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UNION OF AMERICAN HEBREW CONGREGATIONS, THE:

Association of American Jewish congregations composed chiefly of the Reform element, and established largely through the persistent efforts, extending for a period of over twenty years, of Isaac M. Wise. The initiative was taken by Moritz Loth, president of Wise's congregation in Cincinnati, who, in his annual message of Oct. 10, 1872, recommended the appointment of a committee to act with committees from other local congregations for the purpose of calling a convention for organization. The five Cincinnati congregations joined in a call, issued on March 30, 1873, in pursuance of which delegates from thirty-four congregations met in that city on July 8, 1873. "The Union of American Hebrew Congregations" was the official title adopted; and under that name the organization was subsequently incorporated pursuant to the laws of Ohio.

The objects of the organization are set forth in section 2 of the constitution:

  • A.—To establish and maintain institutions for instruction in the higher branches of Hebrew literature and Jewish theology, with the necessary preparatory schools in such cities of those States as may hereafter be designated.
  • B.—To provide means for the relief of Jews from political oppression and unjust discrimination, and for rendering them aid for their intellectual elevation.
  • C.—To promote religious instruction and encourage the study of the Scriptures and of the tenets and history of Judaism.All this, however, without interfering in any manner whatsoever with the worship, the schools, or any other of the congregational institutions.

Under provision (A) the Hebrew Union College was called into existence by the first council, which met in Cleveland in July, 1874 (see Hebrew Union College). Under (B) a Board of Delegates on Civil Rights has been created with its seat in Washington, D. C., Simon Wolf being its chairman. The objects provided for by (C) have been entrusted to a Board of Managers on Synagogue and (Sabbath) School Extension, which body has charge of the work formerly carried on by the Hebrew Sabbath-School Union of America, which went out of existence in Jan., 1905.

The presidents of the union have been Moritz Loth (1873-89); Julius Freiberg (1889-1903); and Samuel Woolner (since 1903); and Lipman Levy has been secretary from the beginning. The legislative body of the union, and its highest authority, is a councilwhich meets biennially, the members of which are elected by the constituent congregations. In electing these representatives there is no restriction as to sex. During the intervals between the meetings of the council the union is governed by an executive board of thirty members elected by the council. This executive board in turn elects the Board of Governors of the Hebrew Union College, the Board of Delegates on Civil Rights, and the Board of Managers on Synagogue and (Sabbath) School Extension. At present (1905) the union is composed of 128 congregations with an aggregate contributing membership of 14,000.

Bibliography:
  • 31 Annual Reports of The Union of American Hebrew Congregations;
  • seventy-one volumes of manuscript correspondence collected by Lipman Levy, secretary of The Union of American Hebrew Congregations;
  • The American Israelite, 1854-1905;
  • Die Deborah, 1855-1900;
  • D. Philipson and L. Grossman, Life and Writings of Isaac M. Wise, Cincinnati, 1900;
  • Isaac M. Wise, Reminiscences, ib. 1901.
J. L. Wi.
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