Rabbi Herschel Schacter, a national Jewish leader and the only Jewish chaplain present at the liberation of the Buchenwald concentration camp, died Thursday at the age of 95.
The first rabbi to be ordained by Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, the founder of Modern Orthodoxy, the resident of Riverdale led the Mosholu Jewish Center in the Bronx for more than 50 years and held leadership roles in numerous national Jewish organizations, including the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, which he chaired from 1967 to 1969.
A statement from Richard Stone, chair, and Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chair of the Conference, described the rabbi as “an exemplary leader who often spoke of his `deep commitment to Jewish inclusiveness and unity.’”
The rabbi’s son, Rabbi Jacob J. Schacter, university professor of Jewish history and Jewish thought and senior scholar at Yeshiva University’s Center for the Jewish Future, and daughter, Miriam Schacter, a psychotherapist, recalled: “Our father modeled for us the great importance of caring for other Jews and devoting one’s life and efforts to the Jewish people.”
Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, president of the Rabbinical Council of America, described the senior Rabbi Schacter as “a warm, friendly man and an orator’s orator, someone his colleagues would turn to [for guidance on] speeches and sermons.”
While serving as a chaplain in the VIII Corps of the Third Army of the United States Armed Forces, Rabbi Schacter participated in the liberation of the Buchenwald concentration camp and brought comfort to many survivors. He then led a UNRRA Kindertransport from Buchenwald to Switzerland after World War II.
In 1956, he was a member of the first rabbinic delegation to the USSR, and he escorted a transport of Hungarian refugees from Austria to the U.S.
His communal activities included president of the Mizrachi-Hapoel Hamizrachi; founding chairman of the American Jewish Conference on Soviet Jewry; chairman of the Chaplaincy Commission of the Jewish Welfare Board; and director of Rabbinic Services at Yeshiva University.
In addition to his son and daughter, he is survived by his wife, Pnina (nee Gewirtz, who he married in 1948), four grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
Rabbi Schacter should not be confused with Rabbii Hershel Schachter, who is rosh yeshivah of Yeshiva University’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary.