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Jacobs, Solomon


JACOBS, SOLOMON (1861–1920), rabbi. Jacobs was born in Sheffield, England. He studied at the People's College in his native town and then at Aria College in Portsmouth. He was ordained there in 1883 and received his rabbinical degree in 1886. While studying for his rabbinical degree, he served as master of the Manchester Jews School and as the minister of the congregation at Newcastle-on-Tyne. In 1886, on the recommendation of the chief rabbi, Jacobs was named minister of the United Congregation in Kingston, Jamaica. He remained there for 15 years. In addition to ministering to his congregation and supporting Jewish charities, Jacobs was also committed to non-sectarian philanthropic activities, and served as the director of the Kingston City Dispensary.

Jacobs continued to demonstrate his dual commitment to both the Jewish community and the general community when in 1901 he became minister of Holy Blossom congregation, the oldest Jewish congregation in Toronto. At Holy Blossom, Jacobs sought to maintain the traditions of Anglo-Orthodoxy even as congregational pressures mounted for Holy Blossom to join the Reform movement. In the end, Jacobs was able to steer a middle course, and it was only after his passing in 1920 that Holy Blossom formally embraced Reform.

As a native English speaker at a time when Yiddish-speaking Jews were flocking to Canada, Jacobs was often called upon to represent the Jewish community in the larger civic society. Jacobs was often a vocal protector of Jewish interests, as when he was a member of a 1906 delegation that tried to secure exemptions for Jews from the Sunday business-closing provisions of the Lord's Day Act or in his fight against missionary activities (especially the Presbyterians) targeting Jews in Toronto's immigrant neighborhood. Jacobs often wrote to the newspaper to challenge a prejudiced remark about Jews or to attack institutional anti-Jewish prejudices at universities and social clubs. A truly public-spirited individual, Jacobs served as vice president of the Associated Charities of Toronto and in 1911 was appointed a member of Toronto's first charity commission, overseeing the operation of charity organizations in the city.

Jacobs was very much an Anglophile and appreciated Great Britain's acceptance of the Jews. On numerous occasions he defended Great Britain and its Empire, and led his congregation in celebration when a monarch reached an important milestone or in expressing grief at times of loss. He was also a member of a small but important group of Anglo-Jewish Orthodox ministers which included Abraham *de Sola of Montreal and his son Meldola, and Herbert Samuel of Winnipeg, who together ministered to the early Canadian Jewish establishment. Their influence in both the Jewish and non-Jewish communities extended well beyond their small numbers.


A.D. Hart, The Jew in Canada (1926), 108; S.A. Speisman, "Jacobs, Solomon," in: Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online, at:

[Richard Menkis (2nd ed.)]

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