Cronbach, Abraham

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CRONBACH, ABRAHAM (1882–1965), U.S. Reform rabbi, author, and teacher. Cronbach was born in Indianapolis, Indiana. He was ordained in 1906 at Hebrew Union College. He served at congregations in South Bend, Indiana (1906–15), and was assistant rabbi of the Free Synagogue, New York, under Rabbi Stephen S. *Wise (1915–17), and at Akron, Ohio (1917–19). He was also Jewish institutional chaplain of Chicago (1919–22). During these years Cronbach developed a passion for social justice, an unshakable belief in pacifism, and a "mutualistic" philosophy embodying ethical relativity and a concept of God as supreme ideal rather than source of power. As professor of Jewish Social Studies at Hebrew Union College from 1922 to 1950, Cronbach influenced a generation of rabbis in the struggle for social justice and peace.

Cronbach, an individualist, befriended the murderer Nathan *Leopold, was rabbi to the convicted American spies for the Soviet Union Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, and supported the anti-Zionist American Council for Judaism. As such he was under constant criticism by opponents. Although he was a Hebrew scholar, he was anti-Hebraist, opposing the use of Hebrew in American Jewish religious life.

Among his many writings are Jewish Peace Book for Home and School (1932), on the heritage of Judaism's pursuit of peace; Judaism for Today (1954), his philosophy in simple and popular terms; Realities of Religion (1957), his philosophy of radical empiricism; Stories Made of Bible Stories (1961), biblical stories rewritten to conform to his philosophy of pacifism and brotherhood; Reform Movements in Judaism (1963); and "Autobiography" (aja, 2 (1959), 3–81).


R.A. Seigel, Biography of Abraham Cronbach (unpublished M.A. thesis, Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati, 1965); A. Vorspan, Giants of Justice (1960), 201–99. add. bibliography: S.E. Karff, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion at 100 (1976).

[Robert A. Seigel]