Rabbi Gerald Wolpe, Medical Ethicist, Is Dead at 81

Gerald Wolpe, one of the country’s most prominent rabbis and medical ethicists, has died.

Wolpe, who presided over the 1,500-family Har Zion Temple in Philadelphia for 30 years until resigning in 1999, died Monday after a battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 81.

As the leader of Har Zion, Wolpe became a leading voice in medical ethics and care giving, a field that he became interested in during the 1960s but became personally invested in after his wife suffered brain aneurysms, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Wolpe also served as the director of the Louis Finkelstein Institute for Religion and Social Studies at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York from 1997 to 2002, and was chairman of the advisory committee of the Bioethics Center at the University of Pennsylvania from 1996 to 1999.

Philadelphia Magazine editor Stephen Fried wrote a book about the search for Wolpe’s successor.

“He had flaws, but they were remarkably few,” his son David, the rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, told the Inquirer. “He was a good and great man.”

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