Image: Al Vorspan, image from ReformJudaism.org.
I don’t often use the word “tzaddik.” A tzaddik (tsah-DEEK) is a person who seems almost to embody Torah, his righteousness is so great. A true tzaddik is also a person with the humility to laugh at himself and to laugh with others. There just aren’t many of those people, so it’s always sad when we lose them.
Al Vorspan was one of those rare individuals, and I was sad to hear of his death on February 16, 2019. I only had the pleasure of meeting him once, when I worked for the Union of Reform Judaism (at that time it was called the Union of American Hebrew Congregations) but I remember his broad smile and his warmth. He leaves a multifaceted legacy, the most tangible part of which is the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism which he helped to found.
I did not know him well enough to do him justice, but I can recommend two articles that include some great stories about the man, by people who knew him well:
Al Vorspan was a Jewish Giant of Justice by Rabbi Jeff Salkin
Remembering Al Vorspan z”l: The Prophet who Loved to Laugh by Aron Hirt-Manheimer
Zikkrono livracha: May his memory always be for a blessing.