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Bettmann, Bernhardt

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).

bibliography:

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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