Rabbi Morley Feinstein died April 25, 2021, at his home in Brentwood after suffering multiple myeloma for several years. He served University Synagogue as Senior Rabbi from 2002-2019, after which he retired due to his illness and became Rabbi Emeritus.
He and I became friends within minutes of meeting each other in 2002. We both realized that we shared common dreams of the direction our synagogue could go. Morley was familiar with University Synagogue, since he grew up on the west side of Los Angeles and was active in Jewish youth activities here. His father was Executive Director of Temple Emanuel in Beverly Hills.
Music was another area where we bonded. Morley had played viola in high school and was a fine singer. For his consecration to the pulpit, I commissioned Dr. Michael Isaacson to create a musical piece using the text from Pirkei Avot, “Make for yourself a Rav, and acquire for yourself a friend, and judge people according to their merits.” Morley and I sang the vocal duet together, creating a very special moment.
When he came to the University Synagogue pulpit after serving in South Bend, Indiana, I found him to be a brilliant and gifted teacher. His Hebrew was impeccable, and my favorite drashes of his were when he would read selected passages from the Torah portion of the week, simultaneously translating and commenting on them. And during B’nai Mitzvah services, he would find three words from the child’s Torah portion and weave a beautiful personal lesson geared towards that celebrant. All this was spontaneous, with no notes. His weekday adult classes on current events, especially during the pandemic, were highlights for many congregants.
Morley was generous with extending his teachings beyond the walls of his congregation. He spent thirty-four summers teaching at the camps of the Union for Reform Judaism. He served on the Los Angeles Council of Religious Leaders, was the treasurer of the Central Conference of American Rabbis and was a past president of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California.
When he was selected as a Senior Rabbinic Fellow of Jerusalem’s Shalom Hartman Institute, he told me it was like winning the Rabbinic lottery. He so loved learning — and it showed in his brilliant scholarship.
He so loved learning — and it showed in his brilliant scholarship.
But also brilliant was Morley’s heart, as he was a family man through and through. He had two accomplished sons from a previous marriage. One later became a physician and the other a Jewish educator. With his second wife, Dr. Margarete Myers Feinstein, a historian and professor at Loyola Marymount University, Morley raised two twin daughters. I will never forget visiting Margarete and Morley when the girls were born. I held one of the infants and started sobbing. I was so happy for them. The girls are graduating high school next month and are off to college in the fall. Morley knew that his brilliant and beautiful daughters would have a bright future.
Rabbi Morley Feinstein is survived by his wife, Dr. Margarete; children Aaron (Shira), Ari (Rachel), Eliana and Renata; his grandchildren, Mika Ruth, Jacob and Noah; and his siblings, Dr. Barney and Sheila Meyerwitz.
Zeicher Tzadik livracha — May the memory of this righteous soul be a blessing!
Cantor Jay I Frailich is Cantor Emeritus of Wilshire Boulevard Temple – University Campus.