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Davidson, David


DAVIDSON, DAVID (1848–1933), U.S. Reform rabbi and educator. Davidson was born in Lauternburg, Germany, and immigrated to the United States in 1880 after having been educated at the University of Breslau and ordained in Europe. He served as rabbi of Congregation B'nai Jeshurun in Des Moines, Iowa, and Shearith Israel Congregation in Cincinnati, where he was invited by Isaac Mayer *Wise in 1885 to join the faculty of the recently established Union College (later renamed *Hebrew Union College). Davidson taught Talmud and exegesis at the Reform seminary from 1885 to 1892, when he was awarded a Doctor of Divinity degree by huc and appointed rabbi of the Kahl-Montgomery Congregation in Montgomery, Alabama. In 1895, he was called to the prestigious Congregation Ahavath Chesed (later, Central Synagogue) in New York City, where he subsequently became the rabbi of Congregation Agudath Jeshurun.

Although recognized as a pioneer of Reform Judaism in America, Davidson also contributed significantly to the Conservative movement. In the early 1900s, he served as professor of rabbinics at the fledgling *Jewish Theological Seminary, without drawing a salary. There he befriended a number of students who were to make their own marks on American Jewish history, including Mordecai M. *Kaplan and Bernard C. *Ehrenreich as well as Stephen S. *Wise.

In 1901, Davidson left the active rabbinate in order to establish a private school – the Davidson Collegiate Institute, where he gave Morris Raphael Cohen his first teaching position – as well as a summer camp for boys in Pennsylvania. Hewas also a director of the Society for the Aid of Jewish Prisoners and lobbied for a Jewish Protectorate in Palestine. In 1931, he was elected an honorary member of the Central Conference of American Rabbis.

In addition to publishing sermons, plays, essays, and poems in both German and English, Davidson wrote several provocative works, including Shall We Christianize the Constitution of the U.S.A.? Sabbath or Sunday? (1889), and The Moral Issue of the World War (1915).

[Bezalel Gordon (2nd ed.)]

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