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UPDATE: San Luis Obispo rabbi died of embolism near Avila Beach home

nlucero@thetribunenews.com

UPDATE 4:45 P.M.: Sheriff's detectives have determined there was no foul play or an indication of suicide in the death of Rabbi Scott M. Corngold, who was found dead in his car near his Avila Beach home on Saturday morning.

Corngold, 49, died of a pulmonary embolism, according to a news release from the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office.

In most cases, pulmonary embolism is caused by a blood clot in the leg that breaks loose and travels to the lungs.

He apparently experienced the beginning of the complication at home, and was possibly trying to seek assistance. A witness saw him driving erratically, sheriff’s spokesman Rob Bryn said.

Corngold’s Toyota Prius, with its hazard lights flashing, was pulled to the side of the westbound lane along Avila Beach Drive at Cave Landing Road.

Corngold was found with a cut on his head, and that, along with other factors, led the sheriff’s office to investigate it as a suspicious death, Bryn said.

He was transported to Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

Sheriff’s officials originally said the toxicology report is due in two to three weeks, but on Wednesday they said it could take up to four weeks because the out-of-county lab is busier than usual.

Corngold led Congregation Beth David since July 2009. His contract was recently renewed for another year, but he resigned on Nov. 20. Synagogue leaders told members he resigned for personal reasons.

Congregation Beth David held a private service for members today. A funeral service is planned for 12:30 p.m. Friday in Southern California.

— Tribune staff report

ORIGINAL STORY

Friends remember San Luis Obispo Rabbi Scott Corngold, who died Saturday, as an enthusiastic spiritual leader who inspired others.

“We are all devastated at the loss of such a wonderful man,” the Rev. Stephanie Raphael said. “I personally found him to be kind, genuinely interested in others, intelligent and learned — a joy to be around.”

Raphael is president of the San Luis Obispo Ministerial Association, which included Corngold as a member.

Few details have been made public about the 49-year-old’s death, sending the community reeling in speculation over whether his Nov. 20 resignation from Congregation Beth David was somehow related.

But friends say a family emergency prompted Corngold to step down and that he planned to return to the area after it was taken care of. Synagogue leaders told members he resigned for personal reasons.

Corngold led the Jewish congregation since July 2009. His contract was recently renewed for another year.

As of Tuesday, authorities wouldn’t speculate how the Avila Beach resident died. He was found Saturday morning not breathing and without a heartbeat in the driver’s seat of his blue Prius. His car was pulled to the side of the westbound lane along Avila Beach Drive at Cave Landing Road, its hazard lights still flashing.

Public records show that Corngold had a home address about a mile and a half away on Twinberry Circle.

It’s not clear how long he was in the car before a passing motorist called authorities. An autopsy is scheduled for today. A toxicology report is due in two to three weeks.

A member of the temple and friend said it’s important to remember Corngold now. He loved the ocean’s beauty, and she found his teachings creative and liked how he brought poems and literature into his spiritual discussions.

“His discussions were always thought provoking and always very illuminating,” said Diane McKeague, who served on the synagogue’s board as co-president when Corngold was selected as rabbi.

Corngold, a Los Angeles native, worked as an editor and writer for a decade before studying to become a rabbi. Corngold was ordained in 1999 and went on to become a rabbi at Temple Am-Echad in Lynbrook, N.Y.

Congregation Beth David will hold a private service for members today. A funeral service is planned for 12:30 p.m. Friday in Southern California.

Rabbi Emeritus Norman Mendel and Para Rabbinic Fellow Jared Sharon have agreed to oversee services for Congregation Beth David in the short term; details on the temple’s plans for choosing a new rabbi have not been disclosed.

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