Rabbi Dr. A. Stanley Dreyfus (1921-2008)
Distinguished Leader of Reform Rabbinate and
Beloved Professor at Hebrew Union College
Jewish Institute of Religion
Died on July 8, 2008
Rabbi Dr. A. Stanley Dreyfus, a distinguished leader of the Reform Rabbinate and beloved professor at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR), died on July 8, 2008.
Dr. Dreyfus served as the Director of Rabbinic Placement of the Central Conference of American Rabbis (1980-1991) and taught liturgy and commentaries at the New York campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion for over four decades. He chaired the Liturgy Committee of the Central Conference of American Rabbis from 1975 to 1979, overseeing the publication of the Reform prayerbooks Gates of Prayer, Gates of the House, Gates of Understanding, and Gates of Repentance.
"Our community mourns the loss of a beloved colleague and friend, Dr. A. Stanley Dreyfus, whose consummate leadership, professional skill, scholarly wisdom, and compassionate concern reflected the highest teachings of our faith and our people," said Rabbi David Ellenson, HUC-JIR President. "Dr. Dreyfus leaves a living legacy in the hearts of the thousands of students he mentored and taught. His gifts of intellectual strength and human warmth endure as a source of inspiration."
His long and distinguished career encompassed chaplaincy in the U.S. Army (1956-1965) and spiritual leadership as visiting minister of the West London Synagogue in England (summer 1949), and as rabbi of Congregation Beth El in Beaver Falls, PA (1950-1951), Congregation B'nai Israel in East Liverpool, OH (1951-1956), Terre Haute, IN (1953-55), and Temple B'nai Israel in Galveston, TX (1956-1965). He was the rabbi of Union Temple of Brooklyn, NY from 1965 to 1979.
He served on the Board of Governors of the World Union for Progressive Judaism and the Executive Committee of the New York Board of Rabbis, and was President of the Brooklyn Association of Reform Rabbis and the Texas Assembly of Rabbis. He served on the Catholic-Jewish Relations Committee of the Diocese of Brooklyn-Queens. He was a frequent contributor of articles and reviews to theological and educational periodicals, and editor of Book of Prayers (1948, 1961) for the National Federation of Temple Sisterhoods and Henry Cohen: Messenger of the Lord to mark the centennial of the birth of the noted Texas rabbi.
Born in Youngstown, Ohio, Dr. Dreyfus received the B.A. with high honors in Classics from the University of Cincinnati, and received his Bachelor of Hebrew letters in 1942, the Master of Hebrew Letters and ordination in 1946 from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati. Following ordination, he held the Heinsheimer Fellowship at Hebrew Union College, where he taught liturgy and served as Director of the College Reference Department. From 1948 to 1950, he was Counsellor to the Interfaith Program, working with graduate Christian clergymen who were studying at Hebrew Union College to become teachers of Hebrew and related subjects in their seminaries. In 1951, he received the Ph.D. in Jewish Theology from Hebrew Union College. He was a Visiting Lecturer in Judaism at the Indiana School of Religion in Bloomington (1951-1956) and lectured on Judaism to medical and nursing students at the University of Texas Medical Center in Galveston.
HUC-JIR honored Dr. Dreyfus with the honorary Doctor of Divinity in 1971 for his decades of "spiritual leadership of a large congregation with civic responsibilities and academic teaching aligned with the exemplary tradition of Jewish scholarship and service."
In his Ordination and Investiture Address of June 10, 1979, Rabbi Dreyfus advised the newly ordained rabbis and cantors: "People will listen to you and follow you if you cultivate kindness, gentleness, sensitivity, a compassionate tolerance for human foibles but a stern intolerance of evil, a readiness to admit your own errors, an openness to new experience, if, in a word, you manifest the beauty of character which we claim the practice of Judaism imparts. The worth of a ministry is not to be calculated like the balance sheet of a business. To save a single soul, to reclaim a single life, is to save the entire world, say our sages. You will never fathom the least fraction of the lasting good you will have done while you are temporarily in the service of God and humanity. You will never know many are the young you have helped to find their way, the disconsolate whom you will have restored, the marriages which you will have healed, the dying whose departure you will have eased. You will not know, but One does, and faithful is that One to grant you your due."
Rabbi Dreyfus was married to Marianne Berlak, the granddaughter of Rabbi Leo Baeck, and they had two sons, Dr. James Dreyfus (Rabbi Ellen Weinberg Dreyfus) of Homewood, IL, and the late Richard Dreyfus (Helen Bagot Dreyfus) of Houston, TX, and five grandchildren.
Founded in 1875, Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion is the nation’s oldest institution of higher Jewish education and the academic, spiritual, and professional leadership development center of Reform Judaism. HUC-JIR educates men and women for service to American and world Jewry as rabbis, cantors, educators, and nonprofit management professionals, and offers graduate programs to scholars and clergy of all faiths. With centers of learning in Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, and New York, HUC-JIR’s scholarly resources comprise the renowned Klau Library, The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, research institutes and centers, and academic publications. In partnership with the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, HUC-JIR sustains the Reform Movement’s congregations and professional and lay leaders. HUC-JIR’s campuses invite the community to cultural and educational programs illuminating Jewish history, identity, art, and archaeology, and fostering interfaith and multiethnic understanding.