Rabbi David Einhorn

David Einhorn  (1809 – 1879)
1861-1866 Senior Rabbi at Keneseth Israel

David Einhorn born in Diespeck, Germany, November 10, 1809 became one of the most prestigious Rabbis of his time. At the age of 17, he earned his Rabbinic ordination from the Rabbinic school of Fürth in Bavaria, Germany; which the center of Jewish learning at the time.  He continued his studies at the Universities of Erlangen, Munich and Würzburg and  later became the Chief Rabbi of Mecklenburg-Schwerin (in Northern Germany). In 1852, being one of the early Jewish Reformers in Europe, Rabbi Einhorn took the opportunity to lead the Reform congregation in Pesth, Hungary.  Rabbi Einhorn had an impact on the Frankfort Rabbinical Conference in 1845, by strongly pushing for holding services in the vernacular and  cutting out all references to the restoration of the sacrifices and a Jewish state.

In 1856, David Einhorn immigrated to the United States. Shortly after, he gave a sermon at Keneseth Israel, but did not accept an offer become their Rabbi.  Instead, he accepted a position as the first Rabbi of the Har Sinai Congregation in Baltimore.  

 While in Baltimore, Rabbi Einhorn wrote and  published Olat Tamid, the first Reform prayer book in the United States. Olat Tamid, had an enormous impact on American Judaism, and later served as one of the models for the Union Prayer Book published in 1892 by the Central Conference of American Rabbis.

Einhorn was an opponent of the Cleveland Conference of 1855 and opposed its decision that the Talmud had primacy in interpreting the Torah. He stood in contrast to this opinion based on his training in Germany before he came to America.

In 1856, Rabbi Einhorn wrote and published Sinai, a monthly journal, devoted to Reform Judaism. He expressed his beliefs supporting anti-slavery, opposing  Interfaith marriage, wearing tefillin (collective term for Jewish phylacteries) , limitations of activity on Shabbat and kosher dietary laws.  In the Sinai magazine he thought that interfaith marriage was “a nail in the coffin of the small Jewish race”. He supported keeping the portions of the Torah, which spoke of being a moral person.

While living in Baltimore, Rabbi Einhorn was a proponent for the anti-slavery movement. Since Maryland was pro-slavery his position became life threatening. On April 19, 1861, an angry mob surrounded his house, in an attempt to tar and feather him. His congregation encouraged him and his family to seek refuge in the north. Guarded by friends, the Einhorn family fled to Philadelphia.

Keneseth Israel promptly hired David Einhorn to be its first ordained Rabbi. He was given the freedom of the pulpit and was able to continue his anti-slavery sermons.  Rabbi Einhorn agreed to preach three times a month, to supervise, and teach in the religious school.

In 1866 he moved to New York City, where he became the inaugural Rabbi of Congregation Adas Jeshurun on 39th Street, which merged with Congregation Anshei Chesed in 1873. The merged synagogues adopted the name of Congregation Beth-El and then built a new structure on 63rd Street. After serving Congregation Beth-El for many years, Rabbi Einhorn delivered his final sermon on July 12, 1879, after which the congregation agreed to bestow upon him a pension of $3,500. Rabbi Einhorn remained in New York City until his death in 1879. To read more about Rabbi Einhorn click on the links below: