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Chaim Stern, 71; Leading Liturgist of Reform Judaism

November 16, 2001|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Rabbi Chaim Stern, 71, an influential liturgist of Reform Judaism whose 1978 prayer book for the High Holy Days was quoted by a repentant President Bill Clinton, died of a malignant brain tumor Nov. 5 in Miami.

As editor and author of most prayer books used by the 800 congregations in the liberal American Reform movement, the rabbi translated many passages from the original Hebrew, collected wise quotes from many sources and wrote other sections himself.

He modernized such words as "thou" and "thee" to "you" and changed "our fathers" to "our ancestors."

Three years ago, after Clinton acknowledged his contacts with Monica S. Lewinsky, the president read from Stern's "Gates of Repentance" in a speech to clergy. The passage, Clinton said, outlined his own plan of contrition. The quoted passage was attributed by Stern to Rabbi Jack Riemer of Florida.

Asked soon after the speech if he thought Clinton was sincere about repenting, Stern replied, "There is no possibility we're going to know any time soon."

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