Kreitman, Benjamin Zvi

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KREITMAN, BENJAMIN ZVI (1920– ), U.S. Conservative rabbi and organization executive. Kreitman was born in Warsaw, Poland, and immigrated to the United States in 1924. He received his B.A. from *Yeshiva University in 1940 and ordination from the *Jewish Theological Seminary in 1942, as the seminary accelerated ordination of rabbinical candidates in order to meet the wartime need for chaplains. Kreitman enlisted immediately and served as a chaplain in the United States Navy until 1946, when he became assistant rabbi of Kehillath Israel in Brookline, Massachusetts. His next pulpit was Beth El Synagogue in New London, Connecticut (1948–52), followed by 16 years at Brooklyn Jewish Center, where he worked with Rabbi Israel *Levinthal. Kreitman developed innovative adult education programs for this very large Conservative urban synagogue center, including the Mishnah Fellowship, Great Books Seminar, and Great Jewish Books Seminar. In 1968, he became rabbi of Congregation Shaare Torah in Flatbush (Brooklyn), where he was elected rabbi emeritus in 1976.

During his nearly three decades as a congregational rabbi in Brooklyn, Kreitman served as president of the Brooklyn Jewish Community Council (1970–73), chairman of the Brooklyn Borough Human Rights Commission (1960–67) and as the only non-medical member of the New York City Board of Health. He also lectured at Brooklyn College (1974) and the Jewish Theological Seminary (1975). In addition, he was chairman of the Brooklyn Region of the *Rabbinical Assembly and vice chairman of the Metropolitan Region of the ra. More influentially, as chairman of the organization's Committee on Jewish Law and Standards (1966–72), Kreitman – who believed that Jewish law "must concern itself with and accommodate itself to the needs of the day" – took bold leadership positions that shaped key halakhic rulings of the Conservative movement in the areas of kashrut and freeing the *agunah (a married woman denied a divorce by a missing or recalcitrant husband). His committee also sanctioned the abolition of the widely ignored second day of festivals outside of Israel.

In 1976, Kreitman left the practicing rabbinate to become executive vice president of the *United Synagogue, succeeding Rabbi Bernard *Segal. He spearheaded the development of new programs and publications for a Conservative movement that was now catering to multi-generational member families. He was also instrumental in strengthening the movement's relationship with Israel, leading a reorganization of the World Council of Synagogues that paved the way for its joining the *World Zionist Organization and establishing *aliyah and absorption desks in New York and Israel to encourage Conservative Jews to immigrate to Israel.


P.S. Nadell, Conservative Judaism in America: A Biographical Dictionary and Sourcebook, 1988.

[Bezalel Gordon (2nd ed.)]