Rabbi Irwin Groner, a former president of the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly, died Dec. 30 at a Detroit hospital. He was 81 and suffered from Parkinson’s disease.
Groner, who led Congregation Shaarey Zedek in Detroit for more than four decades, guided the Rabbinical Assembly, the international association of Conservative rabbis, from 1990 to 1992. He called it “the highlight of my professional career,” according to an obituary in the Detroit Jewish News.
Groner was named the senior rabbi at Shaarey Zedek in 1967 — a year after his predecessor, Rabbi Morris Adler, was shot and killed by a young congregant. The Conservative congregation named Groner rabbi for life in 1978 and emeritus rabbi in 2003.
“He was a true giant in the rabbinical world,” Rabbi Joseph Krakoff of Shaarey Zedek told the Detroit Jewish News. “He was an inspiring teacher, a magnificent preacher and a man who truly understood the depth of the human condition.”
Groner began his career in Little Rock, Ark., at Agudath Achim Congregation when anti-Semitism magnified by the civil rights movement threatened the synagogue and its rabbi. During efforts to desegregate the city’s schools, Groner refused to cancel services due to bomb threats.
He served as a member of the board of governors for the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, the Rabbinic Cabinet of the United Jewish Appeal and the Board of Governors of the United Synagogue. He also was active with area interfaith programs.
Groner was ordained at the Hebrew Theological College of Chicago, his native city. He graduated from the University of Chicago. — jta