Rabbi Alfred Wolf, who pioneered American Jewish summer camping and led the interfaith movement in California, died Sunday in Los Angeles at the age of 88.
He served as associate and senior rabbi of Wilshire Boulevard Temple, the oldest Reform congregation in Los Angeles, from 1949 to 1985. An avid athlete, Wolf opened his temple’s Camp Hess Kramer in 1952, serving up to 1,200 youngsters each summer.
As the founding president of the Interreligious Council of Southern California, Wolf coordinated interfaith efforts with the region’s Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist leaders.
Wolf was born in Eberbach, Germany, in 1915. One of only two Jewish students in his public school, he once led his Christian classmates on a tour of his synagogue.
“I felt that the main reason for Hitler’s success in Germany was that people didn’t know anything about Jews,” he later said.
He started his religious studies at Hebrew Union College in Berlin and was transferred as an exchange student to HUC’s Cincinnati campus after the Nazis came to power — a turn of events to which he owed his life, he later said. In 1941, Wolf obtained visas that allowed his parents to come to the United States, as well.