Lerner, Mayer ben Mordecai of Altona

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LERNER, MAYER BEN MORDECAI OF ALTONA (1857–1930), rabbi. Lerner was born in Czestochowa (Poland). He studied first in Cracow but completed his studies in the Rabbiner-Seminar in Berlin. While still a student at the seminary, he wrote his important work Anlage und Quellen des Bereschit Rabba (1882). He was appointed rabbi of Wintzenheim, Alsace, in 1884 and remained there until 1890, when he became rabbi of the Federation of Synagogues in London, which then consisted of 23 synagogues. In 1894 he was appointed rabbi of Altona and of Schleswig-Holstein. Lerner vigorously opposed the historical approach of *Graetz and the Reform movement in Germany.

Lerner's main talmudic works are his Hadar ha-Karmel (1891), responsa, including some talmudic novellae; and Ḥayyei Olam (1905) on the prohibition of cremation. His research works, in addition to the above-mentioned Quellen include "Die aeltesten Mischna – Kompositionen" (mwj, 13 (1886), 1–20) and his magnum opus, Torat ha-Mishnah, dealing with the origin of the oral tradition, of which, however, only the first part appeared (1915). He also showed an active interest in the Jewish settlement of Palestine and in 1905 founded the association Moriah whose aims were "to restore the ancient ruins, and the national and religious culture of the Jews." The association was opposed both to the Mizrachi and the Zionist movements, and in 1930 merged with the Agudat Israel movement.


E. Duckesz, Ivvah le-Moshav (1903), 136–9; Weingarten, in: J.L. Fishman (ed.), Sefer ha-Mizrachi (1946), 103–10; Bath-Yehudah, in: azd, 3 (1965), 266–70.

[Itzhak Alfassi]