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Alumni Sons Tell Father's Story

He Really Had Something to Say, a recently published biography of Rabbi Samuel Wohl (1895-1972) traces not only the years of his life, but also important events and trends in 20th century Judaism, Cincinnati, and America.

Date: 2/9/2006
By: Billie Dziech
Phone: 556-1707
He Really Had Something to Say, a recently published biography of Rabbi Samuel Wohl (1895-1972) traces not only the years of his life, but also important events and trends in 20th century Judaism, Cincinnati, and America.
Written by his sons, Amiel and Theodore, it is a tribute to the former McMicken student, as well as his sons, both of whom graduated from the college.

Rabbi Wohl was born in Russia and immigrated to the United States at age 17. After settling for a time in the Cleveland/Akron area, he moved to Cincinnati, where he took courses at UC and graduated from Hebrew Union College. He served for 41 years as spiritual leader of the Isaac M. Wise Temple, where he was an innovator in the ceremonies of Reform Judaism. During those years he devoted himself to promoting understanding and tolerance among religious faiths, and he pioneered in organizing forums that brought community leaders together to discuss common interests and social problems. The creator of Cincinnati’s Good Neighbor Award, he himself received the honor in 1965; and when he died in 1972, The Enquirer said of him, “Rabbi Samuel Wohl believed deeply in the brotherhood of man. This abiding concern with humanity and with human rights was the heart of the man. He strove unceasingly for human freedom and equality.”

Deeply involved in international activities, he witnessed some of the world’s most memorable events and became a friend of many of its greatest leaders. His sons recount his presence at a Hitler rally in Munich, his visit to Germany to evaluate the denazification process, and his presence with David Ben Gurion when Israeli independence was declared. From Charles Phelps Taft to Eleanor Roosevelt and Golda Meier, he maintained friendships that were numerous and enduring. His experience on the world stage led him to challenge others, “Let us not merely proclaim peace and justice but by acts of statesmanship, political, social, and economic, build health and wealth so the hungry shall not cry.”

Perhaps his greatest legacy is the sons who told his story. The day after Theodore Wohl graduated from high school, he enrolled in the Navy. After World War II ended and he returned home, he earned a B.A. in psychology at McMicken and then a PhD at Western Reserve College. Continuing his father’s commitment to service, he became head of psychology at Cincinnati’s Center for Developmental Disorders and first president of the Springer School. He was instrumental in the creation of the Professional School of Psychology at Wright State and was the winner of several distinguished service awards from the Cincinnati Psychological Association and the state of Ohio. His professional career spanned 45 years from 1957 until he retired in 2002 as dean of psychology at the Union Institute. Theodore Wohl died last year soon after He Really Had Something to Say was published.

His brother, Amiel Wohl (B.A., history, 1953) is rabbi emeritus at Temple Israel of New Rochelle in New York. Like his father, he has devoted much of his career to promoting tolerance. Upon arriving there in 1973, he organized the first Inter-religious Council to bring together Protestants, Catholics, and Jews; and, as producer of a cable TV show, he has sought to include Muslims in interfaith activities. He established a Coalition for Mutual Respect that the executive officer in his county described as being “at the forefront of fostering communications between our Jewish and African American populations.” Gannett newspapers and The New York Times have frequently cited his efforts to foster communication and understanding among religions and races. Among his numerous honorary degrees and awards is the Pope John XXIII Medal conferred by the College of New Rochelle, which called him “a man of faith, passionately committed over his lifetime to the improvement of human relations at all levels, across race, age, and socio-economic differences.”

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