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Irwin Groner, Conservative Rabbi, Dies at 81

Rabbi Irwin Groner, a former president of the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly, has died.

Groner, who led Congregation Shaarey Zedek in Detroit for more than four decades, died Dec. 30 at a hospital in that city. He was 81 and suffered from Parkinson’s disease.

He guided the Rabbinical Assembly, the international association of Conservative rabbis, from 1990 to 1992, calling it “the highlight of my professional career,” according to an obituary in the Detroit Jewish News.

Groner was named the senior rabbi at Shaarey Zedek in 1967 – a year after Rabbi Morris Adler was shot and killed by a young congregant. He had been the assistant rabbi since 1959.

The Conservative congregation named Groner rabbi for life in 1978 and emeritus rabbi in 2003.

“He was a true giant in the rabbinical world,” said Rabbi Joseph Krakoff of Shaarey Zedek told the Detroit Jewish News. “He was an inspiring teacher, a magnificent preacher and a man who truly understood the depth of the human condition. “Rabbi Groner approached every situation with a smile, a sense of humor and an acute sense of caring and concern.” Groner began his career in Little Rock, Ark., at Agudath Achim Congregation when anti-Semitism magnified by the civil rights movement threatened the synagogue and its rabbi. During efforts to desegregate the city’s schools, Groner refused to cancel services due to bomb threats. He served as a member of the board of governors for the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, the Rabbinic Cabinet of the United Jewish Appeal and the Board of Governors of the United Synagogue. In 1984, Gov. James Blanchard appointed Groner the first clergyman to serve on Michigan’s Judicial Tenure Commission, which settles grievances in the legal community. He also was active with area interfaith programs.

Groner was ordained at the Hebrew Theological College of Chicago, his native city. He graduated from the University of Chicago.

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