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Sobel, Ronald


SOBEL, RONALD (1935– ), U.S. Reform rabbi, interfaith activist. Sobel was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and received his B.A. from the University of Pittsburgh in 1957. He was ordained at *Hebrew Union College in 1962 and earned a Ph.D. from New York University in 1980. He was awarded an honorary D.D. from huc-jir in 1987, an honorary D.H.L. from Long Island University in 1983, and an honorary D.L. from St. John's University in 1994. Immediately following his ordination, he was appointed assistant rabbi at New York City's Temple Emanu-El and elevated to associate rabbi in 1968. In 1973, at the age of 37, he became the youngest senior rabbi in the history of the world's largest Jewish house of worship. By the time he became emeritus, in 2002, he had served in that position longer than any of his predecessors.

In the Reform movement, Sobel served as chairman of the Board of Rabbinic Alumni Overseers of huc-jir as well as a member of the college's board of governors. He was also a member of the board of governors of the American Jewish Committee (1972–75); chairman of the National Program Committee of the Anti-Defamation League; chairman of the Commission on Jewish Life and Culture of the American Jewish Congress (1982–84); chairman of the Synagogue Council of America's Commission on International Affairs (1975–77); and a trustee of the Jewish Braille Institute.

Sobel has been particularly active in interfaith affairs. In 1975, he was the first rabbi to preach from the high pulpit of Manhattan's St. Patrick's Cathedral, as part of a dialogue he initiated between Temple Emanu-El and the Cathedral. From 1977 to 79, he was chairman of the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultation, the organization that represents the interests of world Jewry vis-à-vis the Vatican and the World Council of Churches. He also served on the boards of governors of the National Conference of Christians and Jews, the Religious News Service, the Association for Religion and Intellectual Life, and the Institutes of Religion and Health, in addition to serving as a vice chairman of the National Board of Religion in American Life. He also co-founded two grass-roots interfaith coalitions in New York City: the Yorkville Emergency Alliance on the upper East Side (1982) and A Partnership of Faith in New York (1991), a coalition of congregational clergy throughout the five boroughs.

In 2002, Sobel was the recipient of the annual Clergy Person of the Year Award from the Religion in American Life organization. He was appointed chairman of the New York Civil Rights Coalition in 2003.

[Bezalel Gordon (2nd ed.)]

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