Magnes, Judah (1877–1948)

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MAGNES, JUDAH (1877–1948)

U.S. reform rabbi, founder and first president of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Born in San Francisco, Judah Magnes received rabbinic ordination at Hebrew Union College in 1900 and his doctorate in philosophy at the Universities of Bern and Heidelberg. He served as rabbi of New York's Temple Emmanuel and later of B'nai Jeshurun. One of the founders of the American Jewish Committee, he also helped found the Yiddish daily newspaper Der Tag, as well as the American Civil Liberties Union and the American-Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. Magnes immigrated to Mandatory Palestine in 1922, becoming the first president of the Hebrew University in 1925. He rejected the notion of the "negation of the diaspora," contending that both Zion and the diaspora were of equal importance to Jewish life. He was prominent in the Ihud (unity) movement, a small group of intellectuals who argued for the establishment of a binational state rather than a Jewish state in Palestine. At the end of his life, following the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, he lobbied for a humanitarian resolution to the conflict.