Rabbi Alfred Wolf, who pioneered American summer camps for Jewish youngsters and the interfaith movement in California, died Sunday in Los Angeles at the age of 88. He served as associate and senior rabbi of Wilshire Blvd. Temple, the oldest Reform congregation in Los Angeles, from 1949 to 1985.
After his retirement, Wolf started a new career as founding director of the Skirball Institute on American Values, sponsored by the American Jewish Committee.
A founding president of the Inter-Religious Council of Southern California, Wolf brought together the region’s Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist leaders. During the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, Wolf and the council organized interfaith services and lobbied for placement of a mosque at the Olympic venue.
Wolf was born in Eberbach, Germany in 1915. Though one of only two Jewish students in his public school, he led his Christian classmates on a tour of his s! ynagogue.
“I felt that the main reason for Hitler’s success in Germany was that people didn’t know anything about Jews,” he said later.
He started his religious studies at the Hebrew Union College in Berlin, and said he owed his life to being transferred as an exchange student to the HUC’s Cincinnati campus after the Nazis came to power.
In 1941, he obtained visas that allowed his parents to come to the United States as well.
An avid athlete, Wolf opened his temple’s Camp Hess-Kramer in 1952, serving up to 1,200 youngsters each summer.
In 1993, he co-chaired the first Nationwide Conference for Catholic, Jewish and Protestant Seminaries in Chicago.
Wolf taught extensively at secular universities and HUC, and was the co-author of two books, one on Judaism and the other on interfaith dialogue.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.