Hebrew Union College chairman emeritus dies at 91

Richard J. Scheuer, chairman emeritus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and the Jewish Museum

in New York, died Nov. 7 of heart failure. He was 91.

Considered a visionary who advanced the expansion of HUC’s Jerusalem campus, Scheuer was committed to supporting programs that furthered religious pluralism and biblical archaeological excavations in Israel.

“The love Richard had for the college was unsurpassed among all the philanthropic and cultural concerns that were his,” Rabbi David Ellenson, president of HUC, said in his eulogy. “His counsel and wisdom guided and inspired the college … it would not be what it is today without him, neither in Jerusalem nor here in the United States.”

Scheuer served as Hebrew Union College chairman from 1983 to 1990. During that time, he led the effort to expand its Jerusalem campus and was instrumental in shifting the first year of rabbinic studies to Jerusalem to familiarize students with Israel. He also advocated for women to become rabbis and cantors.

Internationally renown-ed architect Moshe Safdie was commissioned by Scheuer to design the new campus. He said Scheuer “set the standard for what a proactive client and friend can achieve. He was a warm, enthusiastic, always youthful, inquisitive human being.”

Born July 14, 1917 in Long Lake, N.Y., Scheuer graduated from Harvard College in 1939 and enlisted in the Army Dec. 7, 1941, the day Japan attacked the United States at Pearl Harbor. He rose to the rank of captain and earned a Bronze Star among other honors.

After the war, Scheuer joined his father, Simon H. Scheuer, in the real estate business, but soon discovered he was better suited to work for the Reform movement, where he could express and preserve Jewish values in modern life.

Scheuer is survived by his wife, Joan Gross Scheuer, and sons Daniel and Jonathan Scheuer, all of New York; daughter Marian Sofaer of Palo Alto; brother Steven Scheuer, sister Amy Cohen, and 11 grandchildren.