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Breuer, Joseph


BREUER, JOSEPH (1882–1980), Orthodox rabbi; son of Solomon Breuer and grandson of Samson Raphael *Hirsch. Breuer was born in Papa, Hungary. In 1906, he became a lecturer at the yeshivah founded by his father in Frankfurt on the Main and became its head after his father's death in 1926. Immigrating to the U.S. in 1939 to escape Nazi persecution, he became the rabbi of the recently founded K'hal Adath Jeshurun in Washington Heights, n.y., and founder of its Yeshivah Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (1944), modeled after the separatist Orthodox Jewish community of Frankfurt which had been founded by Hirsch. Hirsch's community had severed all institutional ties to the official Frankfurt Jewish community because the latter represented both Reform and Orthodox Jews, while Hirsch saw all cooperation with Reform as heresy. Besides a large synagogue and a school system from nursery school to advanced yeshivah, the kehillah which he headed had its own kashrut supervision, and a wide array of charitable and religious societies. K'hal Adath Jeshurun, colloquially known as "Breuer's," was the largest and most influential of over a dozen synagogues founded by German Jewish refugees from Hitler who arrived in Washington Heights, on the northern end of Manhattan in the late 1930s. The congregants at "Breuer's" were mainly strictly Orthodox German Jews from Frankurt, its surrounding rural areas, and other large German cities, and their children.

Regarded as one of the spiritual heirs of Hirsch, his maternal grandfather, Rabbi Breuer wrote extensively in German and English defending staunch Orthodoxy. Closely affiliated with *Agudat Israel, Breuer took a strongly anti-Zionist religious stance. Compared to his more yeshivah-oriented colleague Shimon Schwab (appointed in 1958), Rabbi Breuer was also an advocate of both aspects of his grandfather's philosophy of "Torah im derekh ereẓ" (the idea that traditional study and pursuits should be integrated with worldly culture). He continued to favor a degree of openness to general culture and higher education even as the congregation moved further to the right. Breuer also emphasized the importance of the synagogue's decorous atmosphere and men's choir. Although he retired from official duties in 1967, he continued to be a moral influence and a beloved figure within his community until his death at the age of 98.

Breuer published biblical translations and commentaries on Jeremiah (1914) and Ezekiel (1921), introductions to S.R. Hirsch's Commentary on the Torah (Ger. 2 vols, 1926; Eng. 2 vols, 1948), translations of and commentaries (with text) on the piyyutim for Rosh ha-Shanah and the Day of Atonement and also wrote Jewish Marriage (Ger. 1923; Eng. 1956). A Jubilee Volume was published in his honor on the occasion of his 80th birthday (Ateret Zevi, Eng. and Heb., 1962, with a bibliography of his writings).

[Isaac B. Gottlieb /

Steven Lowenstein (2nd ed.)]

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