From NY Times:

Rabbi Judah Nadich, a leader of Conservative Judaism who as Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s adviser on Jewish affairs battled the deplorable conditions faced by Holocaust survivors in displaced persons camps after World War II, died last Sunday at his home in Manhattan. He was 95.

The cause was heart failure, said his grandson Natan Meir.

Rabbi Nadich, who was also an early advocate of civil rights for blacks and for the ordination of women as rabbis, led the Park Avenue Synagogue in Manhattan for 30 years, until his retirement in 1987.

In 1945, when he was a lieutenant colonel in the Army and its senior Jewish chaplain in Europe, and when the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps were being fully revealed, Rabbi Nadich was named to the new post of Jewish adviser to Eisenhower. With hundreds of thousands of survivors moved by the victorious armies into so-called D.P. camps set up by the Allies, Rabbi Nadich became appalled at the conditions they faced.

In his book “Eisenhower and the Jews” (Twayne Publishers, 1953), Rabbi Nadich told of entering the Feldafing D.P. camp outside Munich on Aug. 29, 1945, and finding the situation incomprehensible: Up to 40 survivors were crammed into rooms designed for 6 people. Food supplies were insufficient. Few people could receive passes to leave the camp each day. Roofs leaked, and the thin walls of the wooden barracks were not insulated.

And, most distressing, the survivors were surrounded by barbed wire, just as they had been in the concentration camps. At the same time, Rabbi Nadich wrote, “The conquered Germans had complete freedom.”

The Allies had also instituted a policy requiring the survivors to return to their native countries. But their homelands “had been soaked through with the blood of their parents and children,” Rabbi Nadich wrote, and to return “was unthinkable.”

Rabbi Nadich wrote that when he and others made the situation clear to Eisenhower, he “understood it completely.” On Aug. 22, 1945, Eisenhower issued an order, the rabbi wrote, “that laid the groundwork for a new American policy toward Jewish displaced persons and for an entirely new attitude toward them, at first by the Supreme Headquarters and gradually filtering down to the lower levels of command.”

Rabbi Nadich was born in Baltimore on May 13, 1912, the oldest of four children of Isaac and Lena Nathanson Nadich, who had emigrated from Russia in the early 1900s. His father owned a neighborhood grocery store. Rabbi Nadich’s mother died when he was 7, and he was raised by his stepmother, Nettie Gifter Nadich, an immigrant from Lithuania.

In 1947, Rabbi Nadich married Martha Hadassah Ribalow. Besides his wife, his survivors include a sister, Esther Rosenberg of Baltimore; three daughters, Leah Meir of Teaneck, N.J.; Shira Levin of Manhattan, and Nahma Nadich of Newton, Mass.; and eight grandchildren.

In 1936, four years after graduating from City College, Rabbi Nadich earned a master’s degree in history and was ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary. He led Conservative congregations in Buffalo and in Chicago before enlisting in the Army as a chaplain in 1942.

In May 1974, when he was president of the Rabbinical Assembly, the international association of Conservative rabbis, Rabbi Nadich urged the group’s committee on Jewish law to “give careful consideration” to his proposal to admit ordained women. It was not until 1985 that the Jewish Theological Seminary, the academic center of the Conservative movement, first ordained a woman, Rabbi Amy Eilberg.

Conservative Judaism, which started in the late 19th century and appealed particularly to the wave of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, tries to blend tradition with modernity. Shuly Rubin Schwartz, a professor of American Jewish history at the Jewish Theological Seminary, said that Rabbi Nadich pushed the edges of modernity “when the movement was struggling with how and to what extent to grant women equality in Jewish ritual.”

Beyond the issue of ordination, Professor Schwartz said, Rabbi Nadich advocated, and at Park Avenue Synagogue put into practice, policies like including women in the minyan (the quorum required to begin prayer) and calling women to the Torah on Sabbath morning to recite the blessings.

In July 1961, when his synagogue first called a woman to the Torah, Rabbi Nadich told The New York Times that the decision was not a contravention of Halakkah, traditional Jewish law. There is evidence, he said, that it had been practiced hundreds of years earlier.

In a 1960 sermon protesting segregation, Rabbi Nadich said: “Freedom is colorblind, and the yearning for it is God-implanted within the breast of every human being. To help those who seek it and who have the right to it is our sacred obligation.”

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  • I didn’t have the privilege of knowing Rabbi Nadich, but I do have the honor of working with his magnificent daughter, Shira Nadich Levin. I am her assistant. Shira is a remarkable, extraordinary and lovely woman and these traits can only come from parents who instill these qualities in their children. Rabbi Nadich was a legend and as I read more and more about him, I am so touched about all the wonderful things he has done for the Jewish community. His family mourns him deeply and my heartfelt condolences are shared with each and every member.