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Remembering Rabbi Isaac Furman z”l

Mourning Rabbi Isaac Furman


Congregation Beth El mourns the passing of our beloved Rabbi, Isaac Furman. A brilliant scholar, he was ordained by Yeshiva University. Rabbi Furman initially led a small congregation but realized early on that teaching was his true calling. He taught linguistics at the college level in Buffalo but was recruited by Rabbi Harry Kellman to run the Beth El Religious School. Rabbi Furman came to Beth El in 1961. He spent the rest of his life in Jewish education. In his first year at Beth El, Rabbi Furman started the Beth El Academy, which was renamed the Kellman, and later Kellman-Brown Academy. At one point, when Rabbi Furman was running both the Religious School and the Academy, the student population reached nearly 1000 students. Rabbi Furman knew every one by name.

Rabbi Furman was a devoted family man. He and his wife Molly were true partners, and Molly herself was a guide to three generations of Jewish children at Beth El. Rabbi Furman and Molly raised their daughters, Esther and Phyllis in Camden and Cherry Hill, and took great pride in their children’s accomplishments. Through Esther and Phyllis, the Furmans were blessed with six grandchildren and eleven great-grandchildren.

Revered for his encyclopedic knowledge, Rabbi Furman was truly a master of Jewish text. He was also well versed in philosophy, history and science, believing that a Jew must be comfortable in both religious and secular areas of study. Still, most people will remember Rabbi Furman for his humor and warmth. Even though he was more learned than most, he knew how to make Judaism accessible, intriguing, meaningful and fun. Humor was indeed one of his most effective teaching tools.

Rabbi Furman never really retired. He remained active in Beth El and the Academy until relatively recently, and he was proud to call South Jersey his home. After Molly passed away, Rabbi Furman chose to stay in Cherry Hill, even though his children live in New York. His children realized that Beth El and the Academy were his community and, in spite of years of commuting back and forth, they knew that he was happiest here. Rabbi Isaac Furman passed peacefully in his own home earlier this morning.

In the pantheon of legendary leaders of the South Jersey Jewish community, Rabbi Furman stands shoulder to shoulder with the greatest. His wisdom not only guided the lives of children, but their parents, too. He was universally respected by his colleagues in the clergy, and was especially loved by the clergy and professional staff he worked with at Beth El. All those whose lives he touched are deeply saddened by his loss, but all are equally grateful for what he shared with them. His impact on our hearts and minds is indeed indelible. May Rabbi Furman’s memory be a blessing for generations to come.