Al Vorspan z”l: Justice, Justice You Shall Pursue

Image: Al Vorspan, image from

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.

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Rabbi Ruth Adar is a teaching rabbi in San Leandro, CA. She has many hats: rabbi, granny, and ham radio operator K6RAV. She blogs at and teaches at Jewish Gateways in Albany, CA.

4 thoughts on “Al Vorspan z”l: Justice, Justice You Shall Pursue”

  1. Al Vorspan was one of my Dad’s friends and colleague. The picture you posted caught me up short. This is how I remember Al Vorspan. So sad to hear of his passing.

      1. My Dad was one the pioneers in the Reform movement, starting in the 50’s. He was in the first class to receive a Masters in Religious Education from HUC in NYC. He was one of the original organizers of NATE. In the 1930’s, he had been the social director at the 92nd Street Y in NY and ran their summer camp as well. He felt strongly that the way to engage kids Jewishly, was through experiences at camp and in youth group. He served on the UAHC camp board and got the first camps up and running and onward. He created the first summer work program for teens, at Great Barrington. That concept has expanded to be the many iterations of the Avodah programs. He served on the Rabbinic Pension Board and was able to convince that board to include religious educators..and I think other professionals…just do not remember. He served as their financial advisor for decades. He also had a masters in economics from CCNY and his advocation was stock market analysis. He was still traveling to NYC for meetings, in his late 70’s.

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