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Rabbi Sherwin Wine, the founder of the Humanistic Judaism movement, died in a car crash on Saturday in the Moroccan coastal town of Essaouira.
Wine, 79, founded the first congregation of Humanistic Judaism - which viewed the religion as a culture rather than a faith, in Michigan in 1963.
Wine, who was vacationing on Morocco's Atlantic coast, was killed instantly along with a taxi driver when a car slammed into their cab.
He and his partner, Richard McMains, were returning from dinner, and the cab driver was also killed, the Society for Humanistic Judaism's Web site said, adding that McMains remained hospitalized in stable condition.
Trained as a Reform rabbi, Wine began Humanistic Judaism in 1963 with the founding of the Birmingham Temple in Farmington Hills, Michigan, the first Humanistic congregation.
The Society for Humanistic Judaism, established in 1969, brought under one institutional umbrella a handful of Humanistic congregations. The movement is said to have up to 50,000 members in 13 countries, and is part of the general Humanist worldwide movement. Wine himself was the founding chairman of The Humanist Institute for training Humanist leaders for all major North American Humanist organizations.
In the 1960s, Wine developed for his Michigan congregation a liturgy and holiday celebrations that made no mention of God and interpreted Jewish holidays, the Shabbat and lifecycle events according to Humanistic philosophy. He retired in 2003.
His death presents a challenge for the movement, said Rabbi Marion Jerris, president of the Association of Humanistic Rabbis.
"This one is going to be a test," Jerris told the Detroit Free Press. "The work will go on, but it will be very hard. He was the most amazing visionary. He gave so many of us a home where we could live our job culture."
Wine was born in Detroit on Jan. 25, 1928 and raised by conservative Jewish parents. At the University of Michigan, he received bachelor's and master's degrees in philosophy.
He decided to become a rabbi in the Reform sect of Judaism and spent five years at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati.
Wine is the author of several books including Humanistic Judaism, Judaism Beyond God and Staying Sane in a Crazy World. He was writing a book this summer about living a meaningful, moral life without depending on faith for guidance.
AP contributed to this report.