Former Temple University sociology and social psychology professor Robert J. (Bob) Kleiner, who was a longtime board member of the Congress of Secular Jewish Organizations (CSJO), died Aug. 12 at the age of 92.
Family and acquaintances said Kleiner played a key role in founding the CSJO’s social action committee, just as he did in Philadelphia with the Sholom Aleichem Club.
“His principle belief was that people who talk about caring about the world should be active and take a position,” son Michael Kleiner said. “He was passionate about social justice.”
He also was passionate about Norway, which he first visited in 1946 while serving in the Army in the aftermath of World War II. He returned two years later to study briefly at the University of Oslo before leaving for home, vowing one day to return with his entire family.
That happened in 1969 when Kleiner received a Fulbright scholarship and brought his family overseas; he spent a year researching new approaches to treating mental illness.
Even upon returning to the states, the bonds he formed in Norway endured. In 1990, he co-founded the Center for Social Networks and Health at what was then Ullevål University Hospital in Oslo.
While Norway remained close to his heart, his commitment to secular Judaism through the CSJO, the now-defunct Sholom Aleichem Club and the Jewish Children’s Folkshul in Philadelphia remained a driving force in his life.
“He was always active in the Folkshul,” said Mindy Blatt, a former director there who officiated at his funeral. “Bob always presented the social justice aspect of Folkshul but had a fairness to his perspective. He had a voice and he used it.”
“Bob shared his keen sense of social justice as he assisted in crafting many of our social action statements,” CSJO Executive Director Terry Waslow said. “If we could each take a bit of the energy and knowledge he offered us and return it back into our community, imagine what we could build.”
Robert Kleiner is survived by his wife of 68 years, Fran, son Michael, daughter Ruth, and three grandchildren. The family requests that contributions in his honor be made to a charity of the donor’s choice.
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