Eichhorn, David Max

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EICHHORN, DAVID MAX (1906–1986), U.S. Reform rabbi, chaplain, and author. Eichhorn was born in Columbia, Pennsylvania, and received his B.A. from the University of Cincinnati in 1928. He was ordained at Hebrew Union College in 1931 and earned a D.D. degree from the same institution in 1938. In 1956, he was awarded an honorary D.H.L. from huc-jir. He served as rabbi of Sinai Temple in Springfield, Massachusetts (1932–34), and Mt. Sinai Temple in Texarkana, Arkansas (1935–38), before becoming the first rabbi of Temple Israel in Tallahassee, Florida, in 1939. He also became the first state director of Florida Hillel Foundations (1939–42). In 1942, he enlisted as a chaplain in the U.S. Army and was the first Jewish chaplain to enter Dachau, conducting the first religious service inside the liberated concentration camp on April 30, 1945. The service was captured on film and is commonly seen in liberation films. He was made supervisor of displaced persons for the Austrian Zone of the U.S. occupation, working with survivors of several concentration camps. For his service in combat zones, he was awarded the Bronze Star and eventually promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel. After the war, the demobilized Eichhorn remained in the U.S. Army Reserve and was appointed director of field operations for the Committee on Army and Navy Religious Activities, as well as director of religious activities at the *National Jewish Welfare Board – a position he retained until he retired in 1968. He was also president of the Association of Jewish Chaplains of the Armed Forces (1953–55).

During his retirement, Eichhorn served as rabbi of Temple Israel in Merritt Island, Florida, and chaplain of the Kennedy Space Center and Patrick Air Force Base. In 1973, he founded the Jewish Community Center of Brevard County. In the field of scholarship, Eichhorn was renowned as an expert in the history of conversion to Judaism as well as Christian attempts to convert Jews in the United States. He wrote Conversion to Judaism: A History and Analysis (1965), Evangelizing the American Jew (1978), and Jewish Intermarriage: Fact and Fiction (1974). He was chairman of the Central Conference of American Rabbis' Committee on the Unaffiliated (1950–58), and a liberal who favored rabbinic participation in the wedding ceremonies of mixed marriages. He also wrote Cain, Son of the Serpent (1957); Joys of Jewish Folklore (ed., 1981; reprinted as Jewish Folklore in America, 1996); and Musings of the Old Professor: The Meaning of Koheles (1973). His posthumously published letters home from World War ii provide a vivid depiction of Jewish life: The gi's Rabbi: The World War ii Letters of David Max Eichhorn by Greg Palmer and Mark S. Zaid (2004).


K.M. Olitzky, L.J. Sussman, and M.H. Stern, Reform Judaism in America: A Biographical Dictionary and Sourcebook (1993); Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2005.

[Bezalel Gordon (2nd ed.)]