Rosenau, William

views updated


ROSENAU, WILLIAM (1865–1943), Reform rabbi. Born in Wollstein, Prussia, the son of a rabbi, he was educated in public school and came to the United States with his family in 1876, first to Boston and then to Philadelphia. Rosenau received his B.A. from the University of Cincinnati (1888) and was ordained a year later from huc in Cincinnati. He served congregations in Omaha, Nebraska, for three years beginning in 1889 and then went to Baltimore as rabbi of Ohev Shalom where he served for almost half a century until his retirement in 1939. Concurrently he studied at Johns Hopkins University where he received his Ph.D. in 1900 in Semitics and then joined its faculty, where he served until 1932.

Religiously liberal he was also politically a non-Zionist and a member of the American Council for Judaism.

For a time he was expected to be the leading candidate for the presidency of the Hebrew Union College after the retirement of Kaufmann *Kohler in 1921 but that was not to be. He lost in a close vote to Julian *Morgenstein and elected to remain in Baltimore rather than lead a more prominent congregation. He was deeply active in his community, concentrating on areas of general and higher education. He was a member of the Baltimore Board of Education of the Governor's Commission on Higher Education for Negroes. In national Jewish life, he was active in the Central Conference of American Rabbis and served as its president from 1915 to 1917. He was a member of the Associated Jewish Charities, a member of Baltimore's Federation, a founder of the Jewish Welfare Board and the Jewish Chautauqua Society, and edited the revised Union Prayer Book and Union Haggadah. He was a contributor to the Jewish Encyclopedia.

Among his works are The Rabbi in Action (1937); Hebraism in the Authorized Version of the Bible (1902); and Semitic Studies in American Colleges (1906).


W.F. Rosenblum, The Life and Work of Rev. Dr. William Rosenau (1946); K.M. Olitzsky, L.J. Sussman, and M.H. Stern, Reform Judaism in America: A Biographical Dictionary and Sourcebook (1993).

[Michael Berenbaum (2nd ed.)]