Walter Jacob

Walter Jacob ( born March 13, 1930 in Augsburg ) is a significant rabbis of American Reform Judaism. He was 40 years rabbi of Rodef Shalom Congregation in Pittsburgh / Pennsylvania, an expert of Progressive Judaism for the interpretation of Jewish religious law, halakha, and a central figure for the re-establishment of Liberal Judaism in Germany since the mid- 1990s.

Life and work

Walter Jacob was born into a German family of rabbis. He represents the 16th generation in a row. His father, Ernst I. Jacob was a rabbi in Augsburg, his grandfather Benno Jacob (1862-1945) in Göttingen and Dortmund. Benno Jacob is regarded as one of the great Bibelkommentaroren of Liberal Judaism in Germany.

1938 Walter Jacob fled with his family over England in the United States. In 1950, after his undergraduate studies (BA ) in Springfield, Missouri at Drury College, he studied in Cincinnati, Ohio at the Hebrew Union College and received a Master of Hebrew Letters and ordination as a rabbi. In 1961 he received his doctorate at Hebrew Union College in 1975 was followed by an honorary doctorate by the Hebrew Union College, 1990, a second by the Drury College.

From 1955 to 1957 was Jacob Jewish chaplain in the U.S. Air Force, and from 1957 to 1997 Rabbi of Rodef Shalom Congregation in Pittsburgh - first as an assistant rabbi ( until 1967 ) and then as senior rabbi. Since 1997 he takes part as Rabbi Emeritus. In 1997, he was introduced in Munich as an honorary chief rabbi of the Liberal Jewish Congregation Beth Shalom in Munich. In 1999 he founded together with Rabbi Walter Homolka, the Abraham Geiger College, a both scientific and practical community- oriented rabbinical seminary. It is the first of its kind after the closure of the College of Jewish Studies in Berlin by the Nazis in 1942. Nowadays it is connected as an affiliated institute of the University of Potsdam. Since then, he has been president of this college. His first three graduates received on 13 September 2006 and their Semicha were ordained by Rabbi Jacob. These included Dr. Toma Kucera, which the Liberal Jewish Community of Munich Beth Shalom has since hired as a congregational rabbi.

Walter Jacob has held numerous positions throughout his rabbinical career. From 1976-1990 he was Chairman of the Responsa Committee of the Central Conference of American Rabbis ( CCAR ), 1992-1994 president of the CCAR. From 1990-1994 Jacob was Vice President of the World Union for Progressive Judaism. Since 1989 he has been President of the International Institute for Progressive Halakhah Solomon B.Freehof. It develops position papers and policy texts on Jewish religious law from a Reform Jewish perspective and published responsa.

Rabbi Jacob has published numerous books and texts. Among the most important are from the series Studies in Progressive Halakhah, which he published until 2007 jointly with the Israeli Rabbi Moshe Zemer ( Tel Aviv).


  • Pope John Paul II honored him in 2005 with the Commander of the Pontifical Gregoriusorden