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October 6, 2015 | 23rd Tishrei 5776
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Rabbi Alexander M. Schindler

Rabbi Alexander M. Schindler, the second president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, became president when Rabbi Eisendrath died on the opening day of the 1973 UAHC Biennial. Schindler, Eisendrath’s designated successor, was thus swept into office and made the difficult decision that he would deliver, word for word, Eisendrath’s long speech—a fire and brimstone denunciation of President Richard Nixon for his cover-up of Watergate. While Rabbi Schindler continued the strong social action agenda of his predecessor, his greatest and proudest contribution was his bold vision of outreach to the non-Jewish partners of Jews and a welcoming embrace of Jews-by-choice. He tenaciously promoted patrilineality and urged Reform Judaism to fortify the inner life of every Jew. The Union’s Outreach program transformed the Movement and compelled the entire Jewish community to face up to the challenges of a changing American Jewish community.

Rabbi Alex SchindlerIn pushing for “inreach,” spiritual self-actualization, Rabbi Schindler said: “What purpose of outreach, pray tell, if there is nothing within?” He repeatedly called upon Reform Jews to take pride in their faith and make Judaism a meaningful enterprise in their lives.

During Rabbi Schindler's twenty-three years as president, the Union experienced exceptional growth and significant developments in organizational policy. The visionary father of the Union’s acclaimed Torah Commentary, Rabbi Schindler recognized and worked toward meeting the Movement’s need for enriched religious school studies as well as stimulating and meaningful adult Jewish education. A true ohev Yisroel, lover of Israel, he prodded the Reform Movement to participate fully in the Zionist world and was a prime mover in the creation of ARZA and ARZA Canada.

In 2007 the Union for Reform Judaism created the Alexander M. Schindler Distinguished Service Award, which was presented to singer/songwriter Debbie Friedman at the San Diego Biennial.

The NFTY summer travel program in Israel is named in memory of Rabbi Schindler. Rabbi Schindler was deeply committed to both Israel and our Movement's young people, and it is fitting that NFTY in Israel bears his name.


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