Mayer, Leopold

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MAYER, LEOPOLD (1827–1903), U.S. community leader and businessman. Mayer, who was born in Abendheim, Germany, immigrated to the United States in 1850. Settling in Chicago, he engaged in private tutoring of Hebrew and German and became known as "Lehrer Mayer." Mayer exerted great influence on the development of the new Jewish community in Chicago, particularly in religious education and in the movement toward Reform Judaism. In 1851 he conducted the first bar mitzvah service at Kehillath Anshe Maarab (K.A.M. Congregation) and also was a founder of the Hebrew Benevolent Society. In the former, Mayer advocated reforms in worship, including the adoption of the "living language German" in the ritual and preaching, but was unsuccessful in this effort. In 1859 he joined eight others, including Bernard *Felsenthal, to form the Jewish Reform Society (Juedischer Reformverein), which in 1861 founded Sinai Congregation, the first Reform congregation in the city. Mayer actively espoused the Union cause in the Civil War, and, with several other Jews, raised $10,000 to outfit a Jewish company of 100 recruits who formed the Concordio Guard. Later he and his brother entered the banking business.


M.A. Gutstein, Priceless Heritage (1953).

[Morris A. Gutstein]