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Franklin, Leo Morris


FRANKLIN, LEO MORRIS (1870–1948), U.S. Reform rabbi. Franklin was born in Cambridge City, Indiana and spent his youth in Cincinnati. Upon ordination at Hebrew Union College (1892), he served in Omaha, Nebraska, for seven years, then became rabbi of Temple Beth El, Detroit, in 1899, where he was a skilled organizational leader. Franklin was a proponent of classical Reform Judaism. He was president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis (1919–21). He organized the United Jewish Charities (1899) and was a founder of the Jewish Welfare Federation (1926). He led the first fight in the United States for open seating in synagogues instead of assigned seating and also fought to have his congregation provide Jewish education to all children regardless of their parents' ability to pay, which took on added importance during the Depression era. He tackled some important local issues of antisemitism with national implications, including efforts to expose the antisemitism of Father Charles Coughlin, and he maintained relations cordial and not so cordial with Henry Ford, whose influence in Detroit was major and whose support of antisemitism was significant. Franklin held many civic positions and was active in interfaith activities in Detroit. He belonged to the anti-Zionist American Council for Judaism until 1948, when he resigned and endorsed the State of Israel. He was one of the first rabbis to reach out to campus students, working with the Jewish students association at the University of Michigan, a forerunner of Hillel. Despite the formal policies and prevalent practices of the CCAR, Franklin officiated at intermarriages. He helped found smaller congregations throughout Michigan and worked with a movement to spur Jewish farmers in Michigan. He wrote Rabbi, the Man and His Message (1938) and many articles.


Leo M. Franklin Section, Michigan Historical Collections, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan.

[Irving I. Katz]

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