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Walter S. Wurzburger

WURZBURGER, WALTER S. (1920–2002), rabbi, academician, communal leader. Wurzburger was among the most important Modern Orthodox rabbinic leaders and intellectuals in the latter half of the 20th century. Born in Munich, he escaped the Holocaust by immigrating to the United States in 1938, ultimately receiving ordination at the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary of *Yeshiva University and an M.A. and Ph.D. in philosophy from Harvard University. After serving as rabbi of Chai Odom in Dorchester, Massachusetts (1944–53) while at Harvard, Wurzburger was called to the pulpit of Congregation Shaarei Shomayim in Toronto, Canada's largest Orthodox congregation, and was regarded as a shining light in Canadian Jewry. In 1967, he assumed the pulpit of Congregation Shaarey Tefila in Far Rockaway, New York, which, under the leadership of Rabbi Emanuel *Rackman, had become one of America's preeminent Orthodox synagogues. He taught philosophy at Yeshiva College from 1961 and served both as president of the (Orthodox) Rabbinical Council of America and of the Synagogue Council of America. Wurzburger was one of Rabbi Joseph B. *Soloveitchik's most ardent disciples and he carried his teacher's philosophy and theology into the public arena through his articles and lectures, and as editor-in-chief of Tradition, the widely respected journal of the Rabbinical Council of America. He received the National Rabbinic Leadership Award of the Orthodox Union. Wurzburger's most important work was The Ethics of Responsibility (JPS, 1994) in which he described the Jewish ethical value system which flowed from the halakhah, Judaism's legal parameters. He also wrote A Treasury of Tradition (1967, 1994). He was a contributing editor of Sh'ma and a representative of a time when Modern Orthodoxy was liberal in its orientation, embracing all denominations of Jews and cooperating with the non-Orthodox rabbinic world.

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