Chicago Rabbi Arnold J. Wolf, rabbi emeritus at KAM Isaiah Israel Congregation in Hyde Park, died Tuesday at the age of 84. Known for his outspoken nature and liberal viewpoints, he will be remembered as a great spiritual leader and innovative figure in Chicago’s Jewish community.
Rabbi Wolf devoted his life to teaching Jewish values to both children and adults, once writing that “Knowing isn't everything; it is, profoundly, the only thing.” He was still very active in his congregation, working three days a week in his position as rabbi emeritus since his retirement in 2000.
Before joining the Hyde Park congregation, now well-known for its location across the street from President-elect Barack Obama’s home, Rabbi Wolf served as the Hillel director at Yale and also taught courses at HUC-JIF, the University of Chicago and Marymount University. “Unfinished Rabbi,” a selection of his writings, was published in 1998. Rabbi Wolf also served as a Navy chaplain during the Korean War and became the founding rabbi of Solel Congregation in Highland Park upon his return to Chicago in 1957.
“Arnold was brilliant, passionate, outspoken, challenging, a wonderful teacher and a good colleague,” said Rabbi Michael Balinsky, executive vice president of JUF’s Chicago Board of Rabbis. “I first met him doing Hillel work in 1978. I remember him teacher a session on Joseph where he said ‘Joseph matured when he moved from having his own dreams to interpreting other people’s dreams.’ That idea really stuck with me—the idea that the real challenge (for Rabbis) is to learn to interpret other people’s dreams.”
Rabbi Wolf is survived by his wife Grace Wolf, his two sons, Jonathan and Benjamin Wolf, his four step-children, Sarah Berger, Justine Henning, Sarah-Anne Shumann and Dara Henning and 10 grandchildren.
A funeral will be held at 10 a.m. Friday at KAM Isaiah Israel Congregation, 1100 E. Hyde Park Blvd and internment will follow at noon at Mt. Mayriv Cemetery, 3600 N. 3600 N. Narragansett Ave.