Rabbi Dr. Jerome Blass, longtime religious leader of Cong. Beth Israel of Northern Valley in Bergenfield, family counselor, and former columnist for this newspaper, died last Friday.
"He served the synagogue for 50 years and wrote the column in the Standard for about ‘0 years," remembers his son, Robert, who noted that when his father retired from congregational life, the family moved to Englewood.
Rabbi Jerome Blass
Coming to Cong. Beth Israel in 1949,the rabbi oversaw the building of the congregation’s first home, watching its membership grow to more than 400 families. The Conservative synagogue closed last year.
"He had a tremendous impact on the community," said his son, "particularly through his sermons."
Rabbi Lawrence Troster, who took over the reins of the congregation in 1999, recalled that in the aftermath of the devastating fire in 1984 that destroyed the shul building, "Rabbi Blass was instrumental in keeping the community together. It could have just disappeared."
"There were discussions about what would happen," said Robert Blass. "Keeping the community together was of paramount importance to my father."
"He was well respected," said Troster, recalling that his predecessor kept a handwritten record listing every life-cycle event in the congregation.
He was also active in other areas of community life, reaching out to clergy of all faiths.
"He loved people and he loved teaching," said his son. "He wanted to make a positive impact on people’s lives. When he began to practice psychology, it was almost an outgrowth of his congregational counseling experience," he said. "It was yet another instrument to improve the lives of so many."
Standard editor Rebecca Boroson said she remembers being impressed by the "good sense" evident in Rabbi Blass’s "Family Counselor" columns. A psychologist in private practice, she said, "he found a way to incorporate Jewish teachings into many answers to problems brought to him."
Rabbi Blass was born in Mount Vernon, N.Y. He graduated from Yeshiva College and received his rabbinic ordination from the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary of Yeshiva University. He later earned his doctorate in psychology from Fordham University.
The rabbi is survived by his wife, Rita; sons David and his wife, Sheryl, Robert and his wife, Alice, and Joel and his wife, Emma; grandchildren Michelle and Brian Goldwasser, Jason and Michelle Blass, Adam, Elizabeth, Samuel, Sara, Philip, Jenny, Lael, and Saadya Blass; great grand-daughter, Rena Goldwasser; and two sisters, Jeanne Orentlicher and May Zeldin.