Thursday, June 30, 2005


Beloved Teaneck Rabbi Louis Sigel Dies at 81
Tuesday, June 28, 2005
By Brian Aberback, Staff Writer

TEANECK—George Sturm was searching for a synagogue for his family to join when he heard Rabbi Louis J. Sigel deliver a sermon at Temple Emeth in Teaneck.

Within minutes, Sturm knew his search was over.

“We heard him on the pulpit and it was extraordinary,” Sturm said, remembering the sermon from 37 years ago. “It was so informed and so beautifully communicated and structured and so non-doctrinaire.”

When Daniel Kirsch moved to North Jersey, he asked a rabbi from Rockland County, N.Y., for advice about choosing a temple. “You have to join Lou Sigel’s congregation,” Kirsch recalled the rabbi telling him. “He’s the best there is.”

Sturm and Kirsch were among countless congregants, family and friends who paid tribute on Monday to Sigel, who died Sunday at age 81.

Sigel was rabbi of Temple Emeth from 1960 to 1992, living in Teaneck during that time. He moved to Hackensack after retiring.

Those who knew Sigel spoke of his seemingly infinite knowledge of Jewish scripture, his passion for civil rights and his devotion to his congregation. He was also involved in the Reform Movement and served as president of a number of rabbinical organizations.

“He was the best thing since sliced bread,” said his daughter, Debbie Rutz. “He had an ability to touch both the young and the old. He really touched the community.”

Sigel’s influence was felt by children as well as adults. Kirsch said at least a half-dozen young congregants went on to become rabbis, including his daughter, Jennifer.

Sigel’s son-in-law, Ken Rutz, said he recently came across a binder filled with thank-you notes and pictures from hundreds of children. “He was down-to-earth,” Rutz said. “He could talk their language. He could make the complexities of life simple.”

Sigel was born in Derby, Conn. His father was an Orthodox rabbi. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Yale University and then enrolled in Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati. He had moved from Orthodox to Reform Judaism when he was ordained in 1951.

In addition to his daughter and son-in-law, both of Teaneck, Sigel is survived by his wife of 51 years, Miriam, of Hackensack; another daughter and son-in-law, Judy and David Fox of Teaneck, and four grandchildren.

A service is scheduled for noon today at Temple Emeth, 1666 Windsor Road.


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