Mordecai Gabriel, a past president of Temple Israel of Great Neck, died Dec. 14, just a few days after the passing of another elder statesman of the congregation, Jacob Stein.
“Dr. Gabriel led a life of tremendous accomplishment,” said Rabbi Howard Stecker, who officiated at the funeral. “Mordy was a professor, noted biologist, contributor to Encyclopedia Judaica, vice president and associate provost of Brooklyn College – and president of Temple Israel of Great Neck. And when I spoke to Mordy I always learned something new from him.”
Gabriel, who was 94, is survived by his wife of 67-years, Eleanor, two daughters and four grandchildren. The Gabriels belonged to Temple Israel for 50 years and he served as president of the congregation from 1977-1979. Extremely active in congregational life, he also served on numerous Temple Israel committees.
He helped start a Jewish congregation on Cape Cod, borrowing a Torah from Temple Israel. It was there that he spent summers for more than 70 years, doing scientific research in the Columbia Lab at the Marine Biological Laboratories, writing, contributing to, and editing numerous publications in the sciences. He was the co-author of “Great Experiments in Biology,” published in 1955.
Gabriel was associated with Brooklyn College for more than 45 years as professor of biology, chairman of the Biology Department, dean of the School of Science, and finally as associate provost, until his retirement in 1990.
In addition to his achievements in science, Gabriel was an accomplished musician who often played clarinet or oboe in chamber music ensembles. He was also a knowledgeable Judaic scholar with a deep commitment to and abiding support of Israel. His roots were there, as his father was born in the old city of Jerusalem and numerous relatives lived and still live in Israel.
“My father was fluent in Hebrew and was therefore able to lecture in Hebrew during his year-long assignment as a Fulbright Lecturer in Biology at the University of Tel Aviv from 1959-1960,” recalled his daughter, Jessica Lauria. “He and my mother visited Israel numerous times and were generous in their support of Israeli causes.”
Rabbi Marim D. Charry, who also spoke at the funeral, fondly recalled Dr. Gabriel’s longtime participation in his adult education class.
“He was a brilliant man,” Rabbi Charry said. “A consummate mensche.”
Stein, another past president of Temple Israel, went on to leadership positions in Conservative and world Jewry. He later became an advisor to Presidents Reagan and Bush.
Marc Katz is president of Katz Communications.