‘Warren Buffett’s Rabbi,’ Myer Kripke, Dies at 100

May 4, 2014 2:38 pm 1 comment

Selling Chametz to the 'Sage of Omaha,' in 2012. From left: Beth Cohen, Rabbi Jonathan Gross, Rabbi Myer Kripke, Warren Buffett, and Yossie Stern, Rabbi Kripke’s son-in-law. Photo: Orthodox Union.

Selling Chametz to the 'Sage of Omaha,' in 2012. From left: Beth Cohen, Rabbi Jonathan Gross, Rabbi Myer Kripke, Warren Buffett, and Yossie Stern, Rabbi Kripke’s son-in-law. Photo: Orthodox Union.

Rabbi Myer Kripke, known as “Warren Buffett’s rabbi” because of his 50-year friendship with the famed investor, passed away on April 11 at 100 years old, according to an extensive obituary in The New York Times on Saturday.

In 2012, Kripke helped Rabbi Jonathan Gross, of the Orthodox Union member Beth Israel Synagogue, in Omaha, sell the congregation’s chametz to Buffett, as part of the Passover tradition.

The Times featured the rabbi in 1997, when he told their reporter the story of how his small inheritance ended up being managed by the “Sage of Omaha,” beginning in the late-1960s, when both men belonged to the same Rotary Club and lived a few blocks from each other in the Happy Hollow neighborhood of Omaha, Nebraska.

Within 25 years or so, the Kripke nest egg of $67,000 was worth about $25 million.

“It mushroomed like an atomic bomb,” Rabbi Kripke told The Philadelphia Inquirer in 1997.

Rather than luxuries, like the Buffetts, the Kripkes lived in the same home they always had, “as content in their three-bedroom, $900-a-month apartment as Mr. Buffett has famously been in the modest house he bought there in the 1950s,” The Times wrote.

The two families became friendlier over the years, as the Buffetts invited the Kripkes over for Thanksgiving, where they always ate a gourmet tuna fish salad because the turkey was not kosher.

Kripke met his wife, Dorothy Karp, at New York’s Jewish Theological Seminary of America, where they were married, in 1937, in the courtyard beneath the campus tower, at Broadway and 122nd Street. Chancellor Louis Finkelstein waived the fee for the newlyweds, but asked if they could ever reimburse the seminary, it would be appreciated, and the Kripkes came through, eventually.

In 1966, a fire destroyed the tower, and 30 years later, the Kripkes gave the seminary $7 million toward the $11 million cost of restoring it, and the tower was renamed for them. They also gave $8 million more to the school, to be bestowed after their deaths. Kripke’s wife died in 2000, The Times said.

The newspaper wrote: “Rabbi Kripke and Mr. Buffett shared a passion for ideas. In the oral history interview, Rabbi Kripke told of the time Mr. Buffett met his son, Saul Kripke, a Princeton scholar who has been called the world’s greatest living philosopher. They plunged into conversation.”

Daughter Madeline Kripke is known for her extraordinary collection of some 20,000 dictionaries, stored in her Greenwich Village apartment and three warehouses. (Kripke got her started by giving her a Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary when she was in fifth grade.)

The newspaper said: “Myer Samuel Kripke was born on Jan. 21, 1914, in Toledo, Ohio. His father bought and sold containers like bottles and barrels, and the Kripkes had a middle-class life. Rabbi Kripke told the Nebraska Jewish Historical Society in 2002 that he had decided to become a rabbi while in high school.”

The Times said that Buffett told them “that he relished the rabbi’s sense of humor and appreciated his sincerity.” The investor showed up at Kripke’s 90th birthday party, greatly impressing other guests.

“It made me very important,” Rabbi Kripke told The Times.

1 Comment

  • Howard Hoffer

    My sincere to condolences to the family fo Rabbi Kripke. My connection to the Rabbi goes back to the time of my living in Omaha, Neb. in the early 1960′s, prior to my first marriage, at which time Rabbi Kripke helped my first wife in a conversion to Judaism. Rabbi Kripke at that time was very much against converting non Jews, but he said that after meeting my future wife, he felt comfortable continuing with it. He then officiated at my marriage and I always remembered him for his understanding and wonderfully caring, comforting, attitude. It comes with great sadness that I learn of his passing today as I reflect back on those days.

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