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Robert I. Kahn

KAHN, ROBERT I. (1910– ), U.S. rabbi and community leader. Born in Des Moines, Kahn was a graduate of the University of Cincinnati (1932) and ordained by the Hebrew Union College (1935). He then became an assistant rabbi to Congregation Beth Israel in Houston. Kahn served in the infantry during World War II in New Guinea and the Philippines and then returned to Houston as rabbi of Congregation Emmanu-El. Kahn preached and lectured all over the United States, in person and over radio and television. In a national "Back to God" telecast, he shared the camera with Billy Graham.

In his community, Kahn served on the boards of several social agencies such as Red Cross, Boy Scouts, Travelers Aid, Mental Health, Muscular Dystrophy, Houston Metropolitan Ministries, and United Fund. He was a member of B'nai B'rith, of which he was a past president, the Masons, and Shriners. He was president of the Houston Rotary Club in 1967–68, the largest rotary club in the world, and was district governor from 1978 to 1979. He was grand chaplain of the grand lodge of Texas.

He was honored by the Boy Scouts of America with the Silver Beaver and Ner Tamid Awards; by the Freedoms Foundation with a George Washington Medal; by the French government for service to veterans; by the Masonic Order with the 33rd degree; and by the State of Israel with the Prime Minister's Medal for Israel Bonds. A forest has been planted in his honor in Israel.

Among his writings are Lessons for Life (1963); The Ten Commandments for Today (1964); May the Words of My Mouth (1984); and the Letter and the Spirit (1972).

In Houston he taught at St. Thomas University and at St. Mary's University and was a guest lecturer on Judaism at universities and colleges throughout the Southwest. Upon his retirement in 1978 he returned to Hebrew Union College to teach liturgy, in keeping with his work as chair of the committee that published the new Reform Prayer Book Gates of Prayer in 1975.


K. Olitzky, L.J. Sussman, and M.H. Stern, Reform Judaism in America: A Biographical Dictionary and Sourcebook (1993).

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.