Please remember in your prayers Rabbi Max A. Shapiro, rabbi emeritus of Temple Israel, Minneapolis, and co-founder and former director of the Center for Jewish-Christian Learning at the University of St. Thomas.
Shapiro, who worked locally and nationally to promote social justice and religious tolerance, died at his Minnetonka home Friday, Oct. 16. He was 92.
Shapiro served at Temple Israel from 1955 to 1985 and directed the Center for Jewish-Christian Learning from 1985 until his second retirement in 1996.
Services will be held at 11 a.m. today, Tuesday, Oct. 20, at Temple Israel, 2324 Emerson Ave. S. Shiva will be held there at 7 p.m. today and tomorrow.
“This is a deep loss for Temple Israel and for each one of us,” said Rabbi Marcia Zimmerman, who followed Shapiro as the temple’s senior rabbi. “He loved this congregation, and he touched so many lives here and throughout the broader community. Zichrono Livracha – May his memory be for a blessing.”
Shapiro was a close friend of the late Monsignor Terrence Murphy, the former president and chancellor of St. Thomas. With support from Jewish and Catholic benefactors led by Sidney Cohen and Thomas Coughlan, they founded the center following a trip they took together to the Holy Land and Rome.
When the Center for Jewish-Christian Learning was launched in the summer of 1985, Shapiro predicted that it would “be a place where Christians and Jews can come together to understand and respect each other’s traditions and points of view. It will be devoted to ecumenical dialogue and a place where ethical, moral and social issues can be discussed in frank and open interchange.”
“He brought interfaith dialogue to a new intellectual level within the Twin Cities, Temple Israel’s Zimmerman told the St. Paul Pioneer Press over the weekend.
In 1996 the Center for Jewish-Christian Learning joined with the St. John’s University Jay Phillips Chair in Jewish Studies to become the Jay Phillips Center for Jewish Christian Learning. In March it was renamed the Jay Phillips Center for Interfaith Learning to reflect its expanded mission to combat prejudice and promote interfaith learning and friendship among people of various religions.
As associate director of the center for the past 18 years, Karen Schierman came to know Shapiro well. She shared these thoughts and memories in an essay written over the weekend:
“Rabbi Shapiro, my dear rabbi, esteemed colleague, mentor, loving friend — all of these characteristics to the ‘max’ — who could have possibly been more collegial than you? To have worked alongside you will always remain the highlight of my career. And this was what you exemplified so perfectly: working side by side. Words cannot convey my heartfelt gratitude for your wisdom and guidance.
“We spoke so often of the early years of the center — your dream to offer ‘blockbuster’ programs. Your work in Jewish-Christian relations was unmatched in the nation during your tenure as founding director and courageous leader of the Center for Jewish-Christian Learning. From Abba Eban to Elie Weissel to Joseph Cardinal Bernardin, and so many more stimulating and provocative speakers, under your guidance the center offered profound opportunities for the University of St. Thomas and the Twin Cities community. Thank you.
“With joy, I remember you as vibrant, amazingly intelligent, kind, thoughtful and loving man — with such a sharp memory. From poems of your childhood from the Boston Latin School, to stories of your many educational experiences, to your military stint in North Africa during World War II, to your decision to become a rabbi, to your interest in Jewish-Christian relations for many years preceding the Second Vatican Council, and to your family tales. What a treasure trove of memories you shared with me. Thank you.
“I know that Temple Israel and the Jewish community at large will always honor you and will remain extremely grateful and blessed for your many years of faithful service. The University of St. Thomas and the Catholic community, both locally and nationally, also will remember and honor you as a leading pioneer in Jewish-Christian relations.
“Please know that the center that began under your leadership, now known as the Jay Phillips Center for Interfaith Learning, will continue to draw inspiration from your legacy — and not only when we gather in the room that we have named after you!
“I will miss you Max, and treasure your memory always. Rest in peace now in the love of God.”
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be sent to the Rabbi Max A. Shapiro Chair for Rabbinic Scholars at Temple Israel or the Jay Phillips Center for Interfaith Learning at St. Thomas.