Abraham de Sola

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Abraham de Sola
Abraham de Sola.jpg
Personal details
Born (1825-09-18)September 18, 1825
London, England
Died June 5, 1882(1882-06-05) (aged 56)
New York City, New York
Buried Montreal, Quebec

Alexander Abraham de Sola (September 18, 1825 – June 5, 1882) was a Canadian Rabbi, author, Orientalist, and scientist. Originating from a large renown family of Rabbis and scholars, De Sola was recognized there as one of the most powerful leaders of Orthodox Judaism in the United States during the latter half of the nineteenth century.

Born in London, England, the sixth child of David Aaron de Sola and Rebecca Meldola, his maternal grandfather was Haham Raphael Meldola, a prominent English Rabbi. His sister Eliza, married Rev. Abraham Pereira Mendes, and was the mother of Dr. Frederick de Sola Mendes.

Abraham de Sola delivering opening prayer at the House of Representatives on January 9, 1873

In 1846, De Sola was elected minister of the Shearith Israel congregation of Montreal, Canada, and he arrived in that city early in 1847.

In 1848, De Sola was appointed lecturer, and in 1853 professor, of Hebrew and Oriental literature at McGill University, Montreal, and he eventually became the senior professor of its faculty of arts. He was president of the Natural History Society for several years, and addressed its members frequently on those branches of scientific investigation which came within its province. The degree of LL.D. was conferred upon him in 1858 by McGill University. This was the first instance of a Jew attaining that honor in an English-speaking country.

In 1873, by invitation of President Ulysses S. Grant's administration, De Sola opened the United States Congress with prayer. The event was of significance, as De Sola was a British subject, and this was the first indication of a more friendly feeling between the United States and Great Britain after the dangerously strained relations that had been caused by the recently adjusted "Alabama Claims." Mr. Gladstone, then premier, as well as Sir Edward Thornton, the British ambassador at Washington, extended the thanks of the British government to De Sola.

Abraham de Sola frequently visited the United States, and, through his pulpit addresses and numerous contributions to the press, became recognized there as one of the most powerful leaders of Orthodoxy, at a time when the struggle between the Orthodox and Reform wings of the community was at an acute stage. He was intimately associated with Isaac Leeser, Samuel Myer Isaacs, Bernhard Illowy, J. J. Lyons, and other upholders of Jewish tradition, and on the death of Isaac Leeser was invited to become successor to his pulpit; but this and many similar offers he declined. For twenty years he was a constant contributor to Leeser's "Occident," and after the latter's death he purchased the copyrights and stereotype plates of his works and continued their publication.

He died in New York City in 1882 and was buried in Montreal.

Literary works[edit]

  • Abraham de Sola also contributed actively to the Jewish press, a large number of articles by him appearing in "The Voice of Jacob," "The Asmonean," "The British-American Journal," and other contemporary Jewish journals. His articles on Sir William Sawson's "Archaia," "Dawn of Life," and "Origin of the World" are specially noteworthy. He also edited and republished English's "Grounds of Christianity" and a number of educational works.

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