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Rabbi Stanley Rabinowitz
Birth: Jun. 8, 1917
St. Louis County
Minnesota, USA
Death: Jun. 8, 2012
San Diego
San Diego County
California, USA

Rabbi Stanley Rabinowitz, who for 26 years guided Washington's largest and oldest Conservative synagogue, died early Friday morning, June 8, his 95th birthday. The cause of death is not yet known, but he was said to have died peacefully in his sleep at his daughter Sharon's home in San Diego, where he had lived for the past year.

During his nearly three decades as the spiritual leader of Adas Israel Congregation, he preached and pastored to presidents, Israeli prime ministers, Supreme Court justices, members of Congress, administration officials and journalists, and even Arab leaders.

A few days after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, President and Mrs. Lyndon Johnson attended Thanksgiving services at the Mount Vernon Place Baptist Church at which Rabbi Rabinowitz delivered the sermon. After the service, the rabbi received a call from first lady Lady Bird Johnson requesting a copy of his sermon, which he promptly typed up from his note cards and hand delivered to the Johnson's Spring Valley home. Much to the rabbi's surprise, President Johnson included the theme of the sermon in his Thanksgiving address to the nation and quoted from it, once again, at a dedication of a synagogue in Austin, Texas.

"I took the theme from Rabbi Akiba that just as we give thanks to God for the blessings, so must we give thanks to God for the evil - because out of evil you can extract a blessing," Rabinowitz recalled in a 2001 interview. "That was the essence of the sermon and it struck Johnson very well. He felt it was appropriate to the moment - out of the evil, he would extract a blessing."

The sermon was included in a commemorative volume of sermons entitled That Day With God consisting of sermons delivered by preachers of various faiths in the aftermath of Kennedy's assassination. Later, in 1965, the president invited Rabinowitz to participate in his preinaugural service at the National City Christian Church.

Rabinowitz led his congregation and much of the city through the turbulent years of the Kennedy assassination and that of his brother Sen. Robert Kennedy; the killing of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the riots that spread across the District in its wake; the Vietnam War and the Six-Day War in the Middle East; and the fight for Soviet Jewry.

King spoke at a city meeting Rabinowitz hosted at Adas Israel in 1963.

"The riot hit Jewish businesses especially hard, and many people left the city and went to the suburbs and they wanted to move the synagogue to the suburbs too," Rabinowitz later said. But the synagogue stayed and remains in its same location - its third - in the Cleveland Park neighborhood of Washington.

Years later in 1979, Rabinowitz was asked to quickly round up 30 skull caps and pamphlets with the transliterated prayer for grace after meals. President Jimmy Carter was at Camp David negotiating peace between the Egyptians and Israelis and wanted to host a ceremonial Shabbat meal. Not having the necessary accoutrements on hand, the Israelis telephoned Rabinowitz with an SOS.

President Carter subsequently invited Rabinowitz to deliver the invocation prayer at a service at the Lincoln Memorial at which the president's sister, Ruth Carter, was the speaker, celebrating the signing of the peace treaty negotiated with Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin at Camp David. Rabinowitz also attended the signing itself on the front lawn of the White House and a large formal dinner.

"We had dinner, which was kosher, and it was something to behold," he said in 2001. "The three-way handshake among Begin, Sadat and Carter was 'thrilling, just thrilling - a high point.' "

Stanley Rabinowitz was born in Duluth, Minn., and reared in Des Moines, Iowa. He was the son of Rose Zeichick and Jacob Meyer Rabinowitz and a grandson of Rabbi Naftali Herz Zeichik.

Rabinowitz graduated from the State University of Iowa with a bachelor of arts and earned a master's in sociology from Yale University and a master of Hebrew literature from the Jewish Theological Seminary which also awarded him its doctor of divinity degree honoris causa. He was an honorary fellow of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

Stanley married Anita Lifson, in 1945 and they had three children. Anita died in 2009 and their son Nathaniel in 2007.

In 1947, Rabinowitz moved to the congregational rabbinate, serving three distinguished Conservative congregations in a 40-year career in the pulpit - at B'nai Jacob Congregation in New Haven, Conn. (1947-53); at Adath Yeshurun Synagogue in Minneapolis (1953-60); and at Adas Israel in the District (1960-86).

The number of his prominent congregants in Washington were too many to count, but he officiated at both a marriage of former Health, Education and Welfare Secretary Abraham Ribicoff and the burial of former U.S. Supreme Court Justice and United Nations Ambassador Arthur Goldberg, a dear friend. Commerce Secretary Phil Klutznick and Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Sheldon Cohen were members. Most of Israel's ambassadors attended his services, as did Prime Ministers Golda Meir and Yitzhak Rabin. Rabin and Ambassador Simcha Dinitz celebrated their sons' bar mitzvahs there.

Of Rabin, Rabinowitz recalled to an interviewer, "He was unaccustomed to synagogues. He had to come on formal occasions and when he came, he read the Torah. He wouldn't make a good 'ba'al koreh' [Torah reader], because he didn't chant it, but he did read it aloud. Once when he was reading it, he stopped and said, 'Hey, there is a mistake here!' and there was a mistake; they [the scribes] had left a [letter] out. He embarrassed our ba'al koreh who had used the same Torah for 20 years and had never seen the mistake. Rabin, the first time he gets up, spots it and stops. It was a minor thing, but of course, we had to bring another Torah."

And when Rabin left the United States to return to Israel, "he made a farewell address to the congregation," Rabinowitz said, "which is something I will never forget. He said 'I was born a Jew and I am practiced being a Jew - it was a matter of birth. In the United States, in this congregation, I learned a very different way of being a Jew, and it has stretched my life.' It was very touching because I knew that he meant it," Rabinowitz said. "His child - Yuval - was bar mitzvahed at our synagogue. He [Rabin] was a very spiritual person, this military guy who never got near a synagogue before."

Believing that the "challenge of the synagogue today is to create institutions which bestow identity," Rabinowitz introduced in each of the congregations he served, programs designed to enhance Jewish identity for the congregation. He established a nursery school, the Gan HaYeled; founded or improved the three-day-a-week Hebrew school; established the bat mitzvah ceremony in each congregation and persuaded Adas Israel to count women in the minyan; inaugurated at Adas Israel the adult bat mitzvah service; and offered a choice of services at Adas. He also led Adas Israel to establish a summer camp, Tel Shalom.

When Rabinowitz retired from the pulpit in 1986, Adas Israel elected him rabbi emeritus for life. President Ronald Regan sent a formal letter of congratulations.

Rabbi Rabinowitz was elected president of the Rabbinical Assembly in 1977 for two terms; became the founding president of the Movement for the Reaffirmation of Conservative Zionism (MERCAZ 1977-85); was vice-chairman of the B'nai B'rith Youth Commission and chairman of its Judaica publishing committee which, during the 25 years of his chairmanship, published a series of pamphlets for young people, two of which he authored. He was later chairman of the editorial board of the National Jewish Monthly, a publication of B'nai B'rith.

As RA president, Rabinowitz joined a delegation of Conservative leaders that traveled to Egypt to meet with religious and political leaders. He was a guest in Anwar Sadat's home in Egypt and dined with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in Washington. Rabinowitz also twice traveled to Romania in 1972 and again in 1979 to give support and encouragement to Chief Rabbi Moses Rosen.

Survivors include his two daughters, Dr. Sharon Chard-Yaron of San Diego, and Judith (Amnon) Argaman of Herzliya; Israel, four grandchildren and one great-grandson; his brother, Sheldon of Des Moines; and many nieces and nephews.

Funeral service will be held Friday at 11 a.m. at Adas Israel Congregation in the District. Burial immediately following at Adas Israel Cemetery. The family will be observing shiva at the synagogue Sunday through Wednesday receiving visitors 4 p.m.-6 p.m. with a shiva minyan service held at 6 p.m. Contributions may be made to the charity of one's choice. Arrangements by Hines-Rinaldi Funeral Home.

This obituary was compiled and edited by Steve Rabinowitz, a member of Adas Israel. He is no relation to Rabbi Stanley Rabinowitz.

A personal tribute to a prominent rabbi

Published: Thursday, 21 June 2012
Written by David Rabinovitz (1), Special to The Kansas City Chronicle

My uncle, Rabbi Stanley Rabinowitz, who for 26 years guided Washington, D.C.'s largest and oldest conservative synagogue, passed away on Friday, June 8. It was his 95th birthday.

During his nearly three decades as the spiritual leader of Adas Israel Congregation, guests in his synagogue included presidents, Israeli prime ministers, Supreme Court justices, countless members of Congress, government officials and journalists.
Most of Israel's ambassadors attended his services, as did Prime Ministers Golda Meir and Yitzhak Rabin. Rabin and Ambassador Simcha Dinitz celebrated their sons' Bar Mitzvahs at Adas Israel with Rabbi Rabinowitz.

His obituary was in the Washington Post, the New York Times, The Forward, Israeli newspapers and carried by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. So I was quite surprised not to see a mention of the death of this prominent man of the Jewish world in The Chronicle.

Perhaps his most notable accomplishment, Rabbi Rabinowitz served two terms as president of the Rabbinical Assembly, the international organization of Conservative rabbis.

He was especially concerned with Zionism and Israel, and their relation to Conservative Jewry.

Together with representatives of the Reform movement, in 1977 he successfully negotiated with Israel's then-Prime Minister Menachem Begin, the indefinite postponement of a bill to change Israel's Law of Return and Israeli definition of Jewish identity. The projected changes, if adopted, would have compromised the role of Conservative and Reform rabbis and challenged the status of their converts. The changes were not implemented.

As RA president, he traveled to Egypt to meet with religious and political leaders. He was a guest in Anwar Sadat's home.
President Carter subsequently invited Rabbi Rabinowitz to deliver the invocation prayer at a service at The Lincoln Memorial celebrating the signing of the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt. He attended the signing itself, and then dined on the White House lawn with the dignitaries at a large formal kosher dinner.

Rabbi Rabinowitz led his congregation and Washington's Jewry through much of the turbulent times of race relations in the 60s. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King spoke at a city meeting my uncle hosted in 1963.

In 1964, immediately after the assassination of President Kennedy, Rabbi Rabinowitz was invited to give the sermon at Mount Vernon Place Baptist Church, which was attended by President and Lady Bird Johnson. Upon returning home, my uncle received a personal call from the first lady asking him for a copy of his speech. That night, in his televised Thanksgiving address to the nation, President Johnson included the theme of my uncle's sermon, and quoted from it.

He danced with Betty Ford at the White House, and received a personal letter from President Reagan upon his retirement.
Rabbi Stanley Rabinowitz was born in Duluth, Minn., and raised in Des Moines, Iowa. He was the son of Jacob and Rose Zeichik Rabinovitz. He was the oldest of three sons including my father, the late Ronald Rabinovitz. He was the grandson of Rabbi Naphtali Hertz Zeichik, noted Talmudic scholar and "Chief Rabbi of Iowa," and the nephew of Faye Zeichik Schenk, international president of Hadassah and president of the World Zionist Organization.

He was a graduate of the University of Iowa, Yale University and the Jewish Theological Seminary. He was an honorary fellow of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He was predeceased by his wife Anita (Lifson) in 2008, his son Nathaniel in 2007 and his brother Ronald (my father) in 2006. He is survived by two daughters, four grandchildren, a great grandson, a brother and many nieces and nephews (including myself).

In 1947, one of his earliest professional duties as a rabbi was officiating at the marriage of my parents in Monterrey, Mexico, my mother's hometown. The ceremony was in Yiddish, Hebrew, Spanish and English.

In his younger days, Rabbi Rabinowitz was one of the original founders of AZA (Kansas City, Omaha and Lincoln, Neb., and Des Moines were the first four chapters in the country), and served as one of the earliest international presidents. Rabbi Rabinowitz was vice chairman of the B'nai B'rith Youth Commission and chairman of its Judaica publishing committee, which published a series of pamphlets for young people, many of which he authored. He was also chairman of the editorial board of the National Jewish Monthly. While he was president of the Rabbinical Association, he helped edit the new Haggadah issued by the Conservative movement. It is still in wide use today.

Rabbi Rabinowitz was very active in Jewish community affairs as well. He served as Chairman of the Rabbinic Cabinets of UJA and of AIPAC. He was the also the founding president of Mercaz, the Movement for the Reaffirmation of Conservative Judaism.

He was a scholar, a historian a profound thinker and an author. He was a powerful rabbi, poised and polished. He was eloquent and elegant. Our family was always so proud. But despite the many accomplishments of this great man, to me and all the cousins from Des Moines he was still just our Uncle Stanley. END

Adas Israel Chronicle
April 1979
by Rabbi Stanley Rabinowitz


The signing of the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel on Monday, March 26, 1979, opened a new chapter in Israel's tumultous history. After all that has been written of the event it hardly seems necessary to devote CHRONICLE space to further comment, yet there may be some aspects of the day that will be of interest to the congregation.

Anita and I were invited to the afternoon's signing ceremony and to the State dinner in the evening. Both events were impressive both in conception and in experience. And then, there was the candlelight service on the same evening and at the same hour as the State dinner: 7:30p.m.

I had been notified by the White House on Thursday that I would be invited to participate in the service, but that the setting, the time, and my role had not yet been decided. Matters of protocol, appropriateness and security had to be evaluated. Eventually protocol gave way to security; the Secret Service would not allow the President or the Prime Minister to be present at the Lincoln Memorial...The service would take place without them. Only on Saturday night did I learn that I was to deliver a ten-minute address; a White House car would be at my home at 6:30p.m.

Senator Howard Hughes presided at the hour-long service. Other participants were Bishop John T. Walker of the Cathedral, Dr. Theodore Hesbergh, President of Notre Dame University, Dr. Muhammed Abdul=Rauf, Director of the Islamic Center, and Ruth Carter Stapleton, the President's sister. A few moments before the scheduled beginning of the service, a messenger arrived with a written statement from Dr. Rauf. He was unable to participate because of fatigue and, we were told, that his life had been threatened if he participated. Senator Hughes read Rauf's message to us. It was hostile to Israel. It is not an exaggeration to say that Mr. Arafat would have readily approved of its contents. Senator Hughes asked for our opinion: was he obligated to read the message publicly? I suggested that the message was inappropriate, but I politely disqualified myself from casting a vote.

It was Ruth Carter Stapleton who stated firmly that while Dr. Rauf had every right to speak his mind if he were present, he had no right to impose upon us a message which was clearly inconsistent with the spirit of the proceedings. Everyone was relieved. The services began. It was a cold night, made beautiful but not warmer by the flame of candles which had been distributed to those in attendance. Many of our members were there .

When the service was concluded, a White House car drove us quickly to the White House gate which we entered promptly with the open sesame of the official signal, reaching the huge and festive dinner tent just as the guests were being seated.

Anita and I were seated in the first tier of tables, with Vice-President and Mrs. Mondale at the adjacent table, and Dr. and Mrs. Brzezinski and Dr. Kissinger at the other. We were but one table from the President and his distinguished guests, the Begins and the Sadats.

Each table of ten was composed of Americans, Egyptians and Israelis, with a distinguished host presiding at each. Ours was the Speaker of the House and Mrs. Thomas "Tip" O'Neil. The ranking Egyptian at our table was Mr. Mohammed Hassan El-Tohammy, Vice Premier; the ranking Israeli, Mr. Simchas Erlich, Minister of Finance.

The Kosher dinner, available to those who requested it. was not the usual deviation of fruit plate or fish, but the same menu which was served to others: salmon mousse, roast beef, chocolate nut dessert. the evening has been called a "Feast of Joy." Despite the size of the tent and the large assembly, none of the warmth or festiveness of the occasion was lost. the President table-hopped as a happy host. Mrs. Lillian Carter came up to ask, "Have you seen my son?" I responded, naively. "Yes," she said, "Jimmy."

For the first time in anyone's recollection, grace was recited at a White House State dinner. It was offered by the President himself, and in words most appropriate, concluding with the phrase from our Amidah: "May the words of our mouth, and the meditations of our heart by acceptable before Thee, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer." I later told the President that his sensitivity had converted a political event to a spiritual affirmation of life.

It their toasts, both Mr. Begin and Mr. Sadat affirmed what everyone knew: the treaty would not have been signed were it not for the persistence of Mr. Carter.

The entertainment reflected the creative talents of the three cultures present: A Arab musical combo for Egypt, Pinchas Zuckerman and Yitzhak Perlman for Israel, and Leontyne Price for the United States. the ovation for Pearlman and Zuckerman was overwhilming. When the toasts and the entertainment concluded, we were invited upstairs for champagne and dancing. We did not decline.

It was a night to remember, made even more significant by the promise that soon the boundaries between Egypt and Israel would not longer be barriers, but bridges to a more peaceful world. END

(1) David Rabinovitz moved to Kansas City in 1978 to serve as youth director of the Jewish Community Center. He co-owned Metropolis Restaurant from 1989 until 2003 and now manages Chaz, the restaurant at the Raphael Hotel.

Rabbi Rabinowitz authored the book titled "The Assembly: A Century in the Life of Congregation Adas Israel of Washington DC.," Published in 1993. (592 pages)

At the age of 19, Stanley Rabinowitz was elected to the position of Grand Aleph Godol for AZA International in 1936. His installation was attended by Sam Beber who was the founder of The Junior Order of B'nai B'rith. Photo of the installation appears in the photo array to the right.

To the right of this text, the viewer can access a gallery photos posted to this page. By clicking on a single photo, one can scroll down to read any captioned text or attribution and link to other photos in the array that appear on page 2. Photos generously provided by Rabbi Rabinowitz daughter Professor Sharon Chard-Yaron. Reproduced with permission.
Family links: 
  Anita Lifson Rabinowitz (1921 - 2009)
Adas Israel Cemetery
District of Columbia
District Of Columbia, USA
Created by: Brent Stevens
Record added: Oct 19, 2012
Find A Grave Memorial# 99188007
Rabbi Stanley Rabinowitz
Added by: Brent Stevens
Rabbi Stanley Rabinowitz
Added by: Brent Stevens
Rabbi Stanley Rabinowitz
Added by: Brent Stevens
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