Gunther Lawrence passed away on January 24, 2017 at age 89. He was husband to Leah, father to David and Lucie and grandfather to Laney, Ellie, Zoe, Abby and Cooper.
Gunther was Director of Public Relations for the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and the Central Conference of American Rabbis (Reform), as well as Israel Bonds and the International Information Center. He was the author of Three Million More: The fight for Soviet Jewry (1970) and The business of being a Jew (2008).
Early in his career in 1963, Gunther met with Martin Luther King during the First Civil Rights March in Washington, DC which had a lasting effect on him and shaped his later career. More recently, he was the inspiration behind the creation of the Holocaust Menorah, commemorating the tragic loss of the 6 million Jews in the Holocaust, which he presented to Pope John Paul II and which now stands in the Vatican gardens. Today these menorahs have been dedicated in a dozen Catholic dioceses throughout the country and at the Community Synagogue in Port Washington.
As Executive Director of the Interreligious Information Center, based in Port Washington, the IIC organized the first Catholic-Jewish Lay Conference in Rome in 2007. At the conference, he presented Pope Benedict XVI with a miniature version of the original 5 foot Holocaust Menorah.
Gunther was born in Berlin in 1927 and as a young boy, experienced the early years of the Nazi terror. Because of the foresight of his father who saw what was happening to the Jewish people in Germany, they fled the county. Gunther, his parents Julius and Lucie Sobel and sister Ellen, emigrated to the United States, arriving in Manhattan. After marrying his sweetheart Leah, they moved to Port Washington in 1976 where they were active members of Community Synagogue and Gunther was President of the Brotherhood. Just a few years ago, Gunther and Leah moved to Seattle in 2014 to be closer to their family.
Gunther lived a full life giving much of himself to worthwhile causes. To those whose lives he touched, he will be long remembered as a mentor and a friend.