Uziel Adini, an educator and administrator who won admirers across the country for his dedication, innovation and energy for Jewish education, died on May 27 at the age of 83. Adini — Uzi, to those who knew him — had battled leukemia for some time.
Adini, wrote Joseph Davis, a professor of Jewish studies at Gratz College, “was one of the leading Jewish educational administrators in the United States from the 1970s until his retirement in 2007.”
Jonathan Sarna, the famed scholar of American Jewish history, wrote in an academic forum last week that “we extend deepest condolences to Prof. Adini’s family, colleagues, students and friends.”
Adini was born in Mandatory Palestine in 1937. His parents, Leah and Yisrael Adini, were active members of Ha-Poel Ha-Mizrachi, the Religious Zionist Workers Party, and his mother was the first religious woman to address the Zionist Congress. All four of Adini’s grandparents died in Auschwitz; his parents, and the parents of his wife, Tamar (Löw) Adini, all lived and died in Tel Aviv.
Though Adini left Israel for Philadelphia in the 1960s, never to return for an extended period, Israel was entwined with everything he did.
“Israel was instilled in every aspect of his life,” said his daughter, Tali Adini.
After completing his Israel Defense Forces service, Adini earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Bible, Hebrew literature and education at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Following that, he and his wife packed up and left for Philadelphia, where Adini studied for a doctorate of education at Dropsie College.
His dissertation, completed in 1969, was a preview of what was to come: It was about the transmission of Jewish values to high school students through Hebrew literature. Tamar Adini knew something about that; for 28 years, she led the Hebrew, Jewish Studies and Foreign languages department at Akiba Hebrew Academy (now the Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy).
In 1965, Adini began teaching at Gratz, an association that he would maintain for the rest of his life. At a time when Hebrew language education was flourishing, Adini was an expert in contemporary and Biblical Hebrew, and he instructed students at Gratz as well as at Temple University. He was a beloved teacher, according to his daughter.
“He really knew how to tell a story, how to captivate an audience,” Tali Adini said. “So many of his students have come up to me and said, ‘He was the best teacher I’ve ever had.’”
In addition to his time as a professor at Gratz, Adini spent 23 years as the director of the Jewish Community High School of Gratz College, and he eventually served as the school’s vice president.
Adini loved riddles and jokes, and had a lovely singing voice. He led seders, and when family members celebrated milestones, he would come up with a special gematria of the person’s name. His weekly recitation of the Kiddush, Tali Adini said, will be greatly missed.
Adini is survived by his wife, Tamar; his brother, Ami; his daughters, Tali and Ronit; and four grandchildren.
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