Peter S. Knobel z”l

Peter S. Knobel z”l

Remembering Rabbi Peter S. Knobel z”l

Peter Knobel, Beth Emet’s Senior Rabbi from 1980 to 2010 and Rabbi Emeritus until his passing on August 20, 2019, was a man of great achievements. But Beth Emet congregants knew him best as a learned and kind person who thought of others first as he tried to improve the world around him.

A prominent figure in the Reform Movement, Rabbi Knobel gained widespread recognition for his scholarship on the ancient Aramaic translation of the Torah, editing of the Mishkan T’filah prayer book used in synagogues worldwide and his leadership of the Central Conference of American Rabbis. He served on the boards of many local and national institutions, including the Association of Reform Zionists of America, Union for Reform Judaism, American Jewish Committee, Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago and the Council for the Parliament of the World’s Religions. He also was a Past President of the Chicago Board of Rabbis, the Chicago Association of Reform Rabbis and the Central Conference of American Rabbis.

Rabbi Knobel acted on his love of teaching as he served on the Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies faculty and taught courses at HUC-JIR, Yale University, University of New Haven and the University of Connecticut. He demonstrated his broad range of interests in published papers and articles that covered such topics as assisted suicide, cloning, Reform Zionism, Reform Judaism, dietary laws, spirituality, rites of passages, Judaism, and homosexuality and same-sex marriage. He paid special attention to health, healing, death, and dying as Director of the Resource Center for Jewish Health Care Ethics and as a member of the Illinois State Attorney’s Task Force, Foregoing of Life-Sustaining Treatment.

He was married for 53 years to Elaine Knobel, with whom he raised two sons, and he relished his role as a grandfather. His letters to each of his six grandchildren became cherished Divrei Torah delivered most often on Rosh Hashanah. Elaine, a beloved figure, remains an active member of Beth Emet.

“For a man of such vast accomplishments and prodigious gifts…one might expect a certain amount of conceitedness or vanity. Yet Peter Knobel was a mensch who was supportive of, and placed the greatest emphasis on, the accomplishments of others, not his own. I can think of countless examples of his publicly praising others; it seemed he never missed an opportunity to elevate those around him.”

Rabbi Andrea London


May 20, 2011: Haaretz Daily Newspaper, A Sacred Commitment

Letters to Grandchildren

A letter to Alana

A letter to Leah

A letter to Lily

A letter to Oliver

A letter to Stephen

A letter to Heather


Rabbi Lisa Greene

Rabbi William (Bill) Cutter

Rabbi Andrea London