Gottheil, Gustav

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GOTTHEIL, GUSTAV (1827–1903), Reform rabbi, liturgist, and U.S. Zionist leader. Gottheil was born in Pinne, Posen. He was drawn to liberal Judaism at the University of Berlin, and studied with such scholars as Steinschneider and Zunz. During 1855–60 Gottheil was a teacher at the Reform Gemeinde in Berlin and preaching assistant to Samuel *Holdheim, who impressed him greatly. In Manchester, England, where he served the progressive Congregation of British Jews from 1869 to 1873, Gottheil mastered English, then joined Temple Emanu-El of New York City in 1873 as co-rabbi to the aging Samuel *Adler. Challenging the ethical culture theories of Felix Adler, son of Samuel Adler, Gottheil espoused a more traditional theistic Judaism, and was upheld by the congregation. He attempted to maintain a rabbinical school under Emanu-El's auspices during 1874–85, but it had very few students. Gottheil published a hymnal in 1886 and a devotional compilation Sun and Shield (1896). He voluntarily abandoned issuing his own prayer book in favor of the Union Prayer Book, which included a number of his translations and renderings. The most important American rabbi publicly to support Zionism during the First Zionist Congress in 1897, Gottheil, his son Richard *Gottheil, and Stephen S. *Wise were among the founders of the Federation of American Zionists. Gottheil was a teacher and friend to such young rabbis as Stephen S. Wise, Leon Harrison, and Samuel Schulman. In a sense he was a bridge from the German beginnings of Reform to its Eastern – as distinct from Midwestern – American flowering.


R.J.H. Gottheil, Life of Gustav Gottheil, Memoir of a Priest in Israel (1936).

[Bertram Wallace Korn]