On this week’s episode of the Seekers of Meaning TV Show and Podcast, Rabbi Stephen Fuchs, former president of the World Union for Progressive Judaism, and author of the new book, And Sometimes the First Jew, which chronicles the accomplishments, adventures, and “firsts” in Germany for Rabbi Fuchs and his wife Vickie, who are both children of Holocaust survivors. Rabbi Fuchs tells of the arrest and brutal treatment that his father, Leo Fuchs, received at the onset of Kristallnacht and how he was able to survive.
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About the Guest
Rabbi Stephen L. Fuchs
Rabbi Stephen Lewis Fuchs was born in East Orange, New Jersey on March 16, 1946. Upon graduating from East Orange High School, he matriculated at and graduated from Hamilton College in Clinton, New York. After five more years and four summers of full-time study, he was ordained as a Rabbi at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio where he earned his MA in Hebrew Letters and a graduate certificate in Jewish Communal Service from the Hebrew Union College branch in Los Angeles, CA.
Rabbi Stephen Fuchs and Victoria Steinberg Fuchs, a now-retired elementary school teacher, married on June 9, 1974 in San Francisco, CA. They currently reside in Sanibel Island, FL where Rabbi Fuchs is the spiritual leader at Bat Yam Temple of the Islands. They have three children and five grandchildren.
While studying at Hamilton and at HUC, Rabbi Fuchs worked as a teaching tennis pro at Spring Garden CC in Florham Park, NJ and at the famed Concord Hotel in the Catskills Mountains.
“I’ve learned more about people through teaching and dealing with them during those five summers than I did in all the years I’d studied in college and graduate school,” he says.
In 1992, Rabbi Fuchs earned a Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.) degree in biblical interpretation from Vanderbilt University Divinity School in Nashville, Tennessee. He received a Doctor of Divinity Degree, Honoris Causa, from the Hebrew Union College—Jewish Institute of Religion in New York in March of 1999.
Rabbi Fuchs’ pulpit career spanned more than forty years. He served as the first full-time rabbi of Temple Isaiah in Columbia, MD for thirteen years. He then served for eleven years as Sr. Rabbi of The Temple, Congregation Ohabai Sholom in Nashville, TN before arriving in West Hartford, CT in 1997 to serve as Senior Rabbi at Congregation Beth Israel, until 2011. In the fall of 2017, he assumed the pulpit of rabbi at Bat Yam Temple of the Islands in Sanibel, Florida.
On July, 1, 2011 Rabbi Stephen Fuchs began his appointment as President of the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ). There, he traveled to over 65 communities on five continents as a proponent of Reform Jewish values and legitimacy. Following the 2012 Days of Awe, Fuchs stepped down as president of the WUPJ at a time he was facing open heart surgery to repair an ascending aortic aneurysm and replace the mechanical aortic valve he received in 1996 with a tissue valve.
The Holocaust is a driving force in Rabbi Fuchs’ life. His late father, Leo Fuchs, was arrested in Leipzig, Germany on Kristallnacht, November 9, 1938, abused, and sent to the Dachau Prison Camp. Fortunately, there were relatives in the United States who secured his release and, after a short time, he came to the USA. There, he met and married Florence Goldstein. They had two children, a daughter Rochelle and a son, (Rabbi) Stephen Lewis Fuchs.