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Israel, Edward Leopold


ISRAEL, EDWARD LEOPOLD (1896–1941), U.S. Reform rabbi. Israel was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, and educated at Harvard University and the University of Cincinnati (B.A., 1917). He was ordained at Hebrew Union College in 1919 and was awarded an honorary LL.D. by Washington College (now University) in 1938. His first pulpit was at Temple B'rith Shalom in Springfield, Illinois (1919–20), followed by Congregation Adath B'nai Israel (Washington Avenue Temple) in Evansville, Indiana (1920–23). In 1923, he was appointed senior rabbi of Har Sinai in Baltimore, Maryland, where he remained for nearly 20 years, until his appointment as executive director of the *Union of American Hebrew Congregations – a position he was tragically unable to fill, owing to his untimely death.

Although a product of classical Reform Judaism, Israel was a leader of the Labor Zionist movement. He was not only an activist on behalf of Jewish settlement of Palestine but also a liberal who championed the rights of American workers. As chairman of the Social Action Committee of the *Central Conference of American Rabbis, he was an outspoken critic of "yellow dog" contracts in American business. He served on the national executive board of the American League for Peace and Democracy, until he resigned in 1936, charging that it (as well as the Advisory Youth Congress, which he quit in 1940) had fallen into Communist hands.

Alarmed by the rise of the Nazis to power, Israel joined with Rabbi Stephen S. *Wise in organizing a boycott of companies selling German imports. He led a demonstration at the Port of Baltimore when the German battleship Emden docked there in 1936. One of the first clergymen to deliver addresses and sermons on the radio, his remarks were frequently quoted by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Popular with all elements of the Jewish community, Israel was elected president of the multi-denominational *Synagogue Council of America in 1940. Dedicated to the ideal of creating unity of Jewish consciousness, Israel died while holding that office. He is the author of The Philosophy of Modern Mysticism (1922).


K.M. Olitzky, L.J. Sussman, and M.H. Stern, Reform Judaism in America: A Biographical Dictionary and Source-book (1993).

[Bezalel Gordon (2nd ed.)]

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