Davidson, Max David

views updated


DAVIDSON, MAX DAVID (1899–1977), U.S. Conservative rabbi. Davidson was born in Newark, New Jersey, and ordained at the *Jewish Theological Seminary in 1922, having received his B.A. degree from New York University in 1919. He spent his entire career as a pulpit rabbi in his native state of New Jersey, first in Asbury Park (Congregation Beth El, 1922–28) and then in Perth Amboy (Temple Beth Mordecai, 1929 until his death). Davidson rose to prominence as president both of the *Rabbinical Assembly (1950–52), after having served as treasurer and vice president of the organization during the previous three years, and the *Synagogue Council of America (1959–61), a body he had helped create. He also served as chairman of the *National Jewish Welfare Board's Division of Religious Activities, supervising chaplaincy affairs for the three major rabbinic groups in the U.S. armed services (1950–53); he had actively recruited Jewish chaplains during World War ii, then spent the postwar years chairing the ra's Joint Placement Commission, in which capacity he secured congregational positions for demobilized military chaplains. As vice chairman of the ra's Membership Committee (1944–45), Davidson is credited with having streamlined the procedures for enrolling newly ordained Seminary graduates in the Rabbinical Assembly, leading to the expansion of the ra as the recognized professional association for Conservative rabbis. He subsequently chaired the Rabbinical Assembly's Ethics Committee and oversaw the adoption of the organization's Code of Professional Conduct. Even after his term as president, he continued to serve the ra as comptroller, archivist member of the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards, and chairman of the Joint Prayerbook Commission of the Rabbinical Assembly and the Synagogue Council of America. Throughout his many years in Rabbinical Assembly leadership roles, Davidson developed a reputation as a respected arbiter of disputes, a champion of freedom of conscience and diversity, and an outspoken critic of what he termed the "frightening" toll that congregational life had occasionally been shown to take on rabbinic colleagues.


P.S. Nadell, Conservative Judaism in America: A Biographical Dictionary and Sourcebook (1988).

[Bezalel Gordon (2nd ed.)]