Categotry Archives: Religious Leaders


Jeff Smith


Categories: Business, Media, Religious Leaders, Writers/Editors

jsmith2.jpgJeff Smith, the United Methodist minister who shot to stardom in the 1980s as the “The Frugal Gourmet,” died on July 7 of natural causes. He was 65.
The Tacoma, Wash., native earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Puget Sound and a master’s degree from Drew University. Ordained as a minister in 1965, Smith spent the next six years as a chaplain at the University of Puget Sound, where he taught a course called “Food as Sacrament and Celebration.”
From 1972 to 1983, Smith owned and operated the Chaplain’s Pantry Restaurant and Gourmet Shop, an establishment that also served as a catering service and cooking school. His teaching skills, kind demeanor and culinary acumen were so renowned that the local PBS affiliate, KTPS-TV, offered him his first show, “Cooking Fish Creatively.” It was later renamed “The Frugal Gourmet.”
Smith moved the show’s production to Chicago in the early 1980s, then made a promotional appearance on “The Phil Donahue Show” that garnered more than 45,000 orders for his cookbook. Soon “The Frugal Gourmet” was the most-watched cooking show in the United States, drawing up to 15 million viewers on 300 stations. His 12 cookbooks sold millions of copies and became best-sellers in that genre. He ended every show with his trademark sign-off: “I bid you peace.”
In 1997, Smith’s television career ended in scandal when seven men filed a lawsuit claiming he had sexually abused them when they were teenagers. Although Smith denied the allegations and was never charged with a crime, his cooking show was pulled off the air. Smith and his insurance company eventually settled the suit for $5 million.


Rabbi Bill

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Categories: Actors, Education, Hollywood, Religious Leaders, Writers/Editors

bkramer.jpgWilliam Mordecai Kramer, a theologian and scholar who was featured in the documentary “Beyond the Pulpit: Facets of a Rabbi,” died on June 8 of complications of diabetes and congestive heart failure. He was 84.
The Cleveland native was ordained in 1944. A lover of knowledge, he earned seven university degrees, including two doctorates from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.
During his 63 years in the rabbinate, Kramer serviced temples in Pittsfield, Mass., Cleveland, St. Louis and Los Angeles, then dedicated more than three decades to the Temple Beth Emet in Burbank, Calif. Although the Reform Jewish leader did bar mitzvahs and funerals, his specialty was weddings; it was reported that he lost count after officiating at his 10,000th one.
Kramer was a licensed family therapist, the editor of the Western States Jewish History magazine and a lecturer at Hebrew Union College, the University of Judaism, the University of Southern California, UCLA, Los Angeles City College and California State, Northridge. He occasionally worked as an actor, playing rabbi roles in TV episodes of “Sisters” and “L.A. Law,” and in the 1988 film “The Seventh Sign.”
In his “spare” time, the renaissance rabbi wrote for a variety of journals and hosted numerous radio and TV programs. His final project was a book on Albert Einstein’s life in Southern California during the early 1930s.


Samuel Iwry


Categories: Education, Religious Leaders

siwry.jpgSamuel Iwry, one of the leading authorities on the Dead Sea Scrolls, died on May 8 of a stroke. He was 93.
Born and raised in Poland, Iwry was a direct descendant of Rebbe Israel Shem Tov, the founder of Judaism’s Hasidic Movement. He graduated from Warsaw University, the Higher Institute for Judaic Studies and the Teachers College of Wilno, then left the country in 1939 to escape the Nazis.
In 1941, Iwry was recruited by future Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion to serve in Shanghai as the Far East representative for the Jewish Agency for Palestine. While helping refugees escape and return to Palestine, Iwry was imprisoned and tortured by the Japanese occupying forces. He was rescued by Nina Rochman, a hospital administrator who persuaded local authorities to release Iwry for medical treatment.
Samuel and Nina married in 1946 and immigrated to America. Once settled in Baltimore, Iwry worked on his doctoral studies at Johns Hopkins University under archaeologist William Foxwell Albright. His traditional Jewish education and knowledge of Semitic languages proved useful when the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered. After intense study, he and Albright became the first scholars to identify and authenticate the ancient religious texts. They also wrote the first doctoral dissertation on the scrolls.
Iwry instructed literature students at Baltimore Hebrew College from 1947 to 1985, and spent four decades teaching Near Eastern studies at Johns Hopkins until his retirement in 1991. Iwry’s autobiography, “To Wear the Dust of War: From Warsaw to Shanghai to the Promised Land,” will be published in August.


Akhmad Kadyrov

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Categories: Military, Politicians, Religious Leaders

Chechen President Akhmad Kadyrov was assassinated on May 9 during a Victory Day celebration in Grozny. He was 52.
Kadyrov was killed while attending a parade commemorating the 59th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany during World War II. A bomb planted inside a concrete pillar underneath the V.I.P. section of the stadium exploded, killing Kadyrov and at least five other people. On Sunday, the Kremlin appointed Chechen Prime Minister Sergei B. Abramov as acting president.
Kadyrov was studying at a Muslim university in Oman when a rebellion in Chechnya forced him to return home. During the first Chechen war (1994-1995), he rose to the position of chief mufti, or Islamic religious leader. Kadyrov then proclaimed a jihad (holy war) against Russia and commanded a rebel force fighting for Chechen independence.
When the Russians withdrew and Chechnya gained autonomy, Kadyrov broke away from the rebel factions because he felt the resistance leaders were fostering Islamic radicalism. Aslan Maskhadov, the elected president of the republic, branded him “enemy number one” and took away his mufti ranking.
In 1999, Russian troops again invaded Chechnya, and ousted Maskhadov. Russian President Vladimir V. Putin then appointed Kadyrov the administrative head of the new pro-Moscow government in Chechnya. Last October, the former rebel leader was elected the republic’s president.
Kadyrov made many enemies for siding with the Russians during the 1999 invasion, and Sunday’s bomb blast was not the first attempt on his life. In 2002, two car bombs destroyed his headquarters in Grozny. He was not there at the time, but the failed assassination attempt killed 72 people. Last May, a suicide bomber tried to murder Kadyrov at a religious festival in the village of Iliskhan-Yurt. That attack also missed its mark, but killed 17.


Sheikh Ahmed Yassin


Categories: Criminals, Religious Leaders

Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the founder and spiritual leader of the Islamic group Hamas, died on March 20. He was killed when an Israeli helicopter fired three missiles at him as he left a Gaza City mosque. He was in his mid-60s.
Born in what is now known as the Israeli city of Ashkelon, Yassin was paralyzed in childhood in a sporting accident. He grew up in Palestinian refugee camps in the Gaza Strip, studied at Al-Azhar University in Cairo, then became a teacher and spiritual leader.
The quadriplegic preacher founded Hamas in 1987 as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. Hamas, which provides education and health care to impoverished Palestinians, is also responsible for scores of suicide bombings and other deadly attacks on Israelis. The militant group rejects the existence of Israel and seeks to establish an Islamic state in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank.
When Hamas was formally outlawed by Israel in 1989, Yassin and 200 others were jailed in a mass raid. He was convicted of organizing attacks on civilians and ordering the kidnappings of two Israeli soldiers. Although he was sentenced to life in prison, Yassin was released in 1997 when a botched assassination attempt in Jordan forced Israel to release dozens of Palestinian prisoners.
In Sept. 2003, the Israeli military dropped a bomb on a building where he was meeting with top Hamas leaders. Everyone inside escaped and Yassin received a slight wound on his hand.

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