Abba Hillel Silver
Abba Hillel Silver (January 28, 1893 – November 28, 1963) was an American Rabbi and Zionist leader. He was a key figure in the mobilization of American support for the founding of the State of Israel.
Born Abraham Silver in Naumiestis, in the Suwałki Governorate of Congress Poland, a part of the Russian Empire (present-day Lithuania), son and grandson of Orthodox rabbis, he was brought to the US at the age of nine. A Zionist from his youth, he made his first speech at a Zionist meeting at age fourteen. Educated in the public schools and after-school Jewish schools of New York City's Lower East Side, he left after high school to attend the Hebrew Union College (HUC) and the University of Cincinnati. After graduation as valedictorian of his HUC class and ordination in 1915—and now known as Abba Hillel Silver—he served as rabbi of a small congregation, Leshem Shomayim, now Temple Shalom (Wheeling, West Virginia). In 1917, at age twenty-four, he became rabbi of The Temple in Cleveland, Ohio, one of the nation's largest and best-known Reform congregations, where he served for forty-six years.
Abba Hillel Silver was an early champion of rights for labor, for worker's compensation and civil liberties, though his highest priorities were to advance respect for and support of Zionism. He canvassed first Reform Jewish congregations, then American Jewry, then the American public and politicians, and last the international community, the United Nations in particular. Silver was a keynote speaker in the Allied Jewish Campaign to raise funds jointly for Zionist projects in Palestine and for European Jewry. Silver was one of the chief Zionist spokesmen appearing before the United Nations in the Palestine hearings of 2 October 1947 in what the Israeli government says was the future nation's acceptance speech, two weeks before Moshe Shertok made the case for Israel on 17 October 1947. Silver expressed reservations about the UN partition plan. A practical man, Silver did ultimately accept partition of Palestine as the best means to rapidly create a homeland for the Jewish people.
Abba Hillel Silver was a leading proponent of Zionism in America and met with President Truman several times to discuss his views until his bombastic manner caused friction with the White House, leading to estrangement from the Truman White House and banishment from further meetings, including Truman's appearance on national television to announce the formation of the State of Israel. The story of his pounding on Harry Truman's desk at the White House, however, remains unconfirmed.
By mobilizing Jewish and non-Jewish support and through a relationship with the Republican party that resulted in 1948 in a pro-Israel plank in their platform, Silver left Truman no choice but to support Israel and recognize it immediately after it declared its independence.
A nationally-known orator and author of many scholarly works, Silver also served as head of many Jewish and Zionist organizations.
- Religion in the Changing World (1930)
- Where Judaism Differed; an Inquiry Into the Distinctiveness of Judaism (1956)
- Temple Tifereth-Israel, Beachwood, Ohio
- Abba Hillel Silver website
- Mark A. Raider, Jonathan D. Sarna, Ronald W. Zweig, Abba Hillel Silver and American Zionism (1997) Routledge, ISBN 0-7146-4824-8 p 88
- Moses Rischin, The Jews of North America (1987) Wayne State University Press, ISBN 0-8143-1891-6 p 220.
- Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Highlights of Main Events 1947-1974
- Mr. Moshe Shertok, as head of Political Department of the Jewish Agency, statement to Ad Hoc Committee on Palestine.
- Michelle Mart (2006) Eye on Israel: how America came to view the Jewish state as an ally, SUNY Press, ISBN 0-7914-6687-6 p 127.