An Endowment Funded By Friendship Rabbi Myer And Dorothy Kripke's Message To A Wyncote Rabbinical School: Thanks A Million.

Posted: May 14, 1997

When the Kripkes of Omaha inherited a tidy little sum more than 30 years ago, Dorothy, the author, urged husband Myer, the rabbi, to let a close family friend do the investing.

Susie's husband, Warren, was a good choice to shepherd the Kripkes' $65,000, Dorothy Kripke repeatedly said. Warren was a fellow Nebraskan, after all, and he was doing well for himself.

Well enough, it turns out, to become a legend on Wall Street.

Warren - Susie's husband, the Kripkes' family friend, fellow Rotary Club member and occasional bridge partner - was Warren E. Buffett. The financial guru who now competes with Microsoft's Bill Gates for the title of richest man in the world took the Kripkes' $65,000 and turned it into $25 million.

Now, a local rabbinical school is the beneficiary of both Buffett's financial acumen and the Kripkes' largess.

Rabbi Kripke and his wife have given nearly $1 million to the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Wyncote. The gift will be used to establish the Dorothy and Myer Kripke Scholarship Fund, which will award about $60,000 annually in scholarships and fellowships. It is the second $1 million gift in the school's 29-year history.

``I know Myer Kripke. I know how modestly he lives . . . ,'' said David Teutsch, president of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. ``When he said he was putting aside a bequest for the college, I expected a generous but modest [amount]. I was very surprised.''

The Kripkes continued to live modestly on the rabbi's salary as head of Beth El Synagogue in Omaha and on the proceeds from Dorothy Kripke's writing.

It was Dorothy Kripke's role as a respected author of family-oriented books about spiritual and moral issues that led to the first meeting between the Kripkes and the Buffetts. Susie Buffett was an admirer of Dorothy Kripke's book Let's Talk About God. When she discovered that the Kripkes lived nearby in Omaha, Susie Buffett introduced herself. A long friendship between the families began.

In those days, Warren Buffett was not on anyone's top anything list. He was moderately wealthy, and famous - in Omaha.

``We got in fairly early with a modest amount of money,'' the rabbi said. ``Then, it mushroomed like an atomic bomb.''

This year, with the rabbi in his 83d year and Dorothy Kripke in her 85th, the couple decided it was time to make some decisions about how they would distribute the bulk of their fortune. They gave $7 million to the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York along with the $1 million to the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. The Kripkes' selection of the two schools has as much to do with sentimental memories as it does with their desire to further the cause of Jewish education.

Rabbi Kripke and Dorothy Karp met while they were students at the Jewish Theological Seminary in the 1930s. Their first class together in Jewish theology was taught by Rabbi Mordecai M. Kaplan, founder of the Reconstructionist movement. Rabbi Kripke continued to study under Kaplan for six years and considers him a mentor.

On June 1, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College will present an honorary degree to Dorothy Kripke. The rabbi will attend the graduation ceremony to accept the degree on behalf of his wife, who is in ill health and resides in an Omaha nursing home. When the rabbi steps up to the podium, it will be at the school whose very existence stirs memories of the day more than 60 years ago when he first saw Dorothy Karp.

Said the rabbi: ``We have never forgotten that is how we first found each other.''

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