WJC Mourns Passing of Henry Sobel z"l

22 Nov 2019

Henry Isaac Sobel (born in 1944) was a Brazilian-American reform rabbi, and was president of the Congregação Israelita Paulista (CIP), a major Jewish congregation in São Paulo, Brazil.

Sobel was born in Lisbon, Portugal, his family having escaped the Nazi regime from Alsace, France. As a child his family moved to New York where he grew up and was eventually ordained a reform rabbi in 1970. In the same year, he accepted an invitation to be the rabbi at CIP, and emoved to São Paulo, Brazil. In his own words, it "made possible my actuation in the social and politic fronts and gave me the chance of engaging myself". A human rights in Brazil (at that time governed by the military regime). Along with Cardinal Paulo Evaristo Arns and Presbyterian Pastor Reverend James Wright, Rabbi Sobel showed great courage in denouncing the assassination of journalist Wladimir Herzog by right wing military in Brazil. Together with them, Rabbi Sobel celebrated an interfaith service in honor of the Jewish journalist on October 23, 1975.

He had also a great role in promoting inter-religious dialogue in Brazil and elsewhere by cultivating excellent relations with Catholic dignitaries, including Pope John Paul II. For more than 30 years, Rabbi Sobel was recognized as an informal leader of the reform Jewish community in São Paulo. In 2011, at Doha Interfaith meeting, Rabbi Sobel declared: “The consequences of globalization are yet to be calculated. Globalization doesn’t foster true fellowship, although it can facilitate dialogue". Suggesting that nothing can replace a face-to-face encounter.”