Many of our readers best remember Rabbi Neil Gillman as a contributor to the Sabbath Week column of Torah portion commentaries in The Jewish Week for more than 25 years, where his skills as a theologian, philosopher, author and teacher came together in making the Bible stories relevant to modern times.
Rabbi Gillman, who died at 84 this past week after a long illness, also reached countless Jews over the years with his distinguished books and his memorable courses at the Jewish Theological Seminary, where he trained thousands of rabbis during his half-century as dean and professor of philosophy. As Diane Cole, who took his adult classes at Temple Emanu-El’s Skirball (now renamed Streicker) Center in recent years, notes in her Appreciation (see Page 1), Rabbi Gillman assigned students to write responses to questions many of us ask ourselves, like what do we believe, what is our concept of God, what happened at Sinai and why do bad things happen to good people? He reminded his rabbinical students that congregants will want to know more about their rabbi’s views on such issues than those found in the writings of ancient sages.
An influential educator and thinker, Rabbi Gillman had a profound impact on Conservative Judaism and beyond, combining personal warmth with creative approaches to balancing commitment to tradition with progressive ways of advancing community. We are proud to have had his writings grace our pages, and take comfort in knowing his words and ideas live on in so many of his students and readers.
May his memory be a blessing.
Read our ‘In Memoriam’ column on Rabbi Gillman here.