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Rabbi Morris Adler Shot in His Synagogue in Detroit; Condition Grave

February 14, 1966
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Rabbi Morris Adler, a nationally known Jewish leader and one of the most prominent personalities in local civic life, was hovering between life and death here today, after being shot on the “bimah” of his synagogue yesterday in front of a packed congregation of 1,500 worshipers. He was shot by a mentally-disturbed young Jew whom Rabbi Adler had been counseling.

His assailant, 23-year-old Richard Wishnetzky, shot himself after attacking the rabbi. The youth is also in critical condition. Wishnetzky, who graduated from the University of Michigan in 1954 as one of the highest-ranking students in the institution, receiving a Fhi Beta Kappa key and the Wood row Wilson Fellowship, was a student of comparative religion, studied recently at Detroit University, a Catholic institution, and has lectured on philosophy at Wayne University here.

The crime took place during Ecumenical Sabbath services at Rabbi Adler’s synagogue, Temple Shaarey Zedek, a $4,500,000 edifice in suburban Southfield, and is one of the largest Conservative synagogues in the country. About 150 Protestants and Catholics were attending the services as guests of Rabbi Adler.

Bar Mitzvah rites were just being concluded for Steven Frank, a member of the congregation, when Wishnetzky mounted the bimah, with a pistol in one hand. He fired one shot at the ceiling, and shouted: “In your seats. Off the pulpit. This congregation is a travesty and an abomination. It has made a mockery by its phoniness and hypocrisy of the beauty and spirit of Judaism.”

As the congregation sat frozen, Rabbi Adler advised all who were on the bimah to get off. Turning to those who were on the bimah, including Louis Berry, president of the congregation, Habbi Adler told them: “You all get off. I know the boy. I’ll handle him. ” Just then Wishnetzky fired four times at the rabbi. The fourth shot penetrated Rabbi Adler’s head. Then Wishnetaky shot a bullet into his own head. The two were taken to separate hospitals. The youth had been hospitalized in two mental institutions but, of late, had been living at the home of his parents.

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