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Kurtz, Vernon H.


KURTZ, VERNON H. (1951– ), U.S. Conservative rabbi. Kurtz was born in Toronto, Canada, where he earned his B.A. from York University in 1971. In 1973 he received his M.A. from the *Jewish Theological Seminary, where he was ordained in 1976. He received his doctor of ministry degree from Chicago Theological Seminary in 1981. He served as rabbi of Congregation Rodfei Zedek in Chicago from 1976 to 1988, when he moved to the north suburban synagogue Beth El in Highland Park, Ill. He was also appointed adjunct assistant professor of Rabbinic Literature at the Spertus Institute and adjunct lecturer in Jewish Studies at the Chicago Theological Seminary. In addition, he was a monthly Torah commentator for the Chicago Jewish News.

Kurtz served in numerous leadership positions in the areas of Jewish communal and interfaith activities. He was president of the Chicago Board of Rabbis (1995–97), president of the Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago (1997–99), chairman of the *United Jewish Appeal Rabbinic Cabinet (1995–97), and a member of the Board of Trustees and of the Executive Committee of the United Jewish Communities (1998–2004). He was a member of board of The Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago and chairman of its Overseas Committee as well as a member of the board of governors of the *Jewish Agency for Israel.

In 2000 Kurtz was elected president of the *Rabbinical Assembly (ra), in which capacity he established a Women's Task Force, expanded the global focus of the ra with the center being in Israel, and worked to improve lay-professional relations with the drafting of a model rabbinic contract. Following his term of office, Kurtz was elected president of Mercaz usa (in 2002) and Mercaz Olami (in 2005), the American chapter and international arm of the Zionist Organization of the Conservative movement. By virtue of this succession of presidencies, he was a member of the *Presidents' Conference of Major American Jewish Organizations long enough to be appointed its membership chairman. He also returned to the ra's Committee on Jewish Law and Standards and was named to the Leadership Council of Conservative Judaism.

Kurtz received numerous awards from local and national Jewish organizations, including the Council of Jewish Federations and the State of Israel Bonds Organization, culminating in the Rabbi Simon Greenberg Rabbinic Achievement Award bestowed upon him by the Jewish Theological Seminary in 1998. He was awarded an honorary doctorate from jts in 2003.

[Bezalel Gordon (2nd ed.)]

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