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Rabbi Louis Rabinowitz Dead at 78

August 9, 1984
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Rabbi Louis Rabinowitz, former Chief Rabbi of the Orange Free State in South Africa and more recently a Herut Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem, has died here at the age of 78. Funeral services were held today.

Rabinowitz made his mark on Jerusalem as a man of many talents. As a scholar, he was a senior editor of the Encyclopedia Judaica; as a writer, he contributed articles to many publications, including the popular weekly column “Torah and Flora” in The Jerusalem Post; as a man of public affairs, he was both a politician and an inveterate fighter for causes contributing to a better quality of life; and as a personality, he was recognized throughout the city.

His rabbinical career began in Britain in the 1930’s where he made a name for himself as a powerful pulpit orator and impressive Talmudic scholar. During World War II he served as senior chaplain with the British forces in the Middle East and in Normandy.

According to his friend and colleague, Geoffrey Wigoder, eulogizing him in The Jerusalem Post today “his fear lessness (in the war) was legendary.” After the war he took up the South African appointment, serving simultaneously as professor of Hebrew at Witwatersrand University.

Wigoder writes of this period: “His dynamism and courage made him one of the most outstanding figures of South African Jewry. Repelled by apartheid and the treatment of the non-white population … he insisted on speaking out, often to the embarrassment of his congregants….”


Referring to Rabinowitz’s consistent and passionate belief in Revisionist Zionism, Wigoder recalled that he once fore off demonstratively his British war medals in protest against London’s policies in Palestine.” This may have cost him the office of Chief Rabbi of the British Empire for which his name was mentioned … in 1946,” Wigoder wrote.

Rabinowitz moved to Jerusalem in the early 1960s and since then his multifaceted personality enriched the life of the city.

A halachic ruling of his that this writer recently heard about somehow typifies the man — with his modern approach, Orthodox commitment and deep understanding. A young immigrant from a Common-wealth country, married to an observant Sephardic Israeli woman, yearned to play cricket. In Israel, however, cricket games are mainly played on Shabbat– and the wife protested. They decided to ask Rabinowitz.

The rabbi’s reply was: “Yes, I could probably find a ‘heter’ (permit) enabling you to play cricket without technically trangressing the Shabbat. But, for the sake of ‘shalom bayit’ (happy home life) I rule that you do not play but spend the day with your wife.”

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