ALFRED GOTTCHALK (1930-2009)

Alfred Gottschalk was born in Oberwesel, Germany on March 7, 1930.  His father fled to New York in 1938 after narrowly escaping arrest by the Gestapo. Alfred and his mother joined him in 1939. After graduating from Brooklyn College, Gottschalk attended HUC-JIR (first in New York and then in Cincinnati), where he received his rabbinical ordination in 1957. The president of HUC-JIR, Nelson Glueck, took note of young Gottschalk and selected him from the ordination class to serve as dean of the fledgling Los Angeles campus. Alfred Gottschalk completed his doctorate at the University of Southern California (USC) in 1965 and simultaneously spearheaded an ambitious expansion and relocation of the Los Angeles campus to its present site adjacent to USC (1971). He served as Dean of the Los Angeles campus for twelve years.

Upon Glueck’s death in 1971, Gottschalk was elected to serve as HUC-JIR’s sixth president and, subsequently, the school’s chancellor. As president of HUC-JIR for a quarter century, Gottschalk guided the development and expansion of HUC-JIR’s four campuses in Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Los Angeles and New York, into vibrant resource centers of academic excellence for both scholars and laity. 

Gottschalk’s tenure as President and Chancellor effected historic milestones. He ordained the first woman rabbi in America (1972); the first woman cantor in America (1975); the first Reform rabbi in Israel (1980); and the first woman rabbi in Israel (1992). His efforts helped to pave the way for the entrance of women into the mainstream of the American Reform rabbinate and cantorate and set a precedent of gender equality in Reform Judaism.

Black and white photograph of Alfred Gottchalk.

Black and white photograph of Alfred Gottchalk. PC-5001, Folder 16. American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati, Ohio.