Hailperin, Herman

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HAILPERIN, HERMAN (1899–1973). U.S. Conservative rabbi and author. Hailperin was born in Newark, New Jersey, and educated in New York City, where he earned his B.A. from New York University (1919) and was ordained at the *Jewish Theological Seminary (1922). In 1933, he received his Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh, where he had arrived in 1922 to become the rabbi of the Tree of Life Congregation. Hailperin transformed the venerable synagogue (founded in the 1860s) into a model Conservative synagogue-center, while instituting a number of innovations more in line with Reform practice, such as the playing of an organ during worship services and abolishing the observance of the second day of festivals. His actions – which were rewarded by his congregation with a life contract – represented a challenge to the authority of the *Rabbinical Assembly, which had decreed that Conservative Judaism would attempt to revitalize the custom of Yom Tov Sheni (observing two days of major festivals in the Diaspora). Faced with the alternatives of either disciplining Hailperin – a former member of the ra's Executive Committee and Committee on Jewish Law and Standards – or abandoning its policy that decisions were binding on all members, the ra elected to relax its policy of binding decisions.

A scholar in the field of medieval philosophy and theology, Hailperin also taught Jewish history at the University of Pittsburgh and Duquesne University. He wrote three books: A Rabbi Teaches: A Collection of Addresses and Sermons (1939, commemorating the octocentennial of the birth of Maimonides); Rashi and the Christian Scholars (1963), an analysis of the influence of the Jewish sage's biblical commentary on medieval Christian scholars; and The Three Great Religions: Their Theological and Cultural Affinities (1978, posthumously).

[Bezalel Gordon (2nd ed.)]


P.S. Nadell, Conservative Judaism in America: A Biographical Dictionary and Sourcebook, 1988.