Baruch Korff, Nixons rabbi and activist, dies of cancer at 81

NEW YORK — Rabbi Baruch Korff, a longtime Jewish community activist known as "Nixon's rabbi," died July 26 at his home in Providence, R.I.

Korff, 81, died of pancreatic cancer.

Born in Ukraine, Korff was a link in an unbroken chain of rabbis in his family that dated back to the 11th century scholar Rashi. Another ancestor was the Baal Shem Tov, the 18th century founder of the Chassidic movement.

After moving to the United States in 1926, Korff studied in yeshivas and began to devote himself to Jewish community welfare.

When World War II broke out, he petitioned European dignitaries, U.S. congressmen and Supreme Court justices on behalf of Jews in Nazi concentration camps. He even held clandestine negotiations with representatives of Gestapo head Heinrich Himmler about the purchase of Jews from Germany.

Korff continued his work for world Jewry after the war, presenting a petition with more than 500,000 signatures to the U.S. government urging that Hungarian Jews be permitted to enter Palestine.

During the 1968 presidential campaign, Korff developed a personal relationship with Nixon. The rabbi had an influence on Nixon's strong support for Israel and on efforts to allow Soviet Jews to emigrate.

When the Watergate scandal broke in 1973, Korff staunchly defended Nixon, founding the President Nixon Justice Fund and the National Citizens Committee for Fairness for the Presidency.

Last month, in what many have called a death-bed publicity gambit, Korff alleged that television journalist Diane Sawyer was "Deep Throat," the inside source that leaked information about Watergate to the Washington Post. Sawyer, who scoffed at the claim, was an assistant in the Nixon press office at the time.

"At my death bed I can afford to speak the truth," Korff reportedly had said. Korff is the author of a book, "The President and I," that was released this year.

In Providence, Korff had acted as a consultant to Brown University in conjunction with the school's acquisition of his extensive archives.