Wheeling has lost a valued community leader in the cause of ecumenism and religious freedom with the passing of Rabbi Daniel Lowy, who died Thursday, Sept. 30, at the age of 85.
Lowy, who was rabbi emeritus of Wheeling's Temple Shalom and director of its archives, made what was to be one of his final public appearances Tuesday, July 27, when he spoke at the Ohio County Public Library's Lunch With Books program and shared stories of Wheeling's Jewish community.
I spoke with the rabbi again about a week later, and he was his usual self - still upbeat and enthusiastic about his projects and life in general. I, along with many others in the community, will miss those conversations and the interaction with that vibrant, learned man.
Lowy served Temple Shalom from 1974-97, and his 21-year tenure was the longest in the temple's history.
During his talk at the library, Lowy mentioned that a highlight of his term was a special Jewish-Catholic service held at Temple Shalom in 1984 to commemorate the Vatican's recognition of the state of Israel. More than 500 people attended the service, with the Most Rev. Bernard Schmitt, then bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, delivering the sermon, the rabbi recalled.
During his rabbinate, Lowy said he sought "to create a better understanding between our Jewish congregation and the Christian congregations of Wheeling." He commented, "I believe very strongly in ecumenism. At the temple, it's been an open door. I have been to practically every major church in the city of Wheeling because I felt it was important. It was my personal contribution to Wheeling and all of the members."
Generations of congregants at Temple Shalom will remember Lowy for his teaching and his extensive knowledge of the history of Judaism and the application of its tenets in the modern world. People of other faiths were enriched and enlightened by the seders that he conducted at many Wheeling churches over the years.
In addition, hundreds of young women in the community have a better understanding and appreciation for Judaism and other world religions through the comparative religion courses that Rabbi Lowy taught at the former Mount de Chantal Visitation Academy in Wheeling for over a quarter of a century.
The rabbi truly understood the value of ecumenism and the importance of recognizing and respecting the beliefs of other faith groups.
One of my most vivid memories is of touring a large Hindu temple in Monroeville, Pa., in the company of Rabbi Lowy, a Roman Catholic nun and his class of Mount students. To top off our international-ecumenical experience, we ended the day by having dinner at one of the rabbi's favorite Mexican restaurants.
Countless other area residents also had their world views expanded by the travelogues that Lowy offered at the temple and other venues as he recounted the international tours and adventures that he and his wife, Zelda, who preceded him in death, had taken. When he was well into his 80s, he continued to take ambitious tours to far-off sites, including China and other nations of the Far East, and enjoyed adventures that would have exhausted many younger travelers.
Illness curtailed the rabbi's travels in the final year of his life. But, after the library program, he remarked proudly that he had missed only one planned tour - a visit that he had hoped to take to Australia.
A native of New York, Lowy came to call Wheeling home, and we, his neighbors, are better for it. Our horizons have been broadened and our understanding has been deepened. Rest in peace, rabbi.
Linda Comins can be reached via e-mail at: Comins@news-register.net