Henry Pereira Mendes

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Rev. Dr.

Henry Pereira Mendes
Rabbi Henry Pereira Mendes.jpg
H. Pereira Mendes (unknown date).
BornApril 13, 1852
Birmingham, United Kingdom
DiedOctober 21, 1937 (Age 85)
Mount Vernon, New York
SpouseRosalie Rebecca Piza
ChildrenAbraham Piza Mendes, Heber Piza Mendes, Samuel Pereira Mendes
ParentsAbraham Pereira Mendes, Eliza de Sola
Alma materNorthwick College (Rabbinics); University College, London; New York University (M.D.)
Occupation • Rabbi
Jewish leader
PredecessorJacques Judah Lyons
SuccessorDavid de Sola Pool
SynagogueCongregation Shearith Israel
New York City, New York, United States

Henry Pereira Mendes (Hebrew: חיים פריירה מנדס‎, 13 April 1852 – 21 October 1937),[1] was an American rabbi who was born in Birmingham, England and died in New York City. He was also known as Haim Pereira Mendes.[2]

Family history and education[edit]

Henry Pereira Mendes was born into an old Spanish & Portuguese rabbinic family. His father Abraham Pereira Mendes was Rabbi in Birmingham, England, as well as in Jamaica and the Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island. His grandfather David Aaron de Sola was the Rabbi at Bevis Marks Synagogue in London, and his great-grandfather Raphael Meldola was the Chief Sephardic Rabbi of London. In addition, his brother Frederick de Sola Mendes also served as a rabbi in New York.

He was educated at Northwick College (rabbinics), at University College (London). In addition, he studied and graduated from the medical school of New York University, taking the degree of M.D. (1884). The degree of D.D. was conferred upon him by the Jewish Theological Seminary of America (1904).

On October 15, 1890, Henry married Rosalie Rebecca Piza, daughter of Samuel and Rachel Piza of St. Thomas, Danish West Indies.

Rabbinic career[edit]

In 1874, Rev. Mendes became Minister of the newly formed Sephardic congregation in Manchester, England.

In 1877, he was called to the Congregation Shearith Israel of New York where he served until 1920, retaining the title of Rabbi Emeritus.[2][3][4][5][6] As his successor, Rabbi David de Sola Pool, described it: "The Rev. Jacques Judah Lyons, the venerable hazan of the congregation, was failing in health, and he passed away on August 13, when Dr. Mendes had been installed for only two and a half months. It was no easy task for the young preacher from abroad to fill the void created by the death of Mr. Lyons, who was bound to the congregation by almost forty years....But Dr. Mendes loyally continued the traditions....It is impossible to record the untiring affectionate personal service which Dr. Mendes at all times gave to the members of his congregation in joy and in sorrow...an inspiration to the bride and bridegroom under the canopy, and a stay of strength to those stricken by bereavement. He was a spiritual father to two generations in his congregation. However occupied or weary he might be, no call ever found him other than ready to respond.”[7]

In addition, to synagogue duties, Rev. Mendes served as professor of homiletics at Yeshiva Isaac Elchanan from 1917 to 1920.

After retiring in 1920, he traveled for four years through Europe and South America. During that time, he reconnected with his first congregation in Manchester, and assisted them with Hebrew school curricula.

Musical contributions[edit]

Rev. Mendes also made musical contributions to the congregation. As Jewish music scholar Neil W. Levin explains: "Mendes also composed settings for the hazzan and choir of Shearith Israel, judiciously retaining the stylistic continuity of the Amsterdam Sephardi musical tradition and preserving its unique aura and melodic character, and some of these settings earned a place in the congregation's permanent standard repertoire. Such is the case with his setting of uv’nukho yomar, sung to this day at the conclusion of the Torah service after the Torah scrolls have been replaced in the ark, and his setting of Psalm 23."


On March 5, 1892, he was shot in the abdomen at his home by a beggar named Jose Mizrachee, narrowly escaping with his life.[8] Years later, at the man's passing, Dr. Mendes paid for his funeral and ensuring a proper Jewish burial.

Organizational activities[edit]

During his long career, Dr. Mendes participated in the establishment of a number of organizations for the betterment of both Jews and non-Jews:

  • New York Board of Ministers - In 1881, he was one of the founders of the New York Board of Ministers and acted as its secretary from its foundation up to 1901 when he became president.
  • Jewish Theological Seminary - In 1886, Rev. Mendes joined Sabato Morais in helping to establish the Jewish Theological Seminary, of which he became secretary of the advisory board and professor of history. On the death of Dr. Morais, he became acting president of the faculty until the appointment of Solomon Schechter in 1902.
  • Montefiore Home - In 1884, the centennial of the birth of Sir Moses Montefiore, Rev. Mendes moved his congregation to convene the leading Jews of New York to mark the event by some practical work. The outcome was the Montefiore Home for Chronic Invalids, established in the same year—and which later became Montefiore Medical Center.
  • Guild for Crippled Children - In 1896, he was made vice-president of the Guild for Crippled Children, and in 1901 established the Jewish branch of that guild.
  • Orthodox Union - He promoted the formation of the Union of Orthodox Congregations of the United States and Canada (1897) and was subsequently elected its president.
  • Young Women's Hebrew Association - He was also one of the founders of the Young Women's Hebrew Association of New York (1902).


Rev. Mendes was an ardent voice in the striving for a Jewish homeland. He was asked by Theodore Herzl to spread the Zionist cause in America and became one of the founders of the Federation of American Zionists, serving as vice-president. He was also a member of the Actions Committee of Vienna (1898–99). Following are some of his writings on the issue:

Books and articles[edit]

Rev. Mendes authored books on a wide range of topics: Judaism, history, current affairs, and even fiction—always with an ethical message. In addition, he was a prolific contributor to various journals. Together with his brother Frederick de Sola Mendes and others, he was one of the founders of "The American Hebrew" (1879). He wrote as well for the North American Review. Following is a partial list of his writings:


History and Current Affairs[edit]



Rabbi Mendes continued to be active as an author and orator in his later years, and was in good health until suffering a heart attack a week before his death. He died in his home in Mount Vernon, New York on October 20, 1937[9] and was buried in Beth Olam Cemetery in Cypress Hills, Queens.[10]

References and further reading[edit]

  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainSinger, Isidore; et al., eds. (1901–1906). "Mendes". The Jewish Encyclopedia. New York: Funk & Wagnalls.
  • de Sola Pool, David, H. Pereira Mendes: A Biography, 1938.
  1. ^ "Henry Pereira Mendes Papers". The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives. Retrieved 10 April 2017.
  2. ^ a b "Dr. Haim P. Mendes Marks 85th Birthday". Middletown Times Herald. 1937-04-12. p. 11. Retrieved 2020-08-13 – via Newspapers.com open access.
  3. ^ in 1920, Noted New York Jewish Leader Had Retired (1937-10-21). "Rev. Dr. H. Mendes Dies in 86th Year". The Gazette. p. 9. Retrieved 2020-08-13 – via Newspapers.com open access.
  4. ^ "Will Be Rabbi Emeritus - Dr. H. Pereira Mendes to Retire After Long Service". Evening Star. 1920-05-24. p. 2. Retrieved 2020-08-13 – via Newspapers.com open access.
  5. ^ "New York Happenings". The American Israelite. 1924-06-12. pp. P2. Retrieved 2020-08-13 – via Newspapers.com open access.
  6. ^ "Rabbi Mendes Retires". Fall River Daily Evening News. 1920-05-24. p. 11. Retrieved 2020-08-13 – via Newspapers.com open access.
  7. ^ Levine, Yitzchok (11 September 2013). "Reverend Henry Pereira Mendes: Orthodox Stalwart (Part I) | Everyday Jewish Living | OU Life". Orthodox Union Life. Retrieved 19 December 2017.
  8. ^ "Shot Down By a Beggar – Rabbi Mendes Wounded in His Own Home – Accompanied From His Synagogue By an Importunate Mendicant Who Demanded Money, Shot the Rabbi, and Escaped". New York Times. March 6, 1892. p. 1. Retrieved April 22, 2019.
  9. ^ "H. Pereira Mendes, Rabbi, Dead at 85 – One of City's Leading Jewish Figures Headed Shearith Israel 43 Years – Founder of Many Groups – An Early Zionist, He Was Active in Civic, Charitable and Religious Movements". New York Times. October 21, 1937. p. 23. Retrieved April 22, 2019.
  10. ^ "700 Pay Tributes at Mendes Rites – Simple Funeral Is Held for Rabbi Emeritus of Shearith Israel Congregation – Service As He Directed – No Praise of Him Is Uttered and Body Is Left in Room Next to 'Auditorium Built for God'". New York Times. October 25, 1937. p. 22. Retrieved April 22, 2019.

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