Rabbi Henri E. Front, one of the leading liberal voices of the Jewish community in Orange County, died Wednesday at age 61 after a brief bout with pancreatic cancer.
A former chairman and current member of the Orange County Human Relations Commission, Front had been head of the Temple Beth David in Westminster since 1977.
Orange County Supervisor Harriett M. Wieder said: "Rabbi Front was not only a religious leader, but a civic and cultural activist who practiced his faith in his everyday deeds. His main credo was the Hebrew word tzedekah (justice). . . . His death is not only a loss to his family and congregation, but to Orange County as a whole."
Dr. Daniel H. Ninburg, the immediate past chairman of the Orange County Human Relations Commission, said Front "was a leading light in the community. . . . He had a strong feeling for the underprivileged and those who are discriminated against for whatever reason."
Active in interfaith efforts, Front was invited in 1986 by the Islamic society of Orange County to speak about Judaism. Dr. Mohamed J. Khan, the former president of the society, said, "Rabbi Front presented Judaism in a very nice way. He educated us in the broad principles of Judaism. . . . He was a very broad-minded man. I believe he belongs not only to the Jews, but to all of us."
Front, born in Wheeling, W.Va., was ordained at Hebrew Union College in 1953. He received his doctor of Hebrew letters in 1963 and his doctor of divinity in 1980.
An active leader in the reform Jewish community, Front was president of both the Pacific Assn. of Reform Rabbis and the Orange County Board of Rabbis.
After serving in the Navy as a chaplain in Okinawa, he became the rabbi at the Temple Menorah in Redondo Beach and served there from 1957 to '62. After working for the Union of American Hebrew Congregations in Pennsylvania from 1963 to '68, he returned to Los Angeles, first as a rabbi at the Wilshire Boulevard Temple and later at the Beth Sholom Temple in Santa Monica.
Front is survived by his wife, Regina B. Front; two children, Seth and Jackie; and his mother, Julia F. Steinberg.