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Bettmann, Bernhardt


BETTMANN, BERNHARDT (1834–1915), U.S. Reform lay leader. Born in Germany, Bettmann immigrated to the U.S. in 1850, settling in Cincinnati and building a successful clothing business. Early on, he formed a close relationship with Reform leader Rabbi Isaac Mayer *Wise, who tapped him to serve the Zion Collegiate Association. An active leader of the Reform movement throughout its formative years, Bettmann joined the first executive board of the *Union of American Hebrew Congregations upon its founding in 1873. In 1875, he became the first chairman of the Board of Governors of the *Hebrew Union College, a position he held until becoming its honorary president in 1910. Ideologically, Bettmann was a non-Zionist, contending that while Palestine could possibly serve as a haven for the oppressed Jews of Russia, there was no need for a general return to a Jewish homeland. Spurning Jewish nationalism, he believed that the mission of Judaism was to spread the word of God and the brotherhood of man. A noted philanthropist, Bettmann was a pioneer in the development of community-wide social services. He was instrumental in founding the United Jewish Charities of Cincinnati and served as the organization's first president (1896–1903).


K.M. Olitzky, L.J. Sussman, and M.H. Stern, Reform Judaism in America: A Biographical Dictionary and Sourcebook (1993).

[Bezalel Gordon (2nd ed.)]

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