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Rabbi Joseph Ehrenkranz, Led Congregation Agudath Sholom For More Than 40 Years

Rabbi Joseph Ehrenkranz. Contributed photo.
Rabbi Joseph Ehrenkranz. Contributed photo.

Rabbi Joseph Ehrenkranz, who led Congregation Agudath Sholom in Stamford, for more than 40 years, died Feb. 23, 2014.

He was born in Newark, New Jersey in 1926.

A student of Rav Soloveitchick, he received ordination from Yeshiva University in 1949, and began working at Congregation Agudath Sholom in Stamford, in 1948. He served as senior Rabbi for more than 40 years. Under his leadership, the community flourished to become the largest Orthodox congregation in New England.

Rabbi Ehrenkranz spent a sabbatical year in Israel during the  Six-Day War in 1967, which led to his receiving the Mayor Teddy Kollek Award for service, and resulted in a two-year stint as national chairmanship of the Rabbinic Advisory Board for the United Jewish Appeal. Rabbi Ehrenkranz spent Passover of 1976 in Russia, conducting a large seder for the Jewish refuseniks in Moscow, which included Anatoly Sharansky. In 1978, he initiated the Peace-Pilgrimage to Cairo-Jerusalem at the invitation of President Anwar Sadat, an event that received front page New York Times coverage of his entire mission meeting with Sadat. In 1985, Rabbi Ehrenkranz was appointed as permanent representative to the United Nations NGO representing the Synagogue Council of America. He took many a stand  on human rights issues and the needs of the community at large.  Rabbi Ehrenkranz has served on numerous Mayoral committees including human rights, fair housing and interfaith cooperation. 

In 1990, Rabbi Ehrenkranz, met with Pope John Paul II. This meeting to assess Catholic-Jewish relations was the first of eight, face-to-face dialogues with Pope John Paul II.

Rabbi Ehrenkranz believed, in his words, that “the most important thing to us is world peace. You can’t have it without religious peace. And you can’t have religious peace without religious dialogue.”  He co-edited a book with David L.Coppola, Religion and Violence, Religion and Peace.

Rabbi Ehrenkranz was the co-founder of the Center for Christian Jewish Understanding at Sacred Heart University and served as its director from 1993 until 2008. In addition to an honorary doctorate received from Yeshiva University, in 2010, Sacred Heart University granted Rabbi Ehrenkranz an honorary doctorate and CCJU's prestigious Nostra Aetate Award for "his outstanding contributions to a world at peace."  Among his many ambitious undertakings were a series of study trips for Bishops and Rabbis to places such as Auschwitz and the Vatican, that were pivotal in mending the traditional divide between Christians and Jews.

Rabbi Ehrenkranz made aliyah four years ago and lived in Tel Aviv with his wife, Sandra, where he taught conversion classes for the Tzohar Institute.

He is survived by his wife and children, Bart Ehrenkranz, Doris Friedenberg , Laura Ehrenkranz and Bina Fendel, and stepchildren, Alan Glanzman, Michelle Wolfe and Howard Glanzman, as well as many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He was a cousin by marriage and close advisor to former U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT).

Funeral services will be held 2 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 25, at Congregation Agudath Sholom  301 Strawberry Hill Ave., Stamford. Burial will follow at Agudath Sholom Cemetery. 

Shiva will be observed Tuesday through Friday at Laura's home, 72 Pine Ridge Rd., Fairfield, and Saturday night through Monday morning at Doris's home, 1249 Sussex Rd., Teaneck, NJ. There will be minyanim in the evenings at 5:30 p.m. and in the morning at 7 o'clock.

Arrangements are under the direction of Thomas M. Gallagher Funeral Home 453 Shippan Ave., Stamford.

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