A small collection of the countless online comments received from Our Community…
We are most grateful for the outpouring of sentiment – loss, appreciation, memories – in the wake of the death of Rabbi W. Gunther Plaut, z’l, Sr. Scholar of Holy Blossom, one of the pre-eminent rabbis of our time. We at Holy Blossom join with the many who remember Rabbi Plaut with esteem and affection. I also know that Rabbi Plaut’s family is most appreciative of the touching words and support sent their way these past couple of days.
Rabbi John Moscowitz
I am deeply saddened that Rabbi Plaut has left us. I grew up at Holy Blossom with Rabbi Plaut as my rabbi. He had a profound impact on my life as a Reform Jew and my lifelong commitment to our community. We had a personal relationship which began soon after he arrived with my Bar Mitzvah. I was privileged to work closely with Rabbi Plaut on many projects and spend personal time with him over the years. My serving as President is due to Rabbi Plaut’s mentoring and influence on my life. He suffered in his last years. I miss him but, as with all of us, I am grateful that he is now at peace.
Mark S. Anshan
Holy Blossom Temple is most grateful to Rabbi Plaut whose impact expands so far beyond our strong walls. Though long retired, Rabbi Plaut was still a regular and imposing presence when I arrived to Holy Blossom Temple. I learned from him everyday. He was a “Rabbis’ Rabbi.”
When things began to change for Rabbi Plaut, I was asked to co-officiate at weddings with him. I would meet with the couples in advance, prepare the documents, pick Rabbi Plaut up. But when it came time for his address under the chuppah, he would rise to the occasion every time, saying the words everyone longed to hear. He was graceful and strong, accessible and wise, comforting and challenging, all at the same time.
My office today sits where Rabbi Plaut’s floor-to-ceiling library once stood. I can still see his books and I can still hear his voice urging me on. Zichrono livrachah.
Rabbi Yael Splansky
I met Rabbi Plaut four and a half years ago. On the first Shabbat I spent at the congregation, I had the privilege of meeting Rabbi Plaut—shaking his hand, and receiving a kiss on mine. We had many opportunities in 2007, 2008, and even 2009, to share the same greeting over and again. Because I met Rabbi Plaut when his mind was frail, I did not have the opportunity to learn Torah with him. Of course, however, I did and I do learn Torah from him. Like so many others, I have learned wisdom every single week from Rabbi Plaut through his Torah, A Modern Commentary. I also have his many published works on my shelves. Congregants have kindly even shared photocopies of many of his sermons from decades past. Those, too, are a treasured part of my “books.” I also have been touched to hear story after story of the depth of his personhood and caliber of his rabbinate. These too occupy a place in my learning. According to the Talmud, Rabbi Yochanan said in the name of Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai, “Every scholar who is quoted in this world, his lips whisper from the grave.” You and I will continue to quote Rabbi Plaut, and in this way (among others) will we commit his memory for a blessing.
Rabbi Karen Thomashow
The Board of Directors was recently shown something quite remarkable… a Russian translation of Rabbi Plaut’s Torah Commentary. As I turned the pages and scanned through his familiar words now written in unfamiliar text, I felt the immense greatness of this man. His exceptional contribution to the Jewish world shone out from our beloved Holy Blossom Temple. We will be forever proud and grateful for the life of Rabbi Gunther Plaut.
One of the great rabbis of the 20th century has left this world. He will be remembered with respect and affection by all who knew him. Thankfully, his rich legacy will continue to teach and inspire generations to come. Writing this in Jerusalem, we recall with bitter sweetness his last visit here during 911. And being in Jerusalem now, we are, alas, not able to pay our tributes in person and express our condolences to his family, but we want them to know that we are thinking of them with much affection: Hamakom yinachem. As his life was a blessing to the members of the congregations he served with such distinction, indeed to the Jewish people as a whole across denominational divides, may now his memory be a blessing to his family and to the countless others who mourn his passing.
Fredzia and Rabbi Dow Marmur
Indeed our world is diminished with the passing away of Rabbi Gunter Plaut. The brilliance of his mind, the magnanimous stature of his presence, and simplicity of the being that he was will radiate with us and stay forever as a blessing. I met Rabbi Plaut upon my arrival in 1979 when he welcomed me into the congregation. We immediately found a common bond in out “Yekishe” Germanic background. We shared many glorious moments over the three decades. I always admired his clarity of mind, and his delivery of the grand sermons I witnessed. His approach to the pulpit before uttering a word was an Art and royal presence mingled with humility. “YEHI ZICHRO BARUCH”. May his memory be for a blessing.
Cantor Benjamin Z. Maissner
I remember the speech he gave to the entire community in the Holy Blossom sanctuary in the days before the 6 day war in May 1967. Coming just 22 years after the Holocaust he embodied Jewish resistance and resilience in the face of potential disaster. His words were stirring and inspiring and contributed mightily to the extraordinary amount of funds raised across the city.
I also remember a private meeting that I attended with him and an orthodox rabbi in which he was accorded the greatest respect for his scholarship and integrity even though the other rabbi couldn’t have agreed with almost anything he wrote.
Rabbi Edward Goldfarb
My teenage memories of Rabbi Gunther Plaut recall an imposing man of intelligence and wisdom, kindness and strength. He was indeed an icon and has blessed us with his life’s work. In recent years I have had the great honour of meeting Rabbi Plaut on a number of occasions at Holy Blossom Temple. It was always a joy to see him here, where he greeted me with his broad smile and friendly kiss. That he is missed is an understatement… yet he remains a treasure in the Holy Blossom legacy, in the Reform Movement and indeed the wider Jewish community.
Today the Reform Movement mourns the loss of one of our most influential scholars.
Union for Reform Judaism
Rabbi Plaut, z’l, was an extraordinary scholar, rabbi, man of letters and Canadian icon. A giant of the 20th century. Let us teach our children about him.
Barbara Wade Rose
Very sad to hear of this – I was privileged enough to have Rabbi Plaut be an active participant in my Leo Baeck education and fondly recall his reading to us of bible stories. z’l.
May your memory be a Blessing. I remember your presence and smiling face at Holy Blossom when I was a kid. Rest in peace Rabbi Plaut.
Rabbi Plaut z”l will be missed. Taught countless so much with writing and life.
We join our friends @holyblossom in mourning the passing of Rabbi W. Gunther Plaut. A great scholar and teacher. Baruch Dayan V’emet.
Temple Kol Ami
I had the honour and the privilege of co-officiating with Rabbi Plaut during High Holy Days, occasional Shabbatot, weddings and funerals. He was always an inspiration. His memory really and truly is a blessing.
Cantor Ronald E. Graner
Baruch Dayan HaEmet. A true scholar, teacher and mensch. I will always remember when he came to offer comfort at my grandfather’s shiva (R’ Joshua Spiro zt”l).
He was an amazing man, an intellectual giant, a true humanitarian, a champion for justice and good, a true leader and my teacher. His life touched so many, in such profound ways. He will be forever misses.
I taught at Holy Blossom Temple for 12 years, and Rabbi Plaut had just left his post as Senior Rabbi but was always around and available to work with my students. I remember that after one such meeting with my students, I asked them if they knew who he was. One said, “he wrote the Bible”. I guess that says it all. I will miss him, and I will miss our conversations about Judaism and the world. Rest in peace.
A great humanitarian!
I met Rabbi Plaut when I came to Canada in Nov., 1962. I became part of the family and took a active part in many things at Holy Blossom. The First adult Bar and Bat Mitzvah class is just one example. His expert help on all matters is something I will never forget. He did not just talk the talk he walked the walked the walk. I went to visit him at Baycrest because he went the extra mile for me.
Carole J. Paul
Rabbi Plaut was a great man of epic proportions. When he spoke, you hung on every word. He had an amazing connection with everyone and when you were in his presence you were much richer for it. Rabbi Plaut gave so much to the world and we will all miss him.
It has been my honour and pleasure for many years to share with my congregation out here in Vancouver, words, thoughts and ideas about “my rabbi”–Gunther Plaut. We first met shortly after he arrived in Toronto in 1961. I had just turned 13 and would be soon celebrating my bar mitzvah, an occasion that both of us would recall for many years to come. I believe that I was his first bar mitzvah to faint right up there on the bima. I was told that he caught me and that is probably why I went on to be one of his first students to become a rabbi. In so many ways, he was my teacher, my mentor, my colleague and my friend. He was present for me on so many significant occasions in my life not only at Holy Blossom but also throughout my rabbinic career. He was there as the scholar in residence at Temple Israel in New Rochelle New York, when I was the assistant rabbi. And in 1988, I invited him to be our scholar in residence here in Vancouver as we dedicated our new building. In so many ways he was my rabbinic compass. He was the one that encouraged me to get more involved in Jewish practice, and as a result I was one of the first congregants at Holy Blossom to wear a talit. He was the one that told me as that a Jew I had to be concerned about the world and civil rights in particular, and that resulted in my personally getting involved with Martin Luther King Jr. He continues to be the rabbinic voice in my mind and my soul and for that I will be forever grateful. So, I now say to my “rebbe”, thank you, for who you were, for what you said, and for what you continue to teach us. May you be at rest and may your family know healing in the days to come.
Rabbi Philip Bregman
My story is simple and sweet and really speaks to how special he was. When I was sitting shiva for my father (who died young) Rabbi Plaut came to the shiva – he sat down next to my mother and stayed for over an hour. His kindness – his authentic interest in her life – learning about my father – I am sure there are many stories like this one because he was a very special person and rabbi I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to learn from – work with him – his memory will love on.
Rabbi Plaut had a profound impact upon our family, and upon me throughout my youth. He was “our rabbi”, his sermons became animated dinner table talk between my parents and us – we often recalled his ‘paper airplane’ sermon one year during the high holidays and how another year he asked us to vote whether to remain in services after a bomb threat had been phoned in (we all stayed). When I was in religious school at HBT in grade 1, our teacher asked us to draw what we thought God looked like. There were pictures of clouds and such, but a few (myself included) drew a picture of Rabbi Plaut. We all held him in awe and with great reverence. His youthful zeal would surface on Sukkot when he would sing heartily with all the children “Shake the lulav all around!!”. I was both terrified and honoured to have Rabbi Plaut in my right ear as I celebrated becoming Bar Mitzvah as he whispered the words I was reading, either ahead of where I was, or behind where I was. At the time I considered it a test by him to see if he could rattle me, but now I know that he was merely reading along with me. When my wife and I were in the JIC class over 10 years ago, Happy Iscove arranged for us to celebrate Havdallah with Rabbi Plaut in his apartment. His quick wit and knowledge were at the forefront, as were some wonderful anecdotes. He happily autographed our copy of his Torah commentary. With a wry smile he instructed us to tell anyone who saw his autograph that he wrote the entire Torah, but if pressed, we should admit that he was at least responsible for most of the English. I feel priviledged to have known him and to be able to share some stories to keep his memory alive and for a blessing.
I regard it as a great privilege to have been present at some Rabbi Plaut’s memorable sermons, and to have the honour of having him conduct the marriage of my eldest daughter Daiiah. May his mamory be a blessing!
My friend, an African-Canadian woman, and her family lived on Spadina Road. When their son, David, was ready for overnight camp they decided to send him to Camp Northland. It wasn’t long until David’s parents learned that David was being treated very badly. And it wasn’t long after that, when Rabbi Plaut learned about the situation. Rabbi Plaut got into his car, drove the 165 miles up the camp in Haliburton, took charge of the boys and spent the time it took to do some very serious and very effective work with David’s cabinmates. And then he turned around and drove home. And David’s cabinmates never behaved badly again.
Rabbi Plaut was a mentor to me during my early years of teaching at Holy Blossom Temple. He never refused to come into the classroom, offer wise council and teach my students. Thus began a passion to attend as many of his lectures as possible. Rabbi Plaut’s wisdom and scholarship were an inspiration and will continue to be so through his writings. My condolences to all the family. May Rabbi Plaut’s memory be for a blessing.
I was always in awe of Rabbi Plaut. He always spoke to you with such an amazing connection and he somehow made you want to listen to him even as a child. I have always missed his very special prescence at Holy Blossom.
I was enjoying a wonderful cruise vacation when the news of Rabbi Plaut’s passing was sent to me. He was the mainstay of our family’s religious life when our children were growing up – performing Bar Mitzvah’s and Confirmations with regularity. His mother was a close friend of my mother-in-law, Lillian Wolman. From a personal perspective he showed my late husband Frank and myself insights on family living in a complicated family environment that was inspirational to our family values. Later on in my life and his, he and I worked co-operatively to promote his views and ideas on the acceptance of and integration of refugees into Canadian life. He was a remarkable person and I will always remember him for his intellect, courage and profound influence on the Jewish Community and others in Canada.
Rabbi Plaut was an accomplished scholar and writer, a compassionate rabbi, and an exceptional human being. The world is a poorer place without him, and we will always miss him, but we are grateful that he is now at peace. When Shelly and I went for our meeting with Rabbi Plaut before our wedding, he said to us, “The celebration of your wedding is for everyone, but the marriage is for the two of you.” We have never forgotten his words; they are the foundation of our relationship to this day. He greatly enriched our family during the years he was “our Rabbi” at the Temple. Through his actions, accomplishments, and scholarship, Rabbi Plaut made the world a better place for everyone. May his memory be for a blessing.
Ruth Ellen Greenwood
Rabbi Plaut was a towering intellectual, but at the same, he had a great sense of humour. As well as the many occasions on which we discussed various matters, I played golf with him on several occasions. Even at my best, he was far better, but to be bested by a man of his stature was almost an honour.
When Gordon and I came to Holy Blossom 30 plus years ago, Rabbi Plaut was finishing his term as chief rabbinic leader of the congregation so we did not know him in the life cycle events which might otherwise have been part of our relationship. Yet, each time we heard him speak to the congregation or read his written words, we felt blessed to have connection with him. He was a tower of strength and intellect who led by example; we learned much from him. When Gordon was twice vice-president of the congregation he had the opportunity to benefit from Rabbi Plaut’s teaching and as a member of the Social Action Committee for many years I have been inspired by his championing of human rights and refugee needs throughout the community, not just our own.
Since my husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s a few years ago, I have often thought of Rabbi Plaut’s courage and lack of denial in the face of the dreadful prognosis it brings with it. I and others are now trying to bring a program of support and engagement to Temple, for the benefit of families living with Alzheimers . We have involved Mt. Sinai Hospital’s Reitman Centre for Caregiver Support and hope to begin offering a program for our spiritual community which will serve to keep suffers going longer in their Jewish home, as well as giving caregivers what we all need to survive and thrive. Rabbi Plaut’s memory, what he was and how his family helped him carry on as dignified a life as possible for as long as he lived, will be a guide as we institute Our Loved Ones, Ourselves in Holy Blossom. His memory will be for a blessing.
I, like so many other Canadian Jewish professionals, were the fruit of Rabbi Plaut’s labors. How many cantors and rabbis and educators, youth directors and teachers had this man inspired over the course of his 99 years? The atmosphere of serious learning he engendered and the staff with which we he worked created a place of living tzedakah and limmud. With his death, there are so many memories shared by people around the world. Personally, I will never forget his blessing to me on my bar mitzvah. And I suppose no one can ever forget passing him in the hallway and, no matter what we were doing, we would always acknowledge him and maybe even stand in awe of him since we knew that a giant walked among us. Rabbi Plaut’s death ends a connection with that generation of Holy Blossom. Gone are Ms. Davidson, his secretary and gatekeeper, Ethel Raicus, and of course Heinz Warshauer. There are others, too, of course, maybe too many to be named. But it is somehow appropriate the Rabbi Plaut was the last to leave us — he wanted to make sure we were all okay before he went to his rest. May his soul be bound up in life, all our lives.
Rabbi Cy Stanway
On the day the Plaut Family is sitting shiva for their esteemed father, Rabbi Gunther Plaut z’l, I am observing the 29th yahrtzeit for my father, Rabbi I. Usher Kirshblum z’l. I was a young boy when Rabbi Stephen S. Wise z’l installed my father to the position of Rabbi of the Jewish Centre of Kew Gardens Hills in New York. I recall Rabbi Wise’s commanding presence and booming, resounding voice. It filled me with fear and awe. I remember thinking I was in the presence of G-d. Since coming to Toronto in 1967, I had numerous opportunities to hear Rabbi Plaut speak both at Holy Blossom Temple and at my own synagogue, Adath Israel. His scholarship and outstanding oratory always reminded me of Rabbi Wise. Being in the presence of Rabbi Plaut filled me with awe and reverence. In time I was afforded the opportunity to get to know him on a more personal level. I admired him for being a warm and caring person, and an outstanding Rabbi who devoted himself not only to his own congregation, but to the greater community as well. The Jewish community in particular, was fortunate to have had him as a leader. Y’hi Zichro Baruch. May his memory be a blessing for all of us who knew him, and K’lal Yisrael.
Cantor A. Eliezer Kirshblum
Whenever I had the priviledge of co-officiating with Rabbi Plaut, he would first invite all the clergy into his private study. We would share a moment of meditation, and he would offer up a prayer asking God to accept our prayers. We always came away with a feeling of great purpose inspired by his presence. This was a man who showed us the way by example. A great light has gone out from our midst. May his memory rekindle the flame in everyone who knew him.
Cantor Ronald E. Graner
- The Toronto Star
- The Canadian Jewish News
- The New York Times
- Globe and Mail
- The Jewish Daily Forward – Eric Yoffie