Brickner, Balfour 1926–2005

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Brickner, Balfour 1926–2005

OBITUARY NOTICE—See index for CA sketch: Born November 18, 1926, in Cleveland, OH; died of lung cancer, August 28, 2005, in New York, NY. Rabbi, educator, activist, broadcaster, and author. Considered a liberal Zionist, Brickner was a prominent Reform rabbi who was outspoken on causes ranging from abortion to war. The son of Zionist parents, Brickner later became a disciple of Free Synagogue founder Stephen Samuel Wise. He also served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, afterward completing his undergraduate work at the University of Cincinnati in 1948. Studying to be a rabbi at Hebrew Union College Jewish Institute of Religion, he was ordained in 1952. That year, he founded Temple Sinai in Washington, DC, where he served as rabbi until 1961. During this time he also taught at the American University's Jewish Chautauqua Society. After moving to New York City in 1961, he became codirector of the National Commission on Social Action at the Union of American Hebrew Congregation. In 1978 he was also named its director, and he remained in that post until the late 1990s. By the 1960s, Brickner had already become an active voice in the country; he was involved in the civil rights movement and anti-war protests during the Vietnam War. In 1980 Brickner took the job of senior rabbi at his mentor's Free Synagogue, and he led the congregation there for the next dozen years before retiring in 1991. As a leader in Reform Judaism, Brickner was unafraid to state his opinions, even when they were controversial. One of the most debated issues he took up pertained to the state of Israel. Although Brickner believed that there should be a Jewish state, he also voiced sympathy for the Palestinians and protested vehemently against the Israeli government's policies of expanding its territory into Palestinian areas. Brickner was also viewed as controversial because of his pro-abortion stance; he was the founder of Religious Leaders for a Free Choice. His opinions came to be widely known in America during the 1980s when he hosted the radio program Adventures in Judaism, which was syndicated nationally. On the other hand, Brickner's was also a unifying voice; he tried to bridge gaps between religions by promoting strengthened ties between Judaism, Christianity, and other beliefs. He also encouraged his congregation to participate more in decision making at the Free Synagogue. Brickner was the author of several books, including As Driven Sands: The Arab Refugees, 1948–68 (1969), the cowritten Searching the Prophets for Values (1981), and his last book, Finding God in the Garden: Backyard Reflections on Life, Love, and Compost (2002).



Los Angeles Times, September 2, 2005, p. B11.

New York Times, September 1, 2005, p. C18.

Washington Post, September 1, 2005, p. B6.