Rabbi Harold Kushner, an acclaimed author on religious faith, dead at age 88

 April 29, 2023

Rabbi Harold Kushner, a Jewish theologian who authored more than a dozen inspirational books on faith, died on Friday at the age of 88 while in hospice care in Canton, Massachusetts, NPR reported.

In a statement to the outlet, daughter Ariel Kushner Haber said, "He was a giant for our family and an incredibly dedicated father and grandfather who can be counted on for everything. We are gratified to know so many people are grieving with us."

A funeral service for Kushner has been scheduled for Monday at Temple Israel of Natick in Natick, a suburb of Boston, where he served for 24 years as a congregational rabbi.

From Brooklyn, New York, to Boston, Massachusetts

The New York Times reported that Kushner was born in 1939 in Brooklyn, New York, to parents Julius and Sarah, respectively the owner of a company that made children's toys and books and a homemaker.

He attended public schools in the city and eventually graduated twice from Columbia University with a bachelor's in 1955 and a master's degree in 1960.

He also enrolled part-time in the Jewish Theological Seminary during his time at Columbia, was eventually ordained in 1960, and then received a doctorate in 1972, after which he also studied for a time at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel.

Following his time at Columbia, Kushner also served a two-year stint as a U.S. Army chaplain and first lieutenant at Ft. Sill in Oklahoma before returning to New York and becoming an assistant rabbi at Long Island's Temple Israel in Great Neck, N.Y.

The year of 1960 is also when he married Suzette Estrada, who later died in 2022, and moved to the Boston area, where he became a rabbi at the temple in Natick in 1966 -- a position he held for 24 years before retiring and remaining as a member of the congregation until 2017, when he moved to the assisted living facility in Canton.

"When Bad Things Happen To Good People"

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported that Rabbi Kushner has been deemed "one of the most influential congregational rabbis of the 20th century" due to the books that he wrote that have served as a source of comfort and inspiration to millions of people, regardless of their particular faith or religion, around the globe.

He is arguably best known for his 1981 book "When Bad Things Happen To Good People," which grapples with the question of how a purportedly benevolent and omnipotent God can allow terrible things to happen to people who place their faith and trust in Him.

That book, which sparked some controversy with its conclusion that God's power has limits in preventing human suffering and tragedies, was inspired by his own turmoil in dealing with the diagnosis of a fatal premature aging disease for his 3-year-old son Aaron on the same day that his daughter Ariel had been born.

Though denounced and rebutted by other Jewish theologians, the book was a huge success that reached the top of the NYT's Best-Sellers list and has since sold more than 4 million copies in 10 different languages.

Honored by all religious faiths for his inspirational books

JTA reported that Rabbi Kushner eventually scaled back and then stepped aside from his rabbinical duties at the temple in Natick over time to focus on his writing, ultimately authoring 14 books and receiving honors over time from Jewish, Catholic, and Christian organizations for the inspiration to faith that he encouraged.

Kushner is survived only by his daughter Ariel and two grandchildren.

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