Morton Yolkut, 70, NE Phila. rabbi for four decades

Rabbi Morton F. Yolkut in a television appearance.
Rabbi Morton F. Yolkut in a television appearance.
Posted: November 18, 2013

Morton F. Yolkut, 70, an Orthodox rabbi for 40 years who was spiritual leader of a synagogue in Northeast Philadelphia, died Monday, Nov. 11, at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania of complications from a fall.

Rabbi Yolkut had fallen seven months ago while en route to his class at Temple University. Blessed with a magnetic personality, he was a popular teacher, said his sister-in-law, Regine Meisel.

Born in St. Louis, he graduated from Roosevelt University with a bachelor of arts degree in 1965.

He was ordained a rabbi at Hebrew Theological College in Skokie, Ill., in 1966 and earned a master's degree in American history at Northwestern University in 1968.

A rabbi for four decades, he served congregations in Chicago and Detroit and, from 1995 until his retirement in 2008, was the spiritual leader of Shaare Shamayim-Beth Judah in Northeast Philadelphia.

In Michigan, he served as vice president of the Michigan Board of Rabbis and was the Orthodox columnist for the Detroit Jewish News.

Rabbi Yolkut also served on the Chaplaincy Commission of Sinai Hospital in Detroit and delivered papers on Jewish medical ethics to physicians at Sinai and other local hospitals.

On a national level, Rabbi Yolkut was a member of the Rabbinical Council of America. He served on the national Israel Bonds Rabbinic Cabinet, the United Jewish Appeal, and the Jewish National Fund.

He was one of a dozen leading rabbis who met with President George W. Bush in 2003, and later participated in the National Prayer Service as part of Bush's second inaugural celebration.

"He was honored to represent Judaism at an ecumenical service," said his sister-in-law. "He read from the prophet Isaiah."

After his retirement, he taught at Temple University's continuing education department for the last two years. "He loved it," said Meisel. "He was a born teacher, and it was so rewarding for him."

He immersed himself in American history, current events, and Jewish education topics, and enjoyed watching the Eagles and Phillies.

"He was thrilled when the Phillies won the World Series in 2008," Meisel said.

Surviving are his wife, the former Aline Schlesinger; sons Daniel and David; and eight grandchildren.

Services were Tuesday, Nov. 12. Burial was in Israel, according to his wishes.


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