Levinthal

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LEVINTHAL

LEVINTHAL , U.S. family, descended from an old rabbinical family. bernard louis levinthal (1865–1952) was born in Lithuania and went to the United States in 1891 after having studied at the yeshivot of Kovno, Vilna, and Bialystok. Settling in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, he succeeded his father-in-law, Eleazar Kleinberg, as rabbi of Congregation B'nai Abraham, where he served until his death, as head of the United Orthodox Hebrew Congregations of Philadelphia, and effectively as dean of Orthodox Judaism in the city. Levinthal was responsible for the establishment of a number of institutions tending to the religious and social needs of the immigrant Jewish community, such as the Central Talmud Torah, out of which later grew the Yeshivah Mishkan Israel (1903). He cooperated with non-Orthodox Jews to serve community needs, helping found the larger Associated Talmud Torahs, which enrolled girls as well as boys, with support from the short-lived Philadelphia Kehillah (Jewish Community of Philadelphia) in 1919. He established a municipal Va'ad ha-Kashruth to supervise ritual slaughtering.

Levinthal was a key figure in the formation of the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Spector yeshivah (later part of Yeshiva University) in 1896. He served on key committees and taught there throughout his career. He also mentored Bernard *Revel, the first president of Yeshiva College (later University). Levinthal's granddaughter selma erlich (daughter of Levinthal's daughter Lena) married Samuel *Belkin, later the second president of Yeshiva University. Bernard Levinthal was a founder of the American Jewish Committee and the only rabbi to be a member of the delegation sent by the American Jewish Congress to the Paris Peace Conference in 1919. An active Zionist as well, he helped to establish the Mizrachi Organization of America and was an honorary vice president of the Federation of American Zionists. In the 1938 American Jewish Congress elections, Levinthal was the only candidate to receive an absolute majority of the local votes.

Levinthal had a significant national impact, but he left an ambiguous local heritage. He did not establish a day school or post-high school yeshivah. He did not encourage rabbinic graduates of Yeshiva University to locate in Philadelphia, and few served there before the late 1930s. His four sons were active in Conservative Judaism and Zionism, and a granddaughter was the first woman to complete studies at the Jewish Institute of Religion in New York.

Bernard's son israel herbert levinthal (1888–1982) was ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary in 1910. He served at Congregations B'nai Shalom and Petach Tikvah in Brooklyn, from 1910 to 1915 and from 1915 to 1919, respectively, and after 1919 at the Brooklyn Jewish Center. In addition, he was active in the Zionist movement and served as president of the Rabbinical Association of America. An exceptionally gifted preacher, he was adept at traditionally expounding biblical and rabbinical texts in the English language, and several volumes of his sermons have been published. He taught homiletics at the Jewish Theological Seminary. His books include Judaism, An Analysis and An Interpretation (1935); Point of View: An Analysis of American Judaism (1958); and Judaism Speaks to the Modern World (1963). Israel's daughter, helen hadassah levinthal, was the first woman to complete graduation requirements from the Jewish Institute of Religion in 1939, although she was not ordained as a rabbi.

louis edward levinthal (1892–1976), Israel's brother, practiced law in Philadelphia until 1937, when he was appointed judge on the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, a position he held until his retirement in 1959. Besides writing a number of legal works, he devoted himself to numerous charitable and civic organizations and to the Zionist Organization of America, of which he was elected president in 1941. He was a leader of the Conservative movement's United Synagogue of America in Philadelphia. He was particularly active in the Jewish Publication Society of America, serving as chairman of its publications committee from 1939 to 1949, again from 1954 to 1962, and as its president from 1949 to 1954. He was chairman of the board of governors of the Hebrew University from 1962 to 1966.

bibliography:

bernard levinthal: R. Tabak, "Orthodox Judaism in Transition," in: M. Friedman, Jewish Life in Philadelphia: 1830–1940 (1983); P. Rosen, "Orthodox Institution Builder: Rabbi Bernard Lewis Levinthal," in: M. Friedman, When Philadelphia Was the Capital of Jewish America (1993); J. Gurock, American Jewish Orthodoxy in Historical Perspective (1996). israel levinthal: D.D. Moore, At Home in America: Second Generation New York Jews (1981); P. Nadell, Women Who Would Be Rabbis: A History of Women's Ordination, 1889–1985 (1998).

[Sefton D. Temkin /

Robert P. Tabak (2nd ed.)]