Henry Pereira Mendes

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Rev. Dr.

Henry Pereira Mendes
Rabbi Henry Pereira Mendes.jpg
H. Pereira Mendes (unknown date).
Personal
BornApril 13, 1852
Birmingham, United Kingdom
DiedOctober 21, 1937
Mount Vernon, New York
ReligionJudaism
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
PositionRabbi
SynagogueCongregation Shearith Israel
New York City, New York, United States
Began1877
Ended1937

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.

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.

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 for 60 years until his death in 1937. As his successor, Rabbi David de Sola Pool, describes 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.”[2]

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

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."

Shooting[edit]

On March 5, 1892, he was shot in the abdomen at his home by a beggar named Jose Mizrachee, narrowly escaping with his life. 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.
  • 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).

Zionism[edit]

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:

Judaism

  • Union Primer and Reading Book (1882)
  • Jewish Daily Life, Ethically Presented (1917)
  • Bar-Mitzvah for Boyhood, Youth and Manhood


History and Current Affairs


Fiction

  • In Old Egypt: A Story about the Bible but not in the Bible
  • Judas Maccabaeus: A Chanuka play for Sunday school children, 1898

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. ^ 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.

External links[edit]