(JTA) — Yaakov Thompson, a popular Conservative rabbi in South Florida who was born Protestant and converted to Judaism in college, died suddenly at 61.
Thompson’s family said the rabbi died of a heart attack on July 6.
Born Rick Thompson and raised in St. Mary’s, Ohio, the future rabbi never met a Jewish person until college at Ohio State University, the Sun-Sentinel of Broward and Palm Beach counties reported.
“I had been studying a lot about religion and ancient history, and then as I learn more and more about Judaism, I discovered it as a faith I wanted to live by, not just study or learn about,” he told the Forum newspaper in 2010.
After college Thompson studied at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York and Israel. After 20 years as a New Yorker, he moved to Florida and joined Temple Beth Israel in Sunrise in 1996. He served as its rabbi from 2005 through 2011.
He then took the post as rabbi at the Cuban Hebrew Congregation of Miami Beach.
“They loved him,” his wife, Sarah, said of his congregants.
”He treated me like a queen,” she added.
Thompson also had a love of rock music and played guitar, posting his original music and a schedule of live performances to his website, radioyaakov.com.
Along with his wife, he is survived by his daughter, Adina, and son, Benyamin.