Shubow, Joseph Shalom

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SHUBOW, JOSEPH SHALOM (1899–1969), U.S. rabbi. A Conservative rabbi who was both a leader of the American Zionist movement and the Boston Jewish community, Shubow tended to the needs of Jewish soldiers and displaced persons in war-torn Europe.

Shubow was born in Olita, Lithuania, and came to the United States with his family. He attended Boston Latin High School before heading to Harvard, where he received an A.B. (1920), A.M. (1921), and Ph.D. (1959). In 1925, while a student there, he and Max Rhoade founded Avukah, the national student Zionist organization.

From 1923 to 1935 Shubow served as the literary editor for the Boston Jewish Advocate and from 1924 to 1931 was a correspondent and features writer for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Following in the footsteps of his younger brother, Rabbi Leo Shubow, he entered the Jewish Institute of Religion to study under Rabbi Stephen S. *Wise. Upon his ordination in 1933, he was installed as the first rabbi of Temple B'nai Moshe in Brighton, Massachusetts. Under his spiritual leadership, which lasted until his death (excepting his wartime service), it became one of the most thriving congregations of Greater Boston.

A gifted orator, Shubow was outspoken in his ardor for Zionism and in his concern for world Jewry. In June 1934, at a Harvard alumni reunion, Shubow publicly confronted Ernst Hafstaengel, a German Nazi and close friend of Adolf Hitler's, who had been invited as a guest of honor. Shubow questioned Hafstaengel as to what he had meant by his statement that the Jewish problem would soon be restored to normal, asking, "Did you mean by extermination?" Shubow would again display his boldness when in the 1950s he famously confronted the antisemitic Jesuit priest Father Leonard Feeney on the Boston Common.

In 1943, Shubow, then in his early forties, voluntarily enlisted in the U.S. Army. He served as a chaplain in Europe with the Ninth Army through 1946, and traveled with a portable ark that could be strapped to a jeep. In March 1945, having accompanied the troops who had just crossed the Rhine into Germany, he led a Passover seder in Goebbels's castle – an event that was front-page news around the world. After the war, in both displaced-persons camps and Berlin, he played a major role in reuniting Jewish families as well as in rekindling the spark of life in the liberated prisoners. For his compassionate efforts he was awarded a Bronze Star.

The American Jewish community highly respected Shubow, and he rose to a number of influential positions, including the presidency of the New England Division of the American Jewish Congress (1941–1943), the presidency of the Greater Boston Rabbinical Association (1950–1953), and the vice presidency of the Zionist Organization of America (1961–1969). He also was a delegate to the 1936 World Jewish Congress in Geneva.

In addition to being a pulpit rabbi and an activist, Shubow, who knew at least seven languages, was also a scholar of Judaism who studied with Harry Austryn *Wolfson throughout his life. Though a Conservative rabbi, he was highly esteemed for his personal virtues by the modern Orthodox Rabbi Joseph B. *Soloveitchik and by the ḥasidic Bostoner Rebbe Levi Yitzchak *Horowitz. Shubow and Soloveitchik were very good friends, but despite their mutual admiration, in 1954 the Rav refused to take part in a testimonial dinner in Shubow's honor since the event would also be celebrating the dedication of a new temple-building that would have mixed seating. Similarly, although Soloveitchik delivered a moving eulogy at Shubow's funeral, he would not enter the temple building.


S. Farber. "Reproach, Recognition and Respect: Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik and Orthodoxy's Mid-Century Attitude Toward non-Orthodox Denominations," in: American Jewish History, 89:2 (June 2001), 193–214.

[Justin Shubow (2nd ed.)]