Elbogen, Ismar

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ELBOGEN, ISMAR (1874–1943), scholar, teacher, and public figure. Elbogen was born in Schildberg, Posen province, and studied at the Breslau Rabbinical Seminary. Israel *Lewy, the famous Talmud critic, was the teacher who most influenced him. In 1899 he began teaching Jewish history and biblical exegesis at the Collegio Rabbinico Italiano in Florence. While in Italy he perfected his knowledge in Italian Jewish history and literature. In 1903 he joined the faculty of the Hochschule fuer die Wissenschaft des Judentums in Berlin, teaching many subjects and for many years was involved unofficially in directing the institution. He was involved in the organizational life of German Jews, heading important committees and commissions. In 1938, in the wake of Nazi persecution, Elbogen immigrated to New York. He was appointed research professor simultaneously at four institutions: Jewish Theological Seminary, Hebrew Union College, Jewish Institute of Religion, and Dropsie College.

His scholarly interests were chiefly in Jewish history and the history of Jewish liturgy. His major work, Derjuedische Gottesdienst in seiner geschichtliehen Entwicklung (19133), is a comprehensive and important work on Jewish liturgy; it traces the history of the prayers said in the synagogue. His other works are devoted to Jewish history and are written in a popular style. His Century of Jewish Life (1944) was planned as a sequel to *Graetz's history. Elbogen devoted his attention also to the history of *Wissenschaft des Judentums and set forth a program for Jewish scholarship that, in addition to describing the Jewish past, would be a guide for the Jewish present and future. He was one of the editors for the periodical Devir (1923–24); Germania Judaica (2 vols., 1917–34); the jubilee edition of Moses Mendelssohn's collected works, of which only six volumes appeared (1929–32); Zeitschrift fuer die Geschichte der Juden in Deutschland (vols. 1–7, 1929–38); Juedisches Lexikon (4 vols. in 5, 1927–30); Encyclopaedia Judaica (vols. 1–9, 1928–34); Eshkol (2 vols., 1929–32); and Universal Jewish Encyclopedia (10 vols., 1939–43). He was an active participant in the Liberal movement in the German Jewish community. He took part in writing the Liberal prayer book for German Jews, Tefillot le-Kol ha-Shanah: Gebetbuch fuer das ganze Jahr bearbeitet im Auftrage des Liberalen Kultus (1932), which in the main reflects his spirit. He restored to the liturgy those prayers that had been removed by the reformers in their desire to eradicate the concept of Jewish peoplehood from the Jewish religion. He also wrote Geschichte der Juden in Deutschland (1935).


R. Elbogen, in: hj, 8 (1946), 69–94, a bibliography of I. Elbogen's writings; A. Marx, in: I. Elbogen, Century of Jewish Life (1944), xi–xx; M. Wiener, in: hj, 6 (1944), 95–98; S.W. Baron, in: jss, 6 (1944), 91–92; E. Rosenthal, in: ylbi, 8 (1963), 3–28; J.H. Kaplan, in: ccary, 25 (1915), 403–13, a review of Elbogen's major work. add. bibliography: M.A. Meyer, The Life and Thought of the Jewish Historian Ismar Elbogen (2004).