Simonsen, David Jacob

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SIMONSEN, DAVID JACOB (1853–1932), Danish rabbi, scholar, and bibliophile. Born in Copenhagen, Simonsen was the son of Jacob Simonsen, a banker and leader of the Jewish community. He studied Oriental languages at the University of Copenhagen and in 1874 was admitted to the Jewish theological seminary in Breslau where he was ordained as rabbi. He then returned to Copenhagen to assist the aged chief rabbi, Abraham Alexander *Wolff. When Wolff died in 1891 Simonsen was chosen to succeed him but he resigned his office in 1902. During a vacancy in the Copenhagen rabbinate from 1918 to 1920 he again functioned as rabbi.

When the Jews from Eastern Europe reached Denmark about 1904 after the *Kishinev pogroms, he helped them to integrate in their new home. During World War i, he led activities on behalf of war victims, taking special interest in the Jewish community in Palestine. An enthusiastic book collector, Simonsen had a library of about 40,000 volumes covering every field in Judaism, which he presented to the Royal Library of Copenhagen in the last year of his life; it now constitutes the principal part of the Judaica department, called "Bibliotheca judaica Simonseniana" in his honor.

Simonsen had an extensive Jewish knowledge but his literary output was confined mainly to scholarly articles. In addition, he contributed to the Dansk biografisk leksikon, the Jewish Encyclopaedia, Juedisches Lexikon, the German Encyclopaedia Judaica, and the Danish Tidsskrift for jodisk historie og literatur. Simonsen published a descriptive catalog in Danish and French of sculptures and inscriptions from Palmyra in the Glypothek in Copenhagen (1889), a treatise on the history of Hebrew printing (1901), and a translation into Danish of Jewish tales and legends (1928). About 100 of his articles are listed in the festschrift dedicated to him on the occasion of his 70th birthday (Festskrift… David Simonsen, Hebrew title Nir David, 1923).


Israeliter (March 17, 1923); jc (June 24, 1932); Montzen, in: American Hebrew (Sept. 2, 1932); R. Edelmann, in: Hokhmat Yisrael be-Ma'arav Eiropah, 1 (1958), 361–8; Feskrift i Anledning of Professor David Simonsens 70 Aaars Føselsdag (1923).

[Julius Margolinsky]