Life Story / Obituary
Rabbi Robert Joseph Marx was a teacher, leader, innovator and social justice visionary whose work has inspired Jews and non-Jews alike. The breadth of his intellect, joy and humor was an inspiration to all who knew him.
Robert was born in Cleveland, Ohio, on Aug. 17, 1927, to Sylvester and Lucille Marx. He was the oldest of three children, with a brother, Donald, and sister, Harriet.
Robert was ordained at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati, and received a doctoral degree in philosophy from Yale University. In 1964, when he was a regional director for the Union of American Hebrew Congregation in Chicago, he founded the Jewish Council of Urban Affairs, with a mission to combat poverty, racism and anti-Semitism in partnership with Chicago’s diverse communities. In 1966, he marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma, Alabama, and again in Chicago.
Robert served as rabbi of Congregation Solel in Highland Park, Illinois, and later the founding rabbi of Congregation Hakafa in Glencoe. He was an associate professor of philosophy at DePaul University in Chicago.
In 1948, Robert married the former Marjorie Plaut and they had two children, Richard J. (“R.J.”) Marx and David Marx. The marriage ended in 1973.
After the death of his son David, Robert facilitated a support group called Parents Who Have Lost a Child. His 2004 book, “Facing the Ultimate Loss,” written with co-author Susan Davidson, is a source of support for both parents and professionals.
Robert founded the Catholic-Jewish Dialogue in Chicago. He was a founding member and served as president of Interfaith Worker Justice.
He authored “The People in Between: the Paradox of Jewish Interstitiality,” in 2014, a short history of diaspora Jewry and a philosophical and theological reflection on that history.
He was honored as founder of the Jewish Council of Urban Affairs 50th anniversary that same year at the organization’s gala “Acts of Change.”
Rabbi Marx and his wife Ruth Marx were married in 1981 after meeting in Sterling, Illinois. The family raised, Suzi Geguzys Schoonmaker, Sandi Geguzys Stanfel, Ron Geguzys, Vicki Geguzys Fredman and Cynthia Geguzys Schuman.
Robert and Ruth lived many happy years in retirement in Saugatuck, Michigan, marked by visits by family, friends, colleagues and seventeen grandchildren.
On March 28, Rabbi Marx died peacefully at home, in his beloved study surrounded by books.
A private family service will take place at a later date. In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation to the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs.