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Sholom Rivkin, last U.S. chief rabbi, dies

ST. LOUIS, Oct. 4 (UPI) -- Sholom Rivkin, the former chief rabbi of St. Louis and the last person to hold that position in the United States, has died. He was 85.

Jacqueline Rivkin of New York told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch her father, who was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease seven years ago, died Saturday. He had been living at the McKnight Place Extended Care Center in St. Louis.

In 1983, Rivkin was named chief rabbi in St. Louis of the United Orthodox Jewish Community-Vaad Hoeir. The Hebrew name means "Council of the City or Community." He was known nationally and internationally as an expert on Jewish law and once traveled to Russia to perform religious divorces.

"His name and his word were gold -- that's how renowned he was," Menachem Greenblatt, rabbi at Agudas Israel Synagogue in University City, told the Post-Dispatch.

In the 1980s, Rivkin ruled Jewish women could conceive through in vitro fertilization, a landmark decision.

The position of chief rabbi was a European import that did not take hold in the United States. Rivkin, the fourth chief rabbi in St. Louis, was not replaced when he retired in 2005, and the St. Louis Rabbinical Council assumed his responsibilities.

Rivkin was born in Jerusalem in what was then Palestine and grew up in St. Louis. He served congregations in St. Louis, Seattle and New York before returning to the city as chief rabbi in 1983.

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