October 08, 2009 | By Sarah Steinberg
UPDATED 10/15/09 as tributes continue to come in from our board & staff. For more tributes & information on the life and career of Rabbi Loeb from those who knew him best, please visit Beth El Congregation.
We are heartbroken to report that Rabbi Mark Loeb, a former MAZON Board Chair and longtime board member, passed away on Wednesday, October 7. Loeb, Rabbi Emeritus at Beth El Congregation in Baltimore, was in Milan, enjoying his favorite things – opera & Judaism. Beth El issued the following statement:
It is with a profound sense of loss and sadness that we share with you the following news. Our Rabbi Emeritus, Rabbi Mark Loeb, died last night in Milan, Italy. He was there serving a congregation as its interim rabbi enjoying Milan’s culture, opera, and the many other things that he loved. We mourn his loss as a congregation and a community, and offer our sincerest sympathies to his family.
The details for Rabbi Loeb’s funeral are yet to be determined as we are waiting for information from Italy and his family. In the meantime, tonight, Thursday, October 8 between 6:30 – 7:30, we will be creating an opportunity for people to come together and to be with one another during this time of loss.
The following comes from current MAZON Board Chair Joel Jacob & MAZON President Eric Schockman:
He was truly an icon in his community. His ‘retirement’ party lasted over several days and it was evident that the universe loved this endearing, gentle soul. He was a visionary and non-conformist to the principles of Judaism he lived and breathed every day. He took great joy for example in boasting how he was one of the first Conservative rabbi s in the country to perform a ‘commitment ceremony’ for a same sex-couple who were long time members of his congregation. Mark bestowed the full dignity of the sacred vows we hold so dear in the Jewish religion. Just a few weeks ago, Joel and I received an email from Mark when we learned he would not be joining us for the upcoming board meeting. His email was typical Mark: he was excited about being in Milan, excited about administering pastoral care to a small Jewish community there and being in the epicenter of the world of opera he loved. We deduced from his short email that: his feet were grounded in the Judaism he relished and his head was in the melodic sounds of one of the birthplaces of musical opera.
Leonard Fein, MAZON’s founder, offers the following tribute:
Those of you who remember Mark know what an unusual and a thoughtful person he was. Others should know that he was an uncommonly broadminded man, whose love of Judaism at its best was only exceeded by his love of opera. (True.) I was startled and deeply saddened to receive Leslie’s grim news, and I very much hope that for all who knew him, his memory will, indeed, be for a blessing.
Former MAZON chair Rabbi Arnold Rachlis of University Synagogue in Irvine, CA, has these words:
Mark was an engaging, humorous and thoughtful “Renaissance man.” He was devoted to his congregants, MAZON, interfaith dialogue and a large, pluralistic, inclusive world.
MAZON board member Rabbi (Dr.) Richard Marker of Marker Goldsmith Philanthropy Advisors shares these memories:
Mark was a year behind me in the JTS rabbinical school. Back then, he was one of the most memorable student activists – at a time of student activism. He was forthright, and public, in his advocacy for civil rights legislation, and more than most, demonstrated verbally and personally the conviction of the natural alignment between commitment to the Jewish Tradition and liberal values. This character trait and passion, which I recall from 40+ years ago, were with him during his entire professional career. Zecher tzadik livrachah.
Though I was never lucky enough to meet Rabbi Loeb, I bore witness to his commitment to humanity & social justice through the many tributes received in his honor from Beth El members, during his retirement last year, and annually during the Passover & High Holy Days seasons. I close with a quote he gave last year to the Baltimore Sun, upon his last Passover at Beth El:
“Being released from suffering is not enough. The result of suffering is to come away with respect for those who suffer and not join those who offend them. You learn from your suffering and find a way to dedicate yourself to something important.”
Rest in peace, Rabbi Loeb. May your memory always be for a blessing.