jewish journal. He served as visiting professor of religion at numerous major universities, including Columbia and Princeton.

In addition to his rabbinic ordination, Borowitz had doctorates from HUC and Columbia University’s Teachers College.

Before joining the HUC faculty, Borowitz served as a U.S. Navy chaplain in the Korean War and as national director of education at the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (the organization later became the Union for Reform Judaism.)

Borowitz grew up in Columbus, Ohio.

Jacobs told the Forward Borowitz was the “embodiment of a rabbinic sage.”

“So many of us were deeply touched and inspired by his writing, his classroom presence, and his charisma,” Jacobs said. “He was incredibly passionate about deepening our understanding.”

In addition to his scholarly work, Borowitz also advised Reform congregations, according to the Forward.

The funeral will be planned after Shabbat.

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