Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion shares with great sadness the news of the passing of Rabbi Robert (Bob) Samuels, HUC-JIR/Cincinnati '60, our beloved mentor, teacher, and a pioneering founder of Reform Judaism in Israel.
Bob’s devotion to the furthering of Progressive Jewish values was unwavering. He transformed the Leo Baeck School in Haifa into the Leo Baeck Education Center, an institution with profound impact and an international reputation. Rabbi Samuels was a giant in advancing the mission and goals of that institution for decades, and his efforts resound throughout its corridors. His contribution to the advancement of an inspiring vision of Israel was outstanding. Bob was one of the founding members of MaRaM (the Israel Council of Progressive Rabbis), and an active member of our Jerusalem Board of Overseers.
Rabbi Charles A. Kroloff, HUC-JIR/Cincinnati '60, Vice President for Special Projects, offered a tribute to Rabbi Samuels. "Bob Samuels was my best friend and my hero. His entire life was powered by the ideals of the Hebrew prophets. He died at the conclusion of Shabbat Kedoshim whose Torah portion captures the principles by which Bob lived his life. Bob and Annette made aliyah to Israel in 1962 and never looked back. They were Zionists without peer. They committed themselves to raising their family in the Jewish homeland and strengthening the moral fabric and humane spirit of Israel. Bob was a force of nature. I have never known anyone with as many talents, as determined a spirit, and as much energy as Bob." To read Rabbi Kroloff's full eology, please click here >
Rabbi Josh Weinberg, HUC-JIR/Jerusalem '13, President of ARZA, shares personal reflections of Rabbi Samuels. "Rabbi Samuels addressed the student body on our first day of rabbinical school at HUC-JIR in Jerusalem. He said two things that stand out. 1) Learn. Never stop learning, and never be satisfied with your knowledge level. There are people out there who are hungry for knowledge and understanding and your job is to bring it to them. 2) Don’t be afraid. Take initiative and build things. Institutions, synagogues, schools, houses of study. If you don’t, we can’t grow our Movement. Ours is a living breathing Judaism, and our message is one that must be carried and heard widely. His words accompanied me on my journey and serve as a reminder for the kind of rabbi and Jewish professional I aspire to be. Later, at my Ordination, I reminded him of his charge to us several years prior. He chuckled, and said that every word was true, and that we better get going. Upon thinking about everything he built and created, everyone he taught and inspired, it is hard to comprehend the true giant he was. Bob was a hero of Zionism, and of Reform Zionism, and he will be truly missed."
Anat Hoffman, Executive Director of the Israel Religious Action Center, shares, "Over the years I have had the privilege of meeting dozens of Rabbi Samuels’ students. It almost always happens in the same way. A business executive, an army officer or a member of the Knesset stops the conversation as soon as they hear his name, and with excited eyes, insists on sharing a personal story about him. They all say that he cultivated in them the ability to strive. That he recognized in them the will to achieve. They describe him as being an accessible, down-to-earth person who was present with all of his being. He was a teacher who, by personal example, showed how to embrace a life that always strives for improvement. How to challenge yourself and the world around you. How to be a mensch."