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Hirschel (Herschel), Solomon


HIRSCHEL (Herschel), SOLOMON (1762–1842), chief rabbi of Great Britain. Hirschel, the son of Ẓevi Hirsch *Levin (Hart Lyon), was born in London while his father was serving as a rabbi there. However, he was educated on the continent and became rabbi in Prenzlau, Prussia. In 1802 he was appointed rabbi of the principal Ashkenazi London synagogue, the Great Synagogue, in succession to R. Tevele *Schiff, his authority also being acknowledged by the provincial communities which were becoming prominent. He was thus the first formally recognized chief rabbi of Britain; his authority also extended to the British possessions overseas. He was basically a European rabbi of the old type, with an imperfect knowledge of English and out of touch with the new currents beginning to permeate the community. He preached in Yiddish, opposed even mild reform, and his literary production was virtually nothing. After his death, his library, comprising also a number of important manuscripts, passed to the London bet hamidrash. A biography of Hirschel, Forty Years a Chief Rabbi, by H.A. Simons has been published (1979). His son, known as r. david berliner (or Hirschel), settled in Jerusalem, where he was murdered in 1851.


C. Duschinsky, Rabbinate of the Great Synagogue, London (1921), ch. 3; C. Roth, History of the Great Synagogue, London (1950), ch. 13; A.M. Hyamson (ed.), British Consulate in Jerusalem, 1 (1939), 28; 2 (1941), lxviii; dnb.

[Cecil Roth]

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