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Mowshowitz, Israel


MOWSHOWITZ, ISRAEL (1914–1991), U.S. rabbi, political intermediary. Mowshowitz was born in Poland and immigrated to the United States with his family in 1929. He attended Yeshiva University, where he earned a B.A., and was ordained at its Rabbi Yitzhak Elchanan Theological Seminary in 1937. He earned a Ph.D. in psychology from Duke University and Yeshiva University awarded him an honorary doctorate in 1966. Although trained as an Orthodox rabbi, the pulpits he held were at Conservative synagogues, first in Durham, n.c., and then at Omaha, Nebraska. In 1949, he was appointed rabbi of Hillcrest Jewish Center in Queens, n.y., becoming rabbi emeritus in 1983.

Respected in both the Orthodox and Conservative movements, Mowshowitz rose to become arguably the most prominent Jewish communal leader in the city and state. He was a founder of the International Synagogue at Kennedy International Airport and served as its honorary president. He also served on the boards of numerous charitable, interfaith, and interracial organizations in New York.

In the 1960s Mowshowitz was the president of the New York Board of Rabbis, an organization of 1,000 rabbis representing all the major denominations; in that capacity, he became a nationally quoted spokesman, commenting on all political and social issues that impacted Jewish interests.

Mowshowitz forged close ties with New York Governor Mario M. Cuomo, a Roman Catholic who called Mowshowitz "my rabbi," and who lived nearby. He held the title of special assistant for community affairs in the governor's office, where he negotiated issues between the state and religious groups. According to Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations head Israel *Miller, "He was the one all of us would call when we needed something done of a political nature."

Mowshowitz traveled throughout the world on behalf of Jewish causes. In 1956, he was a member of one of the first delegations of rabbis to visit the Soviet Union to investigate the conditions of Soviet Jewry. He also traveled to Poland, South Africa, Iran, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and other countries on similar missions, including a study trip to 13 countries with the National Conference of Christians and Jews.

The New York Board of Rabbis established the annual Rabbi Israel and Libby Mowshowitz Award, to honor both them and rabbis who excel in public service.

He wrote two books, Fires to Warm Us (1978) and To Serve in Faithfulness (1975), and co-authored with Debra Orenstein From Generation to Generation (1992).

[Bezalel Gordon (2nd ed.)]

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