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Schwab, Shimon

SCHWAB, SHIMON

SCHWAB, SHIMON (1908–1995), German and American Orthodox rabbi. Born in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, Schwab was brought up in the Separatist Orthodox community founded by Samson Raphael *Hirsch. Unlike most German Orthodox rabbis, who received a seminary education, Schwab studied at the traditional Lithuanian yeshivas in Telz and Mir from 1926 to 1931 and received his ordination from three distinguished Lithuanian rabbis, among them Chaim Ozer Grodzinski. Despite his German background and devotion to the customs of German Jewry, Schwab remained under the influence of the Lithuanian yeshiva world for the rest of his life and tried to introduce its ethos into German Jewish life.

After an initial tenure as a rabbi in the large Bavarian rural community of Ichenhausen, Rabbi Schwab immigrated to the United States in about 1936 to serve as rabbi of Congregation Shearith Israel in Baltimore, one of the most strictly Orthodox congregations in the city at the time. In 1958 he accepted the post of assistant rabbi to the 76-year-old Rabbi Joseph *Breuer of Congregation K'hal Adath Jeshurun in Washington Heights (the heir to the Frankfurt Separatist Orthodox community at the northern end of Manhattan). He and Rabbi Breuer were corabbis of the congregation until the latter's death in 1980, after which Schwab served as the main rabbi of the congregation.

Rabbi Schwab helped to steer the already strictly Orthodox "Breuer community" to the right, by placing greater emphasis on traditional Torah learning and treating exclusive study of Torah as an equally valid approach to Samson Raphael Hirsch's philosophy of "Torah im derekh ereẓ" (the integration of Torah and secular knowledge). He was a strong leader of his community, exerting his influence through his eloquent English language sermons, articles in the congregational newspaper, and active supervision of the community of some 1,000 families. He expanded the community's educational system to include an adult yeshivah and kollel and a women's teachers seminary, while continuing such other aspects of the community's institutional network as kashrut supervision, the ritual bath, and youth organizations. Schwab strongly encouraged his community to remain in Washington Heights despite the growing influx of a Hispanic population into the neighborhood. Under his leadership, the congregation spearheaded a neighborhood patrol and created a neighborhood Jewish communal council to represent the needs of all the Jews of the neighborhood. These efforts were able to slow the exodus of his congregants from the neighborhood.

Schwab was a leader of the Agudath Israel of America, a lifelong advocate of the Hirschian policy of Austritt [non-cooperation with non-Orthodox forms of Judaism], and a fierce anti-Zionist. Besides his commentaries on the Bible, essays on history and Jewish thought (hashkafah), Schwab was probably best known for two volumes Heimkehr ins Judentum (Frankfurt 1934), which called into question German Orthodoxy's compromises with modern culture and Elu ve-Elu. These and Those (New York, 1966) which gave equal weight to religious sources supporting and opposing secular studies.

[Steven Lowenstein (2nd ed.)]

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