Rabbi Lawrence W. Raphael, Ph.D. ’74, z”l

The HUC-JIR community mourns the passing of our esteemed colleague and dear friend, Rabbi Lawrence W. Raphael, Ph.D. ’74, on March 17 at his home in San Francisco.

From 1973 to 1996, Larry served as Assistant and Associate Dean, as well as Dean of Administration at our New York Campus. He played a vital role in the admission, education, and professional training of over a thousand Reform rabbis, cantors, and educators at HUC-JIR. He was instrumental in the founding and supervision of the Soup Kitchen, which has fed over 150,000 guests since its inception over 30 years ago, and implemented educational initiatives, using the latest computer technologies and the newly emerging Internet, for students, faculty, and alumni. Throughout these years, he served as the rabbi of High Holy Day Services for Young Adults, sponsored by the Metropolitan Conference of the National Federation of Temple Brotherhoods and HUC-JIR, which were attended by hundreds of worshippers at our campus each year.

Rabbi Raphael joined the UAHC (today the URJ) in 1996 as the first director of the Department of Adult Jewish Growth. In that capacity, he directed special retreat programs and the Kallot national study and spiritual events, and was responsible for adult education materials, including the weekly publication of Torah Hayim: A Reform Torah Commentary and Go and Study: Text Materials for Lay-Led Discussions.

In 2003, Larry became the ninth senior rabbi of Sherith Israel in San Francisco, where he served until 2016. There he shepherded this venerable Bay Area congregation during a time of generational change. His lasting legacy there included the creation of a big tent that offered a home for interfaith families and Jews by choice; building community in a city of changing demographics and culture; and bringing the historic synagogue into compliance with San Francisco’s seismic retrofit mandate.

Since 2016, Rabbi Raphael continued to teach at several venues in San Francisco. He became an officer of the San Francisco Interfaith Council Board, was a hospice volunteer at the Jewish Home in San Francisco, served the North Tahoe Hebrew Congregation once-a-month, and was a part-time rabbi for the Santa Ynez Valley Jewish Community.

Larry completed his undergraduate studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz (1967), was ordained at HUC-JIR/Cincinnati in 1974, and earned a Ph.D. in higher education and leadership from New York University (1990) with a doctoral dissertation on “Leadership and Excellence in Theological Seminaries.” He published articles on a broad range of topics, was an expert on Jewish science fiction, and was the editor of Mystery Midrash: An Anthology of Jewish Mystery Short Stories (Jewish Lights, 1999).

Rabbi Raphael possessed a warm heart, and thousands of us feel such gratitude that we were nurtured by his embracing soul. In Pirkei Avot, our rabbis teach, “Ka-bal kol adam b’saver panim yafot – greet each person with a smile,” and, “dan kola dam l’kaf zechut – judge each person kindly.” Rabbi Larry Raphael embodied and displayed these attributes so naturally throughout his life, and thereby earned the love of thousands. He will be sorely missed.

We extend our heartfelt condolences to his wife Dr. Terrie Sladnick, their children Matthew, Andrew, and Rachel, and his brother Rabbi Marc Lee Raphael ’68.

Y’hi zochro baruch – May Larry’s memory endure as a source of blessing.

Messages of condolence may be sent to:
Terrie Sladnick Raphael
574 26th Ave, Apt #3
San Francisco, CA 94121