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Epstein, Louis M.


EPSTEIN, LOUIS M. (1887–1949), U.S. Conservative rabbi and authority on Jewish marriage law. Epstein was born in Anyksciai, Lithuania. When his father, Rabbi Ezriel Epstein, went to the United States to accept a pulpit, he left his son behind to study at the yeshivah in Slobodka. He graduated from Columbia University (1911) and was ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York in 1913. He served in various congregations in Dallas, Texas, and Toledo, Ohio, before assuming the leadership of Beth Hamedrosh Hagdol in Roxbury, Massachusetts, in 1918 and then becoming rabbi of Kehilath Israel in Brookline, Massachusetts, where he served for the remainder of his career. Epstein was president of the Rabbinical Assembly (1922–25) and chairman of its committee on Jewish Law (1936–40). Epstein wrote The Jewish Marriage Contract (1927), Marriage Laws in the Bible and Talmud (1942), and Sex Laws and Customs in Judaism (1948). His scholarly attainments made him a leading figure in the Conservative movement. He was instrumental in framing various proposals in Jewish law, the best known being a method of solving the *agunah problem published in his Li-She'elat ha-Agunah (1940). Under Epstein's proposal, the husband would authorize the wife to act as his agent for the purpose of a get. This innovation was accepted by his colleagues but was abandoned by the Rabbinical Assembly because of the opposition of the Orthodox rabbinate and of some members of the faculty of the Jewish Theological Seminary.

[Benjamin Z. Kreitman]

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