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Wednesday, September 2, 1998 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Rabbi David Wolfe-Blank, 47, Jewish Renewal Leader

Seattle Times Staff Reporter

Rabbi David Wolfe-Blank was fond of gadgets, small key chains that would pull apart, little oddities that you'd pick up in knickknack stores.

He took a childlike delight in such things, said his brother, Arthur Blank of Ottawa, so much that Rabbi Wolfe-Blank was affectionately known by some as "Mr. Gadget."

Rabbi Wolfe-Blank was tremendously curious and took great interest in the latest gadget for his computer as well as in all things spiritual.

Such inquisitiveness led him to the most orthodox branch of Judaism, Zen buddhism, Native-American teachings, psychology, physics and even to the latest breakthroughs in space research. Rabbi Wolfe-Blank was a nationally known leader in one of the newer forms of Judaism, the Jewish Renewal movement.

Rabbi Wolfe-Blank died Saturday (Aug. 29) following a car accident on Vancouver Island. He was 47.

He was born Dec. 12, 1950, and grew up in Montreal. His parents were both Jewish, but only his mother observed. By the time he was 16, he had changed school three times, mostly because he was always looking for mentors and an understanding of spirituality, said his brother, Howard Blank of Montreal.

With his mother's support, he went to Israel at age 16. It was supposed to be only for a year, but he stayed for six, falling in with the Lubavitcher movement of Judaism. He then moved to New York City to be ordained as a rabbi by the Lubavitcher Yeshiva in the early 1970s.

The Lubavitchers' mission, his brother Howard explained, was luring Jews, who had strayed from the religion, back to Judaism. Rabbi Wolfe-Blank was sent to a Zen center in upstate New York and found the philosophies there were more in sync with his beliefs. So he stayed.

But that, too, did not last. Eventually, his teacher kicked him out of the center, his brother said. And he was challenged by the teacher to hitchhike across the country without money. Which he did.

In the late 1970s he wound up in Berkeley, Calif., where he became part of the Jewish Renewal movement. The movement incorporates teachings from other religions and subjects, like ecology, with the more traditional aspects of Judaism. He published a monthly newsletter and recorded tapes and recently had completed a book.

He moved to Seattle in 1995 after being recruited by the Congregation of Eitz Or in Seattle, a 100-family congregation that holds services at the Unitarian Church in Wedgwood. He strove to make his services joyous - and he did, using percussion and dancing, congregation members said.

Howard Blank said his brother made his services "rise to crescendo. It was like he was conducting it and making it alive."

Other survivors include Rabbi Wolfe-Blank's wife, Elaine, and their 5-year-old son, Uriel, of Seattle; his mother, Anne Blank of Montreal; his brother Rabbi Sholom Blank of Miami Beach; sister Shana Ross Deutscher of Montreal; and many nieces and nephews. His father, William Blank, died Jan. 3, 1994.

Contributions can be made to the Wolfe-Blank Family Fund, Congregation Eitz Or, P.O. 15480, Seattle, WA 98115. Services have been held. For information on the shivah, the period of mourning, call 206-467-2617.

Florangela Davila's phone message number is 206-464-2916. Her e-mail address is: fdavila@seattletimes.com

Copyright (c) 1998 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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