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ISAACS, SAMUEL MYER:

Rabbi and journalist; born at Leeuwarden, Holland, Jan. 4, 1804; died in New York city May 19, 1878. His father, on the approach of the French army of occupation, removed with his family to London. For a time Isaacs was principal of the old Neweh Ẓedeḳ, now the Jews' Hospital and Orphan Asylum, West Norwood, London, but he left England to accept the ministry of the Congregation B'nai Jeshurun, then in Elm street, New York city (1839). Regular sermons in English in the synagogue, such as he delivered, were a novelty, Isaac Leeser of Philadelphia being the only other rabbi in the country preaching in English. In 1847 he was chosen minister of the Congregation Shaaray Tefilla, whose members had withdrawn from the Elm Street Synagogue; with that congregation he remained until his death.

Isaacs contributed to the "Asmonean" and the Occident"; in 1857 he founded the "Jewish Messenger" as an organ of conservative Judaism, which he edited until the close of his life. To him was largely due the institution of the Board of Delegates of American Israelites, the Hebrew Free School Association, and the United Hebrew Charities, while he was one of the founders and first vice-president of the Jews' (now Mt. Sinai) Hospital. Isaacs took a leading part in the establishment of Maimonides College, Philadelphia, and, while identified with the cause of Conservatism, he was courageous enough to issue, in 1875, a call for ritual reform on the lines suggested by Sabato Morais; his views, however, met with no support.

Bibliography:
  • Morais, Eminent Israelites of the Nineteenth Century;
  • Jewish Messenger, Supplement, Jan. 6, 1882;
  • Magazine of American History, March, 1891;
  • The Memorial History of New York, iv.
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