Rabbi William A. Rosenthall was born in Kenton, Ohio, in 1927. He served in the United States Air Corps during the last months of World War II and studied literature, modern languages, and art at Syracuse University. After graduating magna cum laude in 1950, Rosenthall entered the rabbinical program at the Hebrew Union College, Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati, where he was ordained in 1956. Before coming to Charleston in 1976, Rosenthall held rabbinates in Washington, DC; Burlington, Iowa; Marion, Indiana; Wheeling, West Virginia; Port Washington, New York; and Panama City, Panama.
As director of the World Union for Progressive Judaism from 1962 to 1973, Rabbi Rosenthall was instrumental in establishing new congregations in Latin America, Israel, and Europe. During these years, he studied, traveled, preached, and collected Judaica in many parts of the world.
Rabbi William A. Rosenthall’s longest tenure was as rabbi of Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim (KKBE), the birthplace of Reform Judaism, in Charleston, South Carolina. Rosenthall spearheaded efforts to promote interfaith cooperation and served as president of the Christian-Jewish Council of Charleston and the Ministerial Association of Greater Charleston. As a scholar and collector of Judaica, Rabbi Rosenthall lectured on the Jewish graphic arts and exhibited portions of his collection in Cincinnati, Charleston, and Savannah. In addition, he served on the boards of the Carolina Art Association and The Charleston Museum and on the Collections Committee of the Gibbes Museum of Art. William A. Rosenthall also assisted in establishing the Jewish Studies program at the College of Charleston.
Rabbi William A. Rosenthall retired from KKBE in 1992 and held the position of rabbi emeritus until his death in 2005.