Rabbi W. Gunther Plaut, z’l, Senior Scholar at Holy Blossom Temple, was born in Germany, where he received his Doctor of Laws degree. Prohibited under the Nazi regime from practising law, he fled to the United States, where he became a rabbi, joined the American army during the Second World War, served as a chaplain with the infantry and was present at the capture of the first concentration camp in Germany.
Rabbi Plaut served as rabbi in Chicago, Ill. and St. Paul, Minn. prior to joining Holy Blossom Temple as Senior Rabbi in 1961. He retired as Senior Rabbi in 1977.
Of the 26 books Rabbi Plaut has published, the best known is The Torah: A Modern Commentary, of which he was the editor and chief author and which is now in its 13th printing. Rabbi Plaut has written on theology, philosophy and history, and has produced three works of fiction. Some of his books have been translated into other languages.
He has distinguished himself through several major posts, including the presidency of the Canadian Jewish Congress and the Central Conference of American Rabbis. Known as an uncompromising enemy of all manifestations of racism, Rabbi Plaut helped found Toronto’s Urban Alliance for Race Relations, served for seven years as Vice Chair of the Ontario Human Rights Commission and currently sits as a one-person board of inquiry in human rights cases. In 1984, he was appointed by the Canadian government to revise Canada’s refugee legislation.
Rabbi Plaut is a Companion of the Order of Canada and has also received the Order of Ontario. He has also been officially recognized by several academic institutions, receiving honourary degrees from the University of Toronto, York University, Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion (Cincinnati/New York) and the College of Jewish Studies (Cleveland).
Remembering Rabbi W. Gunther Plaut, z'l
By Rabbi Moscowitz. Rabbi Herman Schaalman of Chicago is after Rabbi Plaut’s death now the last of the “Gang of Five” still alive. The self-named gang was a group of five young rabbinical students in Berlin, each chosen by Rabbi Leo Baeck in 1935 to study for the rabbinate at the Hebrew Union College in... Read more »
Dear Family and Friends: David Shenk, the author of Forgetting: Alheizmer’s Portrait of an Epidemic, refers to Alzheimer’s disease as “death by a thousand subtractions.” Each month, Carol and I drove to Toronto to visit with my father and my sister, Judith. The ravages of the disease became all too clear with every passing trip. ... Read more »
[video_lightbox video=”http://www.youtube.com/v/mh1bEoPj8Tw” image=”/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Eulogy_RM.png”] In the first chapter of the Second Book of Samuel, when David learns of the death of Saul and Jonathan, he proclaims, “They were swifter than eagles, they were stronger than lions”. And two chapters later when David learns of the death of Avner, he declares to his soldiers, and to all... Read more »
CBC’s Evan Solomon interviewed Plaut in 2002. He spoke of his work as chaplain with the U.S. Army liberating a concentration camp in 1945 and the struggle to keep his faith during the horrors of the Holocaust. You can watch Solomon’s interview with Plaut by clicking the black box screen above. Read more »
Tuesday evening I got this email, entitled “Zero Degrees of Separation” from Michelle Lynn-Sachs, our former Director of Education: “I’m at an exhibit at JTS (The Jewish Theological Seminary in NYC) about Rabbi Judah Nadich. He led the crew of Jewish chaplains in WWII – and guess who I spotted?” Michelle attached a photo of... Read more »
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... Read more »
Fifty years ago, Rabbi Plaut was installed as the eighth senior rabbi of the congregation. While he arrived in the summer of 1961, his installation was held on the weekend of December 3 to 5, a weekend of much pomp and ceremony. He continued to serve the congregation in that capacity until 1977, when he... Read more »
Our Senior Scholar Rabbi W. Gunther Plaut, Senior Rabbi at Holy Blossom from 1961 to 1977, has died at age 99. Rabbi Plaut is predeceased by his wife Elisabeth, by his parents Jonas & Selma Plaut, and his brother Rabbi Walter Plaut. His survivors are his children, Judith Plaut and Rabbi Jonathan V. & Carol... Read more »
February 9, 2012 Rabbi W. Gunther Plaut, z’l With profound sadness we wish to inform members of Holy Blossom Temple of the death of our Senior Scholar, Rabbi W. Gunther Plaut. Rabbi Plaut was our Senior Rabbi from 1961-1977. Rabbi Plaut died peacefully at Baycrest Hospital on Wednesday night, February 8th. He was 99 years... Read more »
[video_lightbox video=”http://www.youtube.com/v/DvRDJuV0oEo” image=”/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Plaut_Screenshot.jpg”] The children of Rabbi W. Gunther and Elizabeth Plaut—Judith Plaut, Rabbi Jonathan and Carol Plaut—remember their parents, and reflect on their decision to dedicate Siddur Pirchei Kodesh in their honour. Rabbi W. Gunther Plaut was rabbi of Holy Blossom Temple from 1961—1977, at which time he was named the synagogue’s Sr. Scholar.... Read more »