Rabbi Sim Glaser, who had served at Temple Israel from 1999 until 2021, passed away Tuesday, April 18, from pancreatic cancer. He was 67 years old.
Temple Israel announced that his retirement in July of 2021 was due to his cancer diagnosis.
“Rabbi Glaser was bigger than life , we will miss his humor, love of Judaism and Israel, his passion for Kabbalah and his very essence,” said Rabbi Marcia Zimmerman, Temple Israel’s senior rabbi. “He was a true contender and fighter against Pancreatic Cancer, a disease that takes people indiscriminately and in this case too young. Our hearts go out to his family whom he loved with all his heart. And to Temple Israel’s community and the community at large where he found a home for 23 years, that was our blessing.”
Said Rabbi Tobias Moss, who holds the Sim Glaser Rabbinic chair at Temple Israel: “I am blessed to follow in the creative, caring, and comedic footsteps of Rabbi Glaser. He modeled how clergy can lean into their strengths and passions to the benefit of congregants and oneself.
“Over the last two years, hundreds of people–Temple congregants, others in the twin cities, and teachers/colleagues around the world–have shared with me their affection and admiration for Rabbi Glaser.”
Rabbi Glaser was ordained in 1989 and served Congregation Beth Israel in Connecticut before coming to Temple Israel in 1999. He brought with him his knowledge of Torah, his commitment to social justice, his passion for the State of Israel, and his deep love of rock ‘n’ roll music. He also developed a love for Kabbalah, and was the teacher of the Kabbalah Sparks series.
Rabbi Glaser was the son of Agathe Maier Glaser, who fled Nazi Germany and settled in America. Glaser was deeply committed to his mother’s story, sharing it so that it would never be forgotten. He followed in the footsteps of his father, Rabbi Joseph Glaser, once head of the Central Conference of American Rabbis. Both Rabbis Glaser shared a passion for social justice.
He also possessed an unforgettable sense of humor. He performed for many years both as a musician and comedian at the annual Jewbilee events held on Christmas Eve at Seventh St. Entry in Minneapolis. He also had a way of imbuing every sermon, class, and simcha with wonderful anecdotes or jokes. His recently-published book, Pieces of Work, contains 36 of his favorite sermons – a reminder of his wit and wisdom.
Last year he wrote the book, lyrics, and music for the play The Dragon Who Liked to Spit Fire, a children’s book which was beloved by Glaser and his children. The play was performed at the Barry Family Campus. When he spoke about the play last year with TC Jewfolk, he acknowledged that he was “fighting a nasty battle with a nasty disease.”
Glaser also found great meaning in supporting congregants and their families through an important journey – life’s final moments. In 2020, he taught the Torah portion Chayyei Sarah. In this lesson, he taught us that God had made great promises to Avraham about his destiny, which had not come to fruition in his lifetime. Yet, we are told that Avraham died “completely satisfied” with his life. Why? He quoted Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks: “To understand a death, we must understand a life.” Rabbi Glaser tough that because Avraham and Sarah had spent their lives in pursuit of truly important work, their journey was never truly over.
Rabbi Glaser is survived by his wife, Barbara; their children Benjamin, Hannah, and Louis; and grandchildren, Margaret and Alan, during this time, along with Rabbi Glaser’s siblings, Meyer, Sara, and Jack. Condolences may be sent to the Glaser family through Temple Israel, 2323 Fremont Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55405. Temple Israel asks that you respect the family’s privacy at this time, and do not contact them directly.