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Valley's dean and pioneer of rabbis, Albert Plotkin, is dead

Posted by on February 3, 2010 – 9:42 am

Rabbi Albert Plotkin, the colorful, enthusiastic dean of rabbis in the Valley, died early Wednesday of a heart attack. He was 89. 

 The rabbi’s daughter, Janice Plotkin, was at his side. His beloved wife Sylvia had died in 1996.   For Jews in Arizona, Rabbi Plotkin was a pioneer and pathfinder — skilled at speaking and sharing and never afraid of interfaith dialogue.  He long led Congregation  Beth Israel, a Reform Jewish congregation on the near west side of Phoenix, which later relocated  to the border of north Phoenix and Scottsdale, much closer to the concentration of Valley Jews.  There he served as Rabbi Emeritus.  He taught all subjects Jewish and led classes and workshops across Arizona in the later years of  his nine decades of life.

I had interviewed him a number of times for articles and found him to be a giant of intellect and humanity. He always enjoyed to joke about the fact that he had earned a degree from the Roman Catholic stronghold of Notre Dame University.  He and I were among the eight recipients in 2008 of the Arizona Interfaith Movement’s Golden Rule Awards — he in religion and I in media.   He was a frequent guest on Pat McMahon’s shows on KTAR.  He really pioneered tolerance of faiths in the Valley when Jews were few in the area.

The Rev. Dr. Paul Eppinger, head of the Interfaith Movement, that the rabbi ” has been a dearly loved man of God, deeply committed to interfaith relationships and a great leader in the valley over the past many years.”

Born and raised in South Bend, Ind., he earned his Notre Dame degree  magna cum laude in 1942.  Ordained in 1948 at the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Rabbi Plotkin served in rabbinates in Seattle and Spokane before becoming the spiritual leader of Temple Beth Israel in Phoenix in 1955.  In December 1989, Arizona State University conferred an honorary degree on him.  In 1967, he had received a doctor of letters degree from Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles, which gave him an honorary doctor of divinity degree in 1973.

A man of short stature, he oozed with energy about his community and his responsibilities as a  teacher of Jewish history. He was in much demand to give talks and tells his rich stories.

His funeral will be 10 a.m. Friday (Feb. 5) at Congregation Beth Israel, 10460 N. 56th St., Phoenix.


  • Rabbi Plotkin was a dear man. He married my son Matt and his lovely wife Kimberly last year. He was a delight to have with our family in San Diego.
    He was a gracious and gentle soul. He may have been small in stature but large
    in humanity. He will be dearly missed.

    Dee Dee Nadler

  • Frances Tracht says:

    Rabbi Plotkin Bar & Bat Mitzvahed all of the Tracht children in Phoenix. He was a great teacher and a great friend. I will always remember his Temple Tommy stories. I am very lucky to have grown up at Temple Beth Israel.

  • Bill Brandt says:

    Everyone that knew Rabbi Plotkin claimed him as “MY Rabbi” !
    Rabbi Plotkin will be missed and while we all are saddened and mournful our Rabbi is now with the angels and his beloved wife and daughter.
    As the Rabbi often said “We all had fun!”
    Rabbi Plotkin’s memory will be forever a blessing to us all.
    We ALL loved him so much.
    Bill & Mindy Brandt