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Rabbi Morton Yolkut, 70, Served Shaare Shamayim in 40-Year Career

December 4, 2013 By:
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Rabbi Morton Yolkut

Rabbi Morton F. Yolkut, who served three pulpits over a long career, the last of which, Shaare Shamayim-Beth Judah in Philadelphia, he retired from in 2008 after 13 years as religious leader, died Nov. 11.

The St. Louis native was 70 years old; he was buried in  Beit Shemesh, Israel.

It all started in 1966 with his ordination from the Hebrew Theological College of Skokie, Ill., from which he graduated a year after earning his bachelor’s degree cum laude from Roos­evelt University. 

Two years later, he would earn a master’s degree in American history at Northwestern University.

His synagogue forums traveled from West to East: He first served Congregation Anshe Kanesses Israel in Chicago, where he held his post for five years; in addition, he was a religious studies professor at DePaul University.

He moved on to Southfield, Mich., serving ­B’nai David synagogue for 18 years; while there he became vice president of the Board of Rabbis and penned a column from an Orthodox perspective for the Detroit Jewish News.

Well-versed in the field of medical ethics, he addressed that topic in speeches at hospitals in Detroit, where he was on the Chaplaincy Commission of Sinai Hospital.

He was also the Jewish representative at the ecumenical National Prayer Service held at the second-term inauguration of President George W. Bush, whom he had met two years earlier in a rabbinic gathering held at the White House.

After retiring from Shaare Shamayim, the rabbi taught modern Jewish history at Temple University’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.

On a national plane, Yolkut was on the Rabbinical Council of America as well as involved with the Federation of Traditional Rabbis, Rabbinic Cabinets of State of Israel Bonds, United Jewish Appeal, Jewish National Fund and ORT.

Recalls his son, David, “He was a principled, steady leader, not afraid to stand his ground on the side of tradition and what he thought was right — even at the expense of his own popularity.”

His work and character were attested to in a tribute delivered by Rep. Robert A. Borski before the House of Representatives in 1996.

The rabbi is survived by his wife, the former Aline Schles­inger; another son, Rabbi Daniel of Congregation Poale Zedeck in Pittsburgh; and eight grandchildren.

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