Browne, Edward B.M.
BROWNE, EDWARD B.M.
BROWNE, EDWARD B.M. (1845–1929), U.S. Reform rabbi, lecturer, and writer on talmudic and rabbinic literature. He was an honorary pallbearer for President Ulysses S. Grant in 1885, and the first rabbi to give the opening prayer in the United States Senate, 1884. Browne translated The Book Jashar, and created Prayers of Israel, for American Reform Services in Temple Gates of Hope, New York, 1884. Born in Eperies, Hungary, the son of Jacob and Katje Sonnenschein Browne, he immigrated to United States in 1865, after studying at a government academy and receiving a rabbinical degree from I.H. Hirschfield at Fuenfkirchen Theological Seminary. He studied with Isaac Mayer Wise in Cincinnati in 1868–69, earned a medical degree from Cincinnati College of Physicians and Surgeons, and a law degree from the University of Wisconsin. Among colleagues he became known as "Alphabet" Browne because of the many academic letters in his signature, E.B.M. Browne, L.L.D., A.M., B.M., D.D., M.D.
Highly popular on the public lecture circuit, he served numerous congregations in the South, Midwest, and Northeast, notably Atlanta, 1871–81, where he established The Jewish South, the first Jewish newspaper in the South; New York, 1881–89, where he established The Jewish Herald; and Columbus, Georgia, 1893–1901. Often in conflict with New York's Reform leadership, he first offended philanthropists in 1881 by identifying malpractice in the treatment of Jewish immigrants. He drew criticism for insisting on walking rather than riding with the other pallbearers in the funeral procession of President Grant because the event took place on the Jewish Sabbath, and again opposed Jewish leadership in a long struggle to win excused absences from public schools for Jewish children on the High Holidays. He was forced to leave New York after defying popular opinion to save the life of an innocent Jewish immigrant who had been railroaded to death row on a much publicized murder charge.
While basically a "reformer" who began his career as a disciple of I.M. Wise, Browne became estranged from his former mentor and veered away from the Reform Movement as the more radical changes took place. He opposed the Sunday Sabbath Movement and embraced Zionism, being appointment as a delegate to the First Zionist Congress in 1897, but was prevented by his congregation from attending it. While rabbi in Atlanta, he was appointed by Georgia Governor Alfred Colquitt to represent the state at a "World Congress of Social Science" in Stockholm but had to cancel the trip due to the illness of his wife. A staunch advocate for public education, he was the spokesman and the only Jew on a committee appointed by the Union League Club of New York to lobby Congress for a bill temporarily subsidizing schools in states unable to establish them without help, and he served as vice president of the United States Government Educational Congress at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. In the 1890s and again in 1902–03, he traveled in the Middle East on behalf of the European Jewish Archaeological Commission, under the protection of the Ottoman government.
Browne deposition, Case files Box 8, Browne, Edward B.M. v. Jones, 1881–1883, I.T. Williams Collection, New York Public Library; E.B.M. Browne Collection, Series C, Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives; New York Tribune (Oct. 15, 1882); United States Congressional Record (May 27, 1884); The Daily Graphic, New York, (Aug. 8 & 9, 1885); New York Herald (Oct. 22, 1886); New York Times, (Adolph Reich Case, June 20, 1887; Oct. 11, 1888; Nov. 27, 1888; Jan. 6, 1889); J.R. Blumberg, "Rabbi Alphabet Browne: The Atlanta Years," in: Southern Jewish History, Vol. 5 (2002).
[Janice Rothschild Blumberg (2nd ed.)]