Solomon Schindler

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Solomon Schindler

Solomon Schindler (1842-1915), German-American rabbi and social theorist, contributed to the reform movement in Judaism and to the religious socialism of his era.

Solomon Schindler was born in Neisse, Germany, on April 24, 1842, the son of a rabbi. Although he was prepared for the rabbinate, his liberal religious tendencies caused him to enter the Royal Teachers' Seminary at Büren, from which he graduated in 1870. He had married Henrietta Schutz. His unusual conduct and ideas closed certain opportunities, and his openly antipatriotic stand during the Franco-Prussian War made it desirable for him to leave the country.

Schindler and his family arrived in America without resources. Reluctantly, because of financial need, he accepted a post as rabbi in Hoboken, N. J. In 1874 he became reader, teacher, and preacher of a temple in Boston. He proceeded to transform this temple into the Jewish church of his dreams, dispensing with many orthodox rituals and Americanizing the institution in every way possible. Although this lost him some of his congregation, he gained many more. In 1885 a new temple was dedicated with such liberal Protestant ministers as Phillips Brooks and Edward Everett Hale attending.

Schindler expanded his social concerns in ways that made him popular among Bostonians of various religions. He was a friend of the Catholic editor and poet John Boyle O'Reilly. His sermons collected as Messianic Expectations and Modern Judaism (1885)—critical of what he deemed outmoded and unwarranted illusions—were circulated by the Boston Globe. His hope for the world was social reform, particularly as expounded by Edward Bellamy in his novel Looking Backward, which Schindler translated into German. Schindler also wrote a sequel, Young West (1894).

Schindler's approach to religion and social reform brought him local popularity, so that from 1888 to 1894 he was elected to the Boston School Board by all factions. Nevertheless he lost his appeal for his congregation, which sought a native pastor and dismissed Schindler in 1893. He went on to found the pioneer Federation of Jewish Charities of Boston and was its superintendent until 1899. Thereafter until his retirement in 1909, he headed the Leopold Morse Home for Infirm Hebrews at Mattapan, Mass. Schindler in later years offered a sermon, "Mistakes I Have Made," which modified the sweeping nature of his criticism of traditional Judaism. He died on May 5, 1915.

Further Reading

Schindler's reputation has been lost in the uncertain currents of the Christian Socialism of his time. The one treatment of him in modern times, an incomplete analysis, is in Arthur Mann, Yankee Reformers in the Urban Age (1954). See also B. O. Flower, Progressive Men, Women and Movements of the Past Twenty-five Years (1914), and Arthur E. Morgan, Edward Bellamy (1944). David Philipson, The Reform Movement inJudaism (1907; new and rev. ed. 1931), does not include Schindler but develops some of the principles that influenced his thought. □