Chief rabbi of France; born Feb. 18, 1839, at Mommenheim, Alsace. In 1856 he entered the rabbinical school of Metz, finishing his theological studies at the same institution after it had been established at Paris as the Séminaire Israélite; and on graduation he was appointed director of the Talmud Torah, the preparatory school of the seminary. In 1867 he was appointed assistant to Chief Rabbi Isidor of Paris, whom he succeeded in the following year, when Isidor became chief rabbi of France. As Kahn had not yet reached the prescribed age of thirty, he had to obtain a dispensation before he could accept the office, his election to which had been largely due to his thesis "L'Esclavage Selon la Bible et le Talmud" (1867; later translated into German and Hebrew). The community of Paris attained to a high degree of prosperity and enlightenment under Kahn's administration.
On Chief Rabbi Isidor's death in 1889 Kahn was unanimously elected chief rabbi of France, and was inducted March 25, 1890. He then entered upon a period of many-sided philanthropic activity. He organized the relief movement in behalf of the Jews expelled from Russia, and gave much of his time to the work of the Alliance Israélite Universelle, which elected him honorary president in recognition of his services. He aided in establishing many private charitable institutions, including the Refuge du Plessis-Piquet, near Paris, an agricultural school for abandoned children, and the Maison de Retraite at Neuilly-sur-Seine, for young girls. He was appointed Chevalier of the Legion of Honor in 1879 and Officer in 1901, and is Officer of Public Instruction.
Zadoc Kahn was one of the founders, the first vice-president, and, soon after, president, of the Société des Etudes Juives (1879). He is a brilliant orator, and one of his most noteworthy addresses was delivered on the centenary (May 11, 1889) of the French Revolution—"La Revolution Française et le Judaïsme." He has published the following works: "Sermons et Allocutions" (1875, 1886, 1894); "Sermons et Allocutions Adressés à la Jeunesse Israélite" (1878); "Etudes sur le Livre de Joseph le Zélateur," a collection of religious controversies ofthe Middle Ages (1887); "Biographie de M. Isidore Loeb"; "Discours d'Installation" (March 25, 1890); "Religion et Patrie," addresses; "Souvenirs et Regrets," funeral orations.
- Chantavoine, L'Eloquence Sacrée dans la Religion Juive, in Journal des Débats, 1898;
- Curinier, Dictionnaire National.