Rabbi Bernard Lipnick was blessed with a unique baritone voice, which uplifted and inspired not only generations of members of Congregation B’nai Amoona, but the entire St. Louis Jewish community and the national movement of Conservative Judaism.
Lipnick, who died in 2010 at the age of 83, was the longtime spiritual leader at B’nai Amoona. He is being celebrated in a new book that contains a selection of his memorable and elegantly crafted sermons along with a treasure trove of tributes, photos and memorabilia from all stages of his life and the fond memories of his widow, Rebbetzin Harriet Lipnick. The book, “Memorable Moments in a Long Rabbinic Career,” was edited by Lester Goldman, a past president of B’nai Amoona.
It is no exaggeration to describe this book, which received generous backing from B’nai Amoona leaders and other admirers of Lipnick, a true labor of love.
There are also splendidly crafted sermons on a host of topics including, “What I Learned in Retirement,” “Yom HaShoah,” “David Ben-Gurion and (the quest for) Peace with the Arabs.” Rabbi Irwin Kula, who was mentored by Lipnick, describes him as an artist whose “artistry will illuminate your life with timeless wisdom.”
Kula, president of the National Center for Jewish Learning and Leadership, served as Rabbi Lipnick’s associate rabbi from 1982-87.
We learn from the book that longtime B’nai Amoona member Ed Balk was the first member of the synagogue to encourage Lipnick to publish the book. In addition, Lipnick’s wife of 36 years, Harriet, was among those who encouraged him to select from his thousands of sermons and publish them in book form. Among the generous benefactors who backed the publication of this informative and enjoyable book are Sanford and Gloria Spitzer, lifetime members of B’nai Amoona.
In an interview with the Jewish Light, Sanford Spitzer said he and his wife wanted to share Lipnick’s legacy for future generations. He also credited his parents for his desire to help fund the book.
“My dad, S. Barney Spitzer was a past president of B’nai Amoona, and my mom always encouraged me to support charity and worthy projects by participation and financially,” said Spitzer.
In the book’s introduction we learn that Lipnick’s long association with B’nai Amoona began in 1951 as assistant rabbi and religious school director while Rabbi Abraham Halpern was spiritual leader of the shul. Throughout his career, Lipnick was a fierce champion of Jewish education.
His innovative Vov Class was the gold standard for a positive religious school experience. He earned a Ph.D. at Washington University with a dissertation on “The Vov Class: An Experiment that Worked.” One of the sermons in the book describes the full history of the Vov Class. Lipnick was a driving force behind the establishment of the Solomon Schechter Day School, which later would merge to form the Saul Mirowitz Jewish Community School.
When Lipnick spoke in his “sonorous baritone voice,” people listened. When he traveled to Israel just after it won its independence, he put his God-given voice to use as a radio announcer and attracted a large audience. He remained a passionate Zionist throughout his career, celebrating Israel’s achievements and inspiring large audiences at community rallies when it suffered from attacks and terrorism.
Lipnick received his rabbinic ordination at the Conservative movement’s Jewish Theological Seminary and was a major supporter of JTS and the movement.
After his stint as an associate rabbi at B’nai Amoona, Lipnick, a Baltimore native, became senior rabbi in 1962 after Rabbi Halpern died suddenly from a heart attack. Lipnick retired in 1991 and moved to California, but 12 years later, he returned to B’nai Amoona to serve as interim rabbi and then rabbi emeritus.
On June 28, 1991, in his final sermon before retiring, Lipnick titled his remarks “Walk Humbly” from the wisdom of the Prophet Micah, who asked “What does the Lord require of thee, only to do justly, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with thy God.”
Lipnick combined ancient wisdom with forward looking modern thinking. His was a life well-lived and this book is a collection of sparkling gems. Reading through Lipnick’s sermons are a reminder of this towering teacher who served his synagogue and community well and honorably.
THE BOOK: “Memorable Moments in a Long Rabbinic Career” by Rabbi Bernard Lipnick, edited by Lester Goldman; $36, published by The Rabbi Bernard Lipnick Foundation for Conservative Judaism, affiliated with Congregation B’nai Amoona. To order the book, visit www.bnaiamoona.com/rabbilipnickbook