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Stamford’s Rabbi Eugene Borowitz was leading Reform thinker

(JTA/CT Jewish Ledger) — Rabbi Eugene Borowitz, an influential thinker in Reform Judaism, died on Friday, Jan. 22, at his home in Stamford. He was 91.

In a statement expressing “gratitude for the many years of wisdom and scholarship” that the Stamford rabbi shared with the community, the United Jewish Federation of Greater Stamford, New Canaan and Darien (UJF) called Borowitz “a giant in the world of Jewish learning.”

“Rabbi Borowitz was a blessing to our community, teaching at Tapestry for many years; and was a light in both interfaith and interdenominational outreach, creating paths for respectful debate and shared vision,” the statement read.

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the president of the Union for Reform Judaism, described Borowitz as a “larger-than-life figure in postwar Judaism,” according to the Forward, adding that Borowitz’s “impact on generations of rabbis was immense.”

A longtime faculty member at Hebrew Union College (HUC)-Jewish Institute of Religion’s New York campus, Borowitz was most recently its Sigmund L. Falk Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Education and Jewish Religious Thought.

According to his biography on the HUC website, Borowitz was the “much honored ‘dean’ of American Jewish philosophers.”

Borowitz was included in the Jewish Publication Society’s “Scholars of Distinction” series and Brill Publishing’s “Library of Contemporary Jewish Philosophers” book series.

He published hundreds of articles and 19 books, including Renewing the Covenant (1991, 1996), which was translated into Hebrew for Israeli readers in 2014; A Touch of the Sacred, A Theologian’s Informal Guide to Jewish Belief (2007), and Choices in Modern Jewish Thought (1983, 1995).

According to his HUC bio, Borowitz was the only Jew to have served as president of the American Theological Society.

His 1974 work, The Mask Jews Wear, won the National Jewish Book Award in the category of Jewish thought. Borowitz was also a founder and longtime editor of Sh’ma, a Jewish journal. He served as visiting professor of religion at numerous major universities, including Columbia and Princeton.

In addition to his rabbinic ordination, Borowitz had doctorates from HUC and Columbia University’s Teachers College.

Before joining the HUC faculty, Borowitz served as a U.S. Navy chaplain in the Korean War and as national director of education at the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (the organization later became the Union for Reform Judaism).

Borowitz grew up in Columbus, Ohio.

Calling Borowitz the “embodiment of a rabbinic sage,” Jacobs said, “So many of us were deeply touched and inspired by his writing, his classroom presence, and his charisma,” Jacobs said. “He was incredibly passionate about deepening our understanding.”

 

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