Joseph, Jacob

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JOSEPH, JACOB (1848–1902), rabbi. Jacob Joseph was born in Krozhe, province of Kovno. He studied at the yeshivah of Volozhin under R. Hirsch Leib Berlin and later under R. Israel Salanter, and served the communities of Vilon, Yurburg, and Zhagovy before becoming rabbi and Maggid of Vilna in 1883. Although a brilliant student of Talmud, Joseph was especially known for his homiletical talents. In 1888 he arrived in the U.S. to assume the post of chief rabbi of the Orthodox congregations of Russian Jews in New York City. As he was primarily concerned with the taxed supervision of meat kashrut, much opposition was expressed against him from sectors of the Jewish community who rejected this supervision and objected to the imposition of a kosher meat tax. Although an invalid from 1895, Joseph founded the Bes Sefer Yeshiva (1900), which was renamed the Rabbi Jacob Joseph Yeshiva upon his death. His works include the collection of sermons, Le-Veit Ya'akov (1888) and a contribution to the only issue of the publication Sefer Toledot Ya'akov Yosef be-New York (1889). His funeral procession, said to have been attended by tens of thousands of Jews, occasioned a riot as workmen of the R. Hoe & Co. factory on the East Side pelted the procession with nuts and bolts. Many mourners were injured by the assailants and police.

His grandson lazarus joseph (1891–1966), who was born in New York City, was a U.S. public official. He was elected to the state senate in 1934, and became a financial adviser to Governor Herbert H. Lehman. After serving six terms, he was elected New York City controller in 1946 and remained in office until 1954. Joseph was active on behalf of the United Jewish Appeal and the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York.


A.J. Karp, in: ajhsp, 44 (1955), 129–98; The American Hebrew, 71 (1902), 497–9.

[Edward L. Greenstein]