Wolff, Abraham Alexander

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WOLFF, ABRAHAM ALEXANDER (1801–1891), chief rabbi of Copenhagen. Born in Darmstadt, Germany, he graduated from the University of Giessen in 1821, writing for his dissertationDer Prophet Habakkuk (Darmstadt, 1822). Some years later he wrote Torat Yisrael, a textbook on Judaism which was translated into Dutch, Danish, and Swedish. After serving in the rabbinate of Giessen for two years, in 1828 he was appointed chief rabbi in Copenhagen, continuing in office for over 62 years. During this period, Wolff, who combined the traditional spirit with a modern outlook, had a decisive influence in shaping the character of the Denmark community. He succeeded in reconciling the traditional and liberal parties. In the new synagogue, built on his initiative in 1833, Wolff was able to unify the disintegrated community. He instituted the traditional services with revisions, accompanied by a sermon. Many of his sermons have been published. He provided a Danish translation of the prayer book (1856) and translated the Pentateuch and haftarot (1891–94, part published posthumously). In Talmudfjender (1878) he replied to attacks by some Danish clergymen on the Jews and Judaism. Wolff also wrote Bibelhistorie for Skole og Hjem (1867), a biblical history for Jewish school and home use, and defended his innovations in the ritual in Ateret Shalom ve-Emet, or Stimmen der aeltesten glaubwuerdigsten Rabbinen ueber die Pijutim (1857). He was awarded the title of professor and created a Knight of the Order of Danebrog.


T.H. Erslew, Almindeligt Forfatter-Lexicon, 3 (1853), and supplement, 3 (1868); Simonsen et al., in: Jodisk Familienblad (May 15, 1929); B. Balslev, Danske Jøders Historie (1932), 54–57, 74f., 114f.; Edelmann, in: Dansk biografisk Leksikon, 26 (1944), 242–7; Wilhelm, in: ylbi, 3 (1958), 319–21; C.D. Lippe, Bibliographisches Lexicon, 1 (1881), 542–6.

[Leni Yahil]