Melbourne Harris, former Emanu-El assistant rabbi, dies at 100

An Oakland native who briefly served as assistant rabbi of Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco has died.

Melbourne F. Harris died in Sylvania, Ohio, on Sept. 30. He was 100.

Born in Oakland on Dec. 24, 1903, Harris graduated from the University of Cincinnati and was ordained by Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.

In 1929, he married Leora Davis, and they remained married until her death in 1983. He then married Constance Levison Krohngold, who died eight years later.

Harris returned to the Bay Area for a few years to serve as assistant rabbi at Emanu-El after his ordination, but then moved back to Ohio, where he would spend the rest of his life.

In addition to serving as a civilian chaplain in World War II, Harris served as associate rabbi at Temple Tifereth Israel in Cleveland for almost a decade. He served under Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver, who was renowned for addressing the United Nations in 1947 on the need for a Jewish homeland.

In 1944, Harris decided to give up the pulpit, and became vice president of his in-laws’ real estate business until his retirement in 1992. He never stopped performing lifecycle ceremonies, though, once estimating that he had officiated at least 1,800 weddings.

He was one of the first rabbis in the country to perform interfaith marriages.

Harris is survived by his son, Ronald Harris of San Francisco; three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Donations can be made to Temple Shomer Emunim, 6453 Sylvania Ave., Sylvania, Ohio, 43560.

Alix Wall
Alix Wall

Alix Wall is a contributing editor to J. She is also the founder of the Illuminoshi: The Not-So-Secret Society of Bay Area Jewish Food Professionals and is writer/producer of a documentary-in-progress called "The Lonely Child."