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April 23: The Abolitionist Rabbi

Lawrence Bush
April 22, 2010

EinhornOn this date in 1861, Rabbi David Einhorn, an anti-slavery crusader who had served at Baltimore's Har Sinai Congregation for six years, was forced to flee his pulpit and head to Philadelphia when a pro-slavery mob destroyed his newspaper, Sinai, and threatened to tar and feather him. Einhorn was a theological radical who removed from his prayerbook all references to a personal messiah and most mentions of the “chosen people” concept, as well as the entire Musaf service and Kol Nidrei. He was deeply committed to prophetic Judaism and even proposed that Tisha B'Av, the fast day commemorating the destruction of the temples in Jerusalem, be treated as a celebratory day, because it was then that Jews went out to prophesize a universalist message to the world. Through the influence of his son-in-law and disciple, Kaufman Kohler, many of Einhorn's ideas were incorporated into Reform Judaism's Pittsburgh Platform of 1885, which became the basis for what is now called "classical" Reform Judaism.
"A religion which spares the feeling of the animal mother as the order regarding the bird's nest proves, certainly objects to having the human mother forcibly deprived of her child." —Rabbi David Einhorn

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.

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