Brickner, Barnett Robert

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BRICKNER, BARNETT ROBERT (1892–1958), U.S. Reform rabbi. Born in New York, Brickner was a youthful orator in Zionist circles on New York's Lower East Side. He attended Columbia University and was awarded a B.S. and an M.A. (1914) and simultaneously studied at the Teachers Institute of the Jewish Theological Seminary (1910–15) before moving to Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati, where he was ordained in 1919 and received a Ph.D. in social science at the University of Cincinnati (1920). He then became rabbi of the Holy Blossom Congregation in Toronto in 1920. He also served as president of the Toronto Federation of Jewish Philanthropies and editor of the Canadian Jewish Review. In 1925 Brickner moved to Cleveland as rabbi of Congregation Anshe Chesed (Euclid Avenue Temple, later called the Fairmont Temple). There he instituted Sunday services (later discontinued), which attracted large audiences and improved the congregation's educational program, and became active in the life of the city. He was appointed president of the Cleveland Bureau of Jewish Education (1932) and was active in Zionist affairs and a significant figure in the United Palestine Appeal. He argued forcefully for the primacy of Israel in the life of American Jews. He also advocated that Reform rabbis spend a year of study in Israel well before it became commonplace. In 1942 Brickner became chairman of the Committee on Chaplains of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, which was responsible for recruiting chaplains for the U.S. armed forces. Later he was appointed administrative chairman of the Committee on Army and Navy Activities of the Jewish Welfare Board, and undertook a world tour of American military bases. He received a Medal of Merit (1947), the highest honor the American government confers on a civilian and the first one ever given to a rabbi. He was an activist within his community and in international Jewish life. Brickner served as chairman of the Jewish Welfare Fund Committee in Cleveland, and president of the Centeral Conference of American Rabbis (1955–56), among others. He was the author of The History of the Jews of Canada (1925) and The God Idea in Light of Modern Jewish Thought (1930).


S.M. Silver, Portrait of a Rabbi: An Affectionate Memoir on the Life of Barnett R. Bricker. (1959).

[Sefton D. Temkin /

Michael Berenbaum (2nd ed.)]