Loew, Leopold

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LOEW, LEOPOLD (Lipót ; 1811–1875), Hungarian rabbi and scholar, the first Reform rabbi in Hungary. Loew, who was born in Czernahora, Moravia, was a descendant of *Judah Loew b. Bezalel. In his childhood Loew showed talent in music; he studied in Moravian yeshivot, translated Schiller into Hebrew, and also acquired a knowledge of Italian, French, Latin, and Greek. He was ordained as a rabbi by Solomon Judah *Rapoport, Aaron *Chorin, and Low *Schwab, later marrying Schwab's daughter. In 1840 Loew was elected rabbi of Nagykanizsa.

In 1844 he began to deliver his sermons in Hungarian. A strong advocate of Hungarian Jewish emancipation, he argued that the liberation of the Jews should not be made dependent upon abandonment or reform of their religion; in this he opposed the views of the great Hungarian liberator, Louis Kossuth. In 1846 Loew began serving as rabbi of Papa, where he was severely attacked by the Orthodox, who disapproved of his having studied at the Protestant High School and even produced false witnesses that Loew was not ritually observant. During the Hungarian revolution of 1848–49 he served as a chaplain in the army of the Hungarian revolutionaries, spurring them on with inflammatory speeches. Because of his patriotic stand, he was arrested in 1849 and served three months in jail.

From 1850 until his death Loew served as the rabbi of Szeged. Loew was in favor of Reform but insisted that reforms be instituted within the framework of the rabbinic tradition. His viewpoint made it possible for him to participate in the *rabbinical conferences in Breslau in 1845 and Leipzig in 1870. He also wrote a biography of Aaron Chorin, who had approached the cause of Reform in the same spirit. Though he did not participate in the Hungarian Jewish congress of 1868, which had been called to draw up the constitution of Hungarian Jewry and at which Hungarian Jewry was divided into two camps – Reform and Orthodox – he expressed his views on the issues in his Die Juedischen Wirren in Ungarn (1868). The medieval form of the Jewish oath was abolished in Hungary on the basis of a lecture he delivered at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, A zsidó eskű (1868). He was first to suggest a Hungarian translation of the Bible for Jews, and published the Book of Joel in the translation of I. Bleuer (in Magyar Zsinagoga, 1, 1847). Loew served as the editor of the periodical Ben-Chananja from 1858 to 1867. He was the first to deal with the history of Hungarian Jewry; among his works are "Schicksale und Bestrebungen der Juden in Ungarn" and "Kalender und Jahrbuch fuer Israeliten" both in Jahrbuch desdeutschen Elementes in Ungarn (1846/7) and Zur neueren Geschichte der Juden in Ungarn (1874). He contributed such pioneering works in the study of Jewish antiquities and folklore as Ha-Mafte'aḥ (1855), Beitraege zur juedischen Alterthumskunde, i: Graphische Requisiten und Erzeugnisse bei den Juden (2 vols., 1870–71), and Lebensalter in der juedischen Literatur (1875). His collected writings were edited by his son and successor, Immanuel *Loew, under the title Gesammelte Schriften (5 vols. 1889–1900).


A. Hochmuth, Leopold Loew als Theologe, Historiker und Publizist (1871); W.N. Loew, Leopold Loew: A Biography with a Translation of the … Tributes Paid to His Memory… (1912); I. Loew and Zs. Kulinyi, A szegedi zsidók (1885), 172–240; I. Loew, Gesammelte Schriften, 5 (1900), 3–19 (bibl.); W. Bacher, in: Magyar Izrael, 4 (1911), 90–97; L. Venetianer, in: Zsidó Plutarchos, 1 (n.d.), 5–26.

[Alexander Scheiber]