Harold M. Schulweis

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Harold M. Schulweis
BornApril 14, 1925
The Bronx, New York, US
DiedDecember 18, 2014
EducationYeshiva University
Jewish Theological Seminary
New York University
Pacific School of Religion

Harold M. Schulweis (April 14, 1925 – December 18, 2014) was an American rabbi and author. He was the longtime spiritual Leader at Valley Beth Shalom in Encino, California.


Schulweis was born in the Bronx, New York in 1925 to secular parents who respected Zionism and Jewish traditions. His father was an editor of The Jewish Daily Forward. His early Jewish education was influenced by his grandfather, Rabbi Avraham Rezak, who introduced him to the Talmud. In 1945, Schulweis graduated Yeshiva University with a degree in philosophy. Later Schulweis enrolled in the Jewish Theological Seminary, where he studied under Mordecai Kaplan and Abraham Joshua Heschel. Schulweis also studied philosophy at New York University, where he met his wife Malkah. He received a doctorate in theology from the Pacific School of Religion.[1]

Rabbinical career[edit]

Schulweis's first pulpit was Temple Beth Abraham, a Conservative Jewish congregation in Oakland, California in 1952. Among the innovations he introduced was the inclusion of women in minyanim and bat mitzvah ceremonies for girls. Instead of sermons, he used the allotted time for questions and answers. Schulweis has been criticized by the religious right for his interfaith and conversion programs, and open inclusion of homosexuals. Rabbi Meir Kahane criticized Schulweis for allowing a pro-PLO Arab Knesset member to speak at his synagogue, while refusing to extend the same opportunity to Kahane, who was also a Knesset member at the time.[2] Newsweek magazine called him "the leading Conservative rabbi of his generation" and placed him 13th on their list of the Top 50 Rabbis in America.[citation needed] He was affiliated with the Conservative Movement and considered to have been a leading authority and theologian of Reconstructionist Judaism as well.[citation needed]

Human rights and Jewish activism[edit]

Schulweis founded the Jewish World Watch, a human rights watch group. He was instrumental in the creation of the Chavurah movement in the late 1960s.[3] Schulweis served as technical advisor for Judaism-themed episodes of The Simpsons.[4]

In 1986, Schulweis established the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous (originally called the Institute for Righteous Acts) to fulfill the traditional Jewish commitment to Hakarat HaTov, the searching out and recognition of goodness, by assisting righteous gentiles who are in need. The foundation started out funding eight rescuers, and that number quickly grew, reaching 1,750. It currently[when?] supports more than 850 aged and needy rescuers in 23 countries. The foundation also pursues a national Holocaust education program. The goal of the program is to educate middle and high school teachers about the history of the Holocaust and to provide them with the resources to integrate this knowledge into their classrooms.[5]


Schulweis had heart disease for many years, and died at his home in Encino, California on December 18, 2014. He was 89.[1]

Published works[edit]

  • Evil and the Morality of God, (1983)
  • In God's Mirror: Reflections and Essays, (1990)
  • For Those Who Can't Believe: Overcoming the Obstacles to Faith, (1994)
  • Meditations and Prayers for the Renewal of the Body and the Renewal of the Spirit, (2000)
  • Finding Each Other in Judaism: Meditations on the Rites of Passage from Birth to Immortality, (2001)
  • When You Lie Down and When You Rise Up: Nightstand Meditations, (2001)
  • Conscience: The Duty to Obey and the Duty to Disobey, (2008)


Articles in Sh'ma Magazine[edit]

Full list on BJPA.org

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Tom Tugend, "Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis, ‘Rabbi of Rabbis’ and world-renowned Jewish leader, dies at 89", Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, December 18, 2014.
  2. ^ Uncomfortable Questions for Comfortable Jews, Meir Kahane, p. 40.
  3. ^ Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis Biography from Valley Beth Shalom Archived 2006-10-25 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ Springfield Nuclear Power Plant:Episodes:8F05 Archived 2012-09-09 at Archive.today
  5. ^ "History". The Jewish Foundation of the Righteous. Archived from the original on 2011-10-03. Retrieved 2011-06-23.

External links[edit]