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Rabbi Eugene Borowitz, ‘Larger-Than-Life’ Reform Leader and Teacher, Dies at 91

Rabbi Eugene Borowitz, a philosopher, teacher and towering figure in Reform Judaism, has died at 91.

Borowitz passed away Friday morning at his home in Stamford, Connecticut, according to Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the president of the Union for Reform Judaism.

“He was a larger-than-life figure in postwar Judaism,” Jacobs said. “His impact on generations of rabbis was immense.”

Borowitz grew up in Colombus, Ohio, and attended Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati. He also studied at Union Theological Semininary in New York.

He helped found Sh’ma, one of the first pluralistic Jewish journals of opinion.

Borowitz was perhaps best known as a passionate teacher at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, where he taught Jacobs along with literally hundreds of influential Reform spiritual leaders.

Jacobs called him the “embodiment of a rabbinic sage.”

“So many of us were deeply touched and inspired by his writing, his classroom presence, and his charisma,” Jacobs said. “He was incredibly passionate about deepening our understanding.”

Far from being only an ivory tower intellectual, Borowitz was also very involved in the congregations of Reform Judaism. Until recently, he worked closely with Reform congregations from coast to coast on spiritual issues.

Even as recently as a few months ago, he insisted on teaching a weekly Torah study class at his temple in Stamford.

“He couldn’t stay away from teaching,” Jacobs said.

Funeral arrangements were still incomplete but a service would be planned for after Shabbat, said Jacobs, quoting Borowitz’s daughter, Lisa.

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