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September 4, 2015 | 20th Elul 5775

The Union for Reform Judaism Mourns the Passing of Rabbi W. Gunther Plaut, z

Annette Powers

The North American Reform Movement has lost one of its greatest scholars, most eloquent voices, and most vigorous champions. Reform Jews everywhere mourn the death of Rabbi Gunther Plaut.

And that is because not only did he provide profound and powerful leadership to the synagogues he served -- and in particular to Holy Blossom Temple in Toronto – but he contributed mightily to the Reform Movement in North America and throughout the world. There is no North American Reform rabbi or congregation that is not in his debt.

Rabbi Plaut was the author of revered commentaries on the Torah and haftarah, which have become widely recognized as the standards for the Reform Movement. Plaut published more than two dozen books on theology, philosophy and history. The best known of his works is The Torah: A Modern Commentary, of which he was the editor and chief author and which is now in its 13th printing. First published in 1981 and revised in 2005, the book has sold nearly 120,000 copies to date and is used in most Reform Jewish congregations in North America. It has transformed congregational Torah study for millions.

For the rabbinate, in particular, it should be noted that as learned Jew, as scholar and teacher, as man of conscience and principle, and as champion of religious values, Rabbi Plaut set the highest possible standards – both for himself, and for Reform rabbis everywhere. As a result, rabbis around the world did everything within their power to emulate his example.

Union for Reform Judaism Incoming President Rabbi Rick Jacobs remembered Plaut, "Rabbi Plaut was an incredible teacher and rabbi far beyond the flocks he led at his congregations. Millions of Jews have come to learn our sacred stories under his guiding hands. His legacy will continue on for generations of Jews around the world."

May Rabbi Plaut's memory be for a blessing and may his family and friends be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

(More information on

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