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Browne, Lewis


BROWNE, LEWIS (1897–1949), U.S. Reform rabbi, author, radio commentator, and lecturer. Browne was born in London, England, and immigrated to the United States in 1912. He received his B.A. from the University of Cincinnati in 1919 and was ordained at Hebrew Union College in 1920. Browne served as a rabbi of Temple Israel in Waterbury, Connecticut (1920–23), while attending Yale University, where he earned his M.A. in 1923. In 1924, he became rabbi of the Newark, New Jersey, branch of Stephen S. Wise's Free Synagogue in New York. When his sermon topics provoked controversy among his congregants, he left the practicing rabbinate for the world of academia. He organized, taught, and acted as president of Newark Labor College (1925), was a visiting professor at Pennsylvania State College (1926), and subsequently joined the faculty of the University of California (1932–37) and the University of Hawaii (1937).

Browne achieved a measure of celebrity extending far beyond the Jewish community as a writer, pundit, world traveler, and lecturer. In addition to being a contributor to The Nation, The New Republic, and other well-known periodicals, he became a popular author of historical and biographical works. These books include Stranger Than Fiction: A Short History of the Jews from Earliest Times to the Present Day (1925, 1929, 1932), This Believing World: A Simple Account of the Great Religions of Mankind (1926), and Blessed Spinoza: A Biography of the Philosopher (1932). He compiled The Wisdom of Israel: An Anthology (1945; reissued in 1987 as The Wisdom of the Jewish People) and also wrote a novel, See What I Mean? (1943).

Throughout his entire adult life, Browne conducted correspondence with hundreds of people, some of them quite famous, especially in the areas of literature, politics and entertainment. Letters he exchanged with such notables as George Bernard Shaw, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Joseph Conrad, Hubert Humphrey, Upton Sinclair, Charlie Chaplin, and many more have been preserved in a collection of his manuscripts. Browne's papers also include notes on the lecture tour he made with Sinclair Lewis in 1941 and transcripts of his radio broadcasts.

[Bezalel Gordon (2nd ed.)]

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