When the great exodus of West Philadelphia synagogues to the Main Line commenced in earnest in the 1960s, Rabbi Marshall Maltzman was one of the leaders of the geographical shift, creating a foundation for both his synagogue and the Jewish community in Wynnewood to grow during the 1960s.
He was the founding rabbi of Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El and worked there for more than 30 years.
Rabbi Neil Cooper at Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El said Maltzman guided the community to grow and develop the congregation to what it is today, adding a sanctuary building, social hall and educational programs and classes for adults and youths.
“It was his vision which enabled our synagogue to believe in itself and to grow strong and vibrant,” Cooper wrote in his eulogy for him. It was also Maltzman’s idea to transform a greenhouse into a house of prayer and restore a mansion into a religious school.
Maltzman passed away on Oct. 31 at the age of 92. He and his wife, Amy, lived in the retirement community The Hill at Whitemarsh in Lafayette Hill.
He was hired by Temple Beth El in West Philadelphia in the early 1960s, but didn’t think the congregation had enough potential to grow there. As a result, Maltzman managed to expand the community by merging Temple Beth El and Temple Beth Hillel.
During his time as senior rabbi, he supported the full participation of women in religious services, creating a traditional yet egalitarian congregation, Cooper said.
His late first wife Ruth was also a very active member of the congregation, and together ,they produced elaborate community plays and holiday skits.
Maltzman also taught European history and Jewish studies as an adjunct professor at Villanova University for almost 25 years.
“The death of a rabbi is similar in many ways to every other death,” Cooper wrote. But when a rabbi dies, the sweet waters of Torah which flowed from his lips helps to awaken the seeds of idealism for the future, thoughts of goodness and of devotion to God and Israel in the hearts of children and adults alike.”
Maltzman retired from the synagogue in 1991 shortly after his marriage to Amy, and the two took to the sea.
Maltzman served as a cruise ship rabbi for about 17 years, mainly aboard the top-of-the-line Silversea Cruises. He also lectured during his travels on the ship, and they explored the world together.
She never knew why, but Amy was always surprised that his favorite place to visit was Istanbul, she added.
“He was so successful that from that time on he became a cruise lecturer. We went all over the world with him lecturing,” Amy said. “We were like family on there. It was a delightful part of our lives.”
Maltzman is survived by five children, 12 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
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