Author: Ryan

The Legacy of Philip Hiat

Philip Hiat, Rabbi Who Forged Bonds With Other Faiths, Dies at 95

For Philip Hiat, Judaism and other faiths were all expressions of his personality.

NEW YORK (JTA) — Philip Hiat, the legendary Reform rabbi who forged friendships with Jews and Muslims, Christians and others, died at his home in Manhattan on Sunday night. He was 95.

Rabbi Hiat, born in 1903 in Poland, was the last survivor of his family that escaped the Nazi occupation of his homeland. He was one of the last Jewish families to be deported from the country, and it was his parents’ attempt to save their Jewish life that made him leave. He spent his childhood and youth in Poland, then moved in with his aunt, in the town of Stryj. He attended the local Hebrew school, and was known for his ability to speak the language with ease.

He converted to Judaism in 1924, and by 1936 Hiat was working at the local synagogue, where he was taught the German language by Rabbi Max Bauer, a renowned German-born scholar. His work was so successful that eventually he was appointed its rabbi, a post he held until his death.

Hiat’s work with the Jewish community would be continued by his son-in-law, Rabbi Avi Weiss. The two married and eventually had four children. Rabbi Weiss died in 1974, and a month later, Rabbi Hiat was ordained and served Torah study as a rabbi for the Reform movement. Hiat was at the center of the movement’s religious wars, beginning in 1938, when he joined with the liberal Rabbinical Alliance to defend his beliefs.

The following year, he became a member of the executive committee of the International Congress of Religious Liberty, whose annual meeting he attended in 1938. That same year his father died, and he took over his father’s newspaper. He joined the movement’s liberal branch, the American Jewish Congress, and helped it to

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