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RICE, ABRAHAM:

American Talmudist and rabbi; born 1800 at Gagsheim, near Würzburg, Bavaria; died in Baltimore, Md., Oct. 29, 1862. As a young student he was placed in the care of Rabbi Abraham Bing of Würzburg, by whom he was ordained rabbi; he afterward studied under Rabbi Wolf Hamburger. In 1840 he emigrated to America, and was called as the first rabbi of Congregation Nidche Israel at Baltimore. He held this position until 1849, when he resigned and became a merchant. About this time he founded a small congregation, of which he officiated gratuitously as rabbi and reader of the Torah. He lived in retirement until 1862, when he was again induced to accept the position of rabbi to the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation; but he filled the position for a short time only, his death occurring in the fall of the same year.

Abraham Rice.

Rice usually delivered his sermons in German, later occasionally in English also. He was a rabbi of the old school, known throughout the United States and Germany as a learned Talmudist, and was recognized as an authority in ritual matters. He was an uncompromising opponent of Reform.

In 1845 he established a Hebrew school, one of the earliest in the United States, and in the same year he opposed the retention of piyyuṭim in the prayers. About this time he urged "upon the Jews of the United States the great importance of selecting a spiritual chief or bet din, for the purpose of regulating all our spiritual affairs, etc.; . . . it is surely necessary to prevent the uninitiated from giving their crude decisions, which are but too well calculated to do permanent injury to our faith" (letter in "Occident," ii. 599). A few of Rice's sermons were published in the "Occident," and a large number remain in manuscript. He had a great and lasting influence on the Jewish community of Baltimore; and it was to his teaching and his life that the Baltimore Jewry owes its reputation for Orthodoxy. See Jew. Encyc. ii. 479b, s.v. Baltimore.

Bibliography:
  • Occident, xx. 142, 424;
  • Guttmacher, History of the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, p. 65.
A. H. Fr.
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