Harry Offenbach

Harry Offenbach

David Baugher

The word “learning” comes up a lot in conversations with Dr. Harry Offenbach. The word “teaching” does, too. That’s because he does a lot of both.

“I’ve been teaching Judaism ever since my bar mitzvah,” said Offenbach sitting quietly in the University City apartment he shares with his partner Helen Schwartz. “No matter what city I’ve lived in I’ve always been teaching or doing services.”

Born in the northwestern Pennsylvania town of Bradford, Offenbach taught as student director of Hillel at the University of Michigan. Later, while earning his doctorate from the University of Chicago, he taught dramatics at a local synagogue. Eventually, he would find himself leading services in Italy and France during his time in the military. Once in St. Louis, he taught post-confirmation classes at Temple Israel for 18 years and has led services for the past decade at The Gatesworth at One McKnight Place.

“It’s about preservation of Judaism in terms of the less-than-ethical environment we’re bringing our kids up in today and maintaining those ethics and those ideals in spite of the fact that our numbers worldwide are not increasing,” said Offenbach, a father of three and grandfather of eight. “It’s important to maintain our traditions, our values, our educational system, reverence for whatever major influence in your life one can call God as well as reverence for humanity and the acceptance of other people as equals.”

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Offenbach, a clinical psychologist who also was a sales manager for a manufacturer of men’s slacks until his retirement in 1980, has been very active in the Jewish community. In addition to his temple’s board, he has served on the boards of the Jewish Federation, the Brodsky Community Library, the Holocaust Museum and Learning Center and the Jewish Community Relations Council, of which he served as president in the 1970s. He’s also been a part of the board of the National Federation of Temple Brotherhoods.

Most notable however, may be Offenbach’s work with the Jewish Chautauqua Society where he’s been involved for half a century. He has not only served on the board of the international interfaith educational organization but he has received his share of honors from it including the prestigious Alfred E. and Genevieve Weil Medallion Award and the group’s Defender of the Faith Award. He was also named honorary chancellor of the society.

“He’s not an unsung hero,” jokes Schwartz. “He’s been honored nationally and internationally in the Jewish community for a variety of things.”

Schwartz also said that Offenbach has one other outstanding quality.

“He loves people,” said Schwartz who, like Offenbach, is widowed. “When we meet people he always learns and remembers a lot about them. He’s such a people person.”

It’s a quality that comes through to everyone who meets him.

“We always have fun,” Offenbach said. “Life is fun. Life is an adventure. Every day is fun for me.”

Harry Offenbach

FAMILY:  Three children, eight grandchildren

OCCUPATION:  On many boards locally and at national level, retired from area slacks manufacturing company and clinical psychology practice

HOME:  University City

FUN FACT:  Offenbach moved to St. Louis in 1951