Senior Rabbi Allen Krause, right, presides over a B'not Mitzvah ceremony… (Allen J. Schaben, Los Angeles…)
At Mission San Juan Capistrano, founded centuries ago to spread the Christian faith, Rabbi Allen Krause started an annual interfaith conference in 1994 because he felt that Orange County's religious groups were too insular.
About 600 people attended the first Religious Diversity Faire, with spiritual leaders from more than a dozen faiths holding workshops on their beliefs and practices. The event was staged for 15 more years.
Providing a window into the religious beliefs of others was a recurring theme for Krause, who was recognized as a trailblazer in the county's interfaith movement.
"I'm sure most of us have never seen a Muslim worship service," he said at the first conference, where he shared his Jewish customs. "If we could just see into one, we could get to understand one another better, and thereby appreciate each other more."
Krause, who served as a rabbi for 25 years at Temple Beth El of South Orange County, died March 3 of prostate cancer at his Mission Viejo home, said his wife, Sherri. He was 72.
"He would really put himself in the shoes of others and go at it a hundred miles an hour trying to understand different issues," said Ibrahim "Abe" Ali, who became friends with Krause after the rabbi reached out to the Muslim community after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Krause's attempts to build understanding between religions included co-founding the South County Interfaith Clergy, promoting ongoing dialogues between faiths and leading an interfaith volunteer expedition to build low-income housing in Mexico.
Much of his life was also devoted to human rights issues.
In the late 1960s, Krause interviewed Jewish rabbis in the South to document their role in the civil rights movement, research that has been widely mined by other writers, his wife said.
Active in the Save Soviet Jewry movement in the 1970s, Krause traveled to the Soviet Union in 1986 to provide support to families of jailed Jewish dissidents. Most had asked for books on Jewish history and culture.
After founding the Ad Hoc Rabbinic Committee to Rescue Ethiopian Jewry in the early 1980s, he spearheaded a national petition campaign to persuade the U.S. government to take action.
"He genuinely cared for others," Ali said. "He internalized the Jewish tradition of healing the world. It really, really, really emanated from his heart and soul."
He was born Philip Allen Krause on Sept. 7, 1939, in San Antonio and lived in Cleveland and Northern California before his family settled in Westchester in the late 1940s. His father died when Krause was 13, and his mother was a bank executive.
At UCLA, he earned a bachelor's degree in American history in 1961. After receiving bachelor's and master's degrees from Hebrew Union College, Krause studied toward a doctorate at the University of Chicago and UC Berkeley.
For most of the 1970s, the rabbi led a congregation in Fremont, Calif. He founded a Jewish day school there and another, in 1986, in Mission Viejo.
When Krause arrived at Temple Beth El in the early 1980s, the Reform congregation did not have a permanent home. In 2001, it moved into what was the largest synagogue in Orange County, a 65,000-square-foot structure in Aliso Viejo.
Last year the temple honored Krause for "teaching us with words as well as his actions" how to "tikkun olam," a Hebrew phrase that means "to repair the world."
In addition to Sherri, whom he married in 1963, Krause is survived by his son, Stephen, and daughter Gavriella.