Rabbi Harry Rottenberg, whose popularity among his students during more than two decades at Hillel Academy led to lifelong relationships, died Sunday in an Elizabeth, N.J. hospital after a period of declining health. He was 87.
Between 1953 and 1975, the rabbi taught Judaic studies at Hillel in Squirrel Hill and served as vice principal and principal, influencing hundreds of students who years later would have him officiate at weddings, attend bar mitzvahs and join family simchas.
After years of exchanging stories about his acts of kindness -- securing scholarships for needy schoolchildren, counseling teens, giving charity -- former students founded the Rabbi Harry Rottenberg Scholarship Endowment Fund of the Hillel Academy Foundation in 2001.
Rabbi Rottenberg was 10 when he immigrated to the United States in 1928 with his father, the leader of the Koson Hasidic sect in Kisvarda, Hungary. The rabbi worked on the railroads, earned an undergraduate degree in history from Johns Hopkins University and received his rabbinic ordination from Chofetz Chaim Yeshiva in New York.
After leaving Hillel Academy, Rabbi Rottenberg served in the rabbinate in Baltimore, West Hartford, Hartford and Dayton. He and his wife retired to Miami Beach, where he served as rabbi at a seniors' hotel and organized adult retirees' education classes and services.
He is survived by his daughter, Bette, of Elizabeth, N.J., three grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.
Contributions can be sent to the Rabbi Harry Rottenberg Endowment, c/o Hillel Academy, 5685 Beacon St., Pittsburgh 15217.
Steve Levin can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1919.