Page 62 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 2

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Recognizing the difficulties of keeping the Sabbath and eager
to propagate the message of Judaism among the masses, the
zealous Reformer introduced supplementary Sunday morning
services at Sinai Congregation, Chicago, on January 18, 1874,
the first venture of its kind in America. Kohler was ever active
in providing religious educational material for young and old,
editing the
Sabbath Visitors
(1881-82), contributing lessons in
Jewish history and ethics, and writing
A Guide for Instruction in
(1899). From 1912 to his retirement in 1922 he acted as
associate editor of the publications of the Department of Syna-
gogue and School Extension of the Union of American Hebrew
Congregations. At the same time he published hundreds of ser-
mons, addresses and essays in the Jewish press.
Kohler’s most memorable action on behalf of Reform was the
series of addresses,
Backward or Forward
, delivered in 1885 in
response to Dr. Alexander Kohut’s censure of radical Reform
from his pulpit of Ahawath Chesed Congregation (now Central
Synagogue) of New York, and the Rabbinical Conference which
Kohler subsequently convened at Pittsburgh on November 16-18,
1885, for the purpose of adopting a platform defining the principles
of Reform Judaism and of considering measures for strengthening
the religious life of the Jews in America.
Kohler was one of the moving spirits in launching the
and the editor of its departments of Theology and
Philosophy (1901-1906). His own articles, numbering 288,
mostly theological, display vast erudition. He was one of the
most valuable members of the board which translated the Bible
for the Jewish Publication Society (associate editor 1898-1902;
member of revision committee 1908-1917). He wrote numerous
learned reports for the Central Conference of American Rabbis,
among them on Margolis’s
Theological Aspect of R°form°d Judaism
(1905), and on
Harmonization of the Jewish and Civil Laws of
Marriage and Divorce
(1915), and his Responsa (1913-19). He
also made invaluable contributions to the Union Praver Book.
Through these activities and, particularly, in his role of President
of the Hebrew Union College and Professor of Jewish Theology,
he shaped the thought and practice of Reform Judaism in America.
His crowning achievement in the field of scholarship was his
Grundriss einer systematischen Theologie des Judentums auf ge-
schichtlicher Grundlage
, which he wrote at the request of the
Gesellschaft zur Foerderung der Wissenschaft des Judentums
1910). This pioneer work was rewritten by him in English, revised
and enlarged, under the title,
Jewish Theology
and Historically Considered
Among his other works are:
The Hebrew Union College and Other
Heaven and Hell in Comparative Religion
Special Reference to Dante's Divine Comedy
The Origins of
the Synagogue and the Churchy
edited with a biographical essay by
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