Philipson, David

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PHILIPSON, DAVID (1862–1949), U.S. Reform rabbi. Philipson was born in Wabash, Indiana, and received his early education in Columbus, Ohio. Entering Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati, in 1875, he was one of the first group of rabbis who received their ordination in 1883. After serving as rabbi of Har Sinai Congregation, Baltimore, from 1884 to 1888, Philip-son returned to Cincinnati to become rabbi of the B'nai Israel Congregation in 1888, remaining there for the rest of his life. He became the leader and the embodiment of Classical Reform Judaism, believing in the Jewish mission and universalism. Philipson participated in the conference which drew up the Pittsburgh Platform (1885); he was a founder of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, serving as president in 1907–09; and he was an influential figure in – but never president of – Hebrew Union College, where he taught for many years, and in the Union of American Hebrew Congregations. He chaired the joint ccar-huc Commission on Jewish Education for 39 years (1903–43), which published widely used resource material and textbooks for the Reform movement. Not a profound thinker, Philipson was productive in the literary field. His most important work was The Reform Movement in Judaism (2nd ed. 1931; repr. 1967). He also wrote The Jew in English Fiction (5th ed. 1927) and edited The Letters of Rebecca Gratz (1929). He was a member of the board of translators of the Jewish Publication Society for the translation of the Holy Scriptures (1916), an editor of Selected Writings of Isaac M. Wise (1900), and translator of Reminiscences of Isaac M. Wise (1901, 1945). An autobiography, My Life as an American Jew, appeared in 1942, and a volume of occasional writings, Centenary Papers, in 1919. My Life as an American Jew gave voice to the double-edged nature of American Judaism, Philipson was not just a Jew, but an American Jew. There was something uniquely American about his Judaism. Philipson verbalized and gave a universal dimension to the optimism of the prospering Midwest Jews among whom he lived and, surviving most of its exponents, came to be regarded as a representative spokesman of "classic" Reform Judaism.


D. Philipson, Reform Movement in Judaism (1967), introd. by S. Freehof.

[Sefton D. Temkin]

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Philipson, David

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