Memorial Service Dr. Eugene Mihaly, Rabbi,
professor, and vice-president of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute
Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion held a memorial
service for Dr. Eugene Mihaly-Rabbi, professor, and vice president
of the College-Institute-on Monday, October 14, 2002 at 11:10 am
in the S.H. and Helen R. Scheuer Chapel. Dr. Mihaly, teacher to
generations of Reform rabbis and tireless advocate for the liberal
and universalist impulses in Reform Judaism, died on June 7, 2002
at his home in Tiburon, California at age 83.
The service included special music by Bonia Shur, director of
liturgical arts, HUC-JIR and an address by Dr. Alfred Gottschalk,
chancellor emeritus, HUC-JIR. As the service coincided with the
HUC-JIR Board of Governors meeting, President Ellenson and the Board
of Governors were present and new Board Members were installed.
Stephen Julius Stein, fifth-year rabbinical student at HUC-JIR delivered
the sermon and the College-Institute dedicated Dr. Mihaly's memorial
After ordination and initial practice as an Orthodox rabbi, Dr.
Mihaly joined the Reform Jewish movement, finding it more expressive
of his philosophical and religious outlook. He spent his scholarly
career at HUC-JIR in Cincinnati where he devoted his life to an
open and embracing vision of Judaism. An early advocate of women
in the rabbinate and openness towards intermarriage, as well as
acceptance of homosexuals in congregational life, he was no stranger
to controversy; especially as the Reform movement itself became
As a professor of Midrash and Homiletics, Dr. Mihaly grounded
prospective Reform rabbis in the most traditional Jewish texts and
at the same time exposed students to the practical art of preaching
a sermon. He transmitted to students and rabbis a unique view of
Judaism that combined a progressive and sometimes radical, modern
theological position with a strong belief in the importance of tradition
and symbols in worship.
While resisting alignment with any group on issues related to
Israel, he was a firm supporter of the Oslo peace process. Dr. Mihaly
argued for the importance of independent Jewish communities in all
countries, and though a firm friend of Israel as one embodiment
of Jewish ideals, he became skeptical of views that emphasized the
primacy of the State of Israel as a center of the Jewish religion.
Dr. Mihaly received his early scholarly training at the New Israel
Yeshivah in Baltimore, Maryland, and continued his studies at Yeshivah
University in New York where he was ordained in 1942 by its theological
seminary. He served as rabbi to two Orthodox Jewish congregations
before moving to Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion
where he was ordained as a Reform rabbi in 1949, received his Ph.D.
in 1952, and became Professor of Rabbinic Literature and Deutsch
Professor of Rabbinic Jurisprudence. As executive dean and vice
president for academic affairs, he devoted the last portion of his
career to expanding an excellent faculty and defined the rabbinic
curriculum of the College's schools in Cincinnati, New York, Los
Angeles, and Jerusalem in a comprehensive document entitled "Innovators
His areas of specialization included Midrash, Liturgy, Rabbinic
Theology, Medieval and Modern Jewish Philosophy, Talmudic and Responsa
Literature. He is author of numerous studies in these areas. Among
his published works are: A Song to Creation (a Dialogue with a Text);
"Religious Experience in Judaism-The Passover Haggadah as Pardes";
"The Breaking of the Tablets"; "The Theology of Isaac Abravanel";
Responsa on Jewish Marriage; "Jewish Prayer and Synagogue Architecture";
"An Early Defense of the Election of Israel"; and "Maimonides: Author
and Teacher for the Ages."
Dr. Mihaly is survived by his wife of 57 years, Cecile, two sons,
Eugene and Marc, sisters Susan Taragin and Irene Glassgold, five
grandchildren and two great grandchildren.