Isidore Epstein

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Rabbi Ezekiel Isidore Epstein (1894–1962), was an Orthodox rabbi and rabbinical scholar in England. He served as rabbi of Middlesbrough Hebrew Congregation (1920-1928), following which he joined the teaching staff of Jews' College, London. In 1945 he was appointed Director of Studies and subsequently principal. He retired in 1961.[1]


Epstein was born in Kovno, Lithuania on 7 May 1893. His father was David Epstein, a bootmaker and his mother was Malka Epstein. Both parents were Orthodox Jews. The family moved to Paris when he was very young, and in 1903, they moved to London. There, he attended Old Castle Street School, and Raine's Foundation School. At the age of fifteen, he studied Hebrew and Talmud at Great Garden Street Yeshiva. Due to the quality of his work, he was sent to study at the Pressburg Yeshiva, as well as in Paris under Rabbi Zadoc Kahn, chief rabbi of France.[2]

He received semikhah (ordination) from Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, Rabbi Isaiah Silberstein of Vác,[3] and Rabbi Yisrael Chaim Daiches of Leeds, England.[2] He was advised by chief rabbi Joseph Hertz to obtain an academic education and he ended up with two doctorates from London University.[4]

Epstein married twice, he married his first wife Jeanie in Belfast in 1921 and the couple had two children. However, she died in 1924, and Epstein would marry Gertrude on 3 June 1925. After some years as the rabbi in Middlesbrough, he started teaching at Jews College, London. He later became director of studies and then principal of the college[5] in 1945, and retire in 1961. Epstein died on 13 April 1962.[2]


Epstein is best known for serving as the editor of the first complete English translation of the Babylonian Talmud, by the Soncino Press (London, 36 volumes, 1935-1952). He recruited many rabbis and scholars for the massive project, personally reviewing all of the work as it was produced, and co-ordinating the many details of notation and transliteration of Hebrew words.[2]

Rabbi Epstein was also an editor of Joseph H. Hertz' Pentateuch and Haftorahs (1929–1936), and editor of a collection of papers (published 1935) in connection with the eighth centenary of the birth of Maimonides (b. 1135). Rabbi Epstein was also the author of numerous scholarly books relating to Judaism.[2]


  • 'The Responsa of Rabbi Simon B. Zemah Duran As a Source of the History of the Jews in North Africa' (Oxford University Press, 1930)
  • Ed., 'Moses Maimonides: Anglo-Jewish Papers in Connection with the Eighth Centenary of His Birth' (London, 1935)
  • 'Judaism' (London, The Epworth Press, 1939)
  • 'Social legislation in the Talmud' (Torah Va'Avodah Library, Ideological Series) (Tnuath Torah Va'Avodah, 1943)
  • 'Man and his creator: A guide-book for teachers' (Jewish Educational Publications) (London, Woburn House, 1944)
  • Ed., 'Joseph Herman Hertz, 1872-1946, in Memoriam' (London, Soncino Press, 1947)
  • 'The Jewish Way of Life' (Edward Goldston, 1947)
  • 'The Faith of Judaism: an interpretation for our times' (London, Soncino Press, 1954)
  • 'Step By Step in the Jewish Religion' (London, Soncino Press, 1958)
  • 'Judaism: A Historical Presentation' (Penguin, 1950s, many subsequent editions)
  • 'The faith of Judaism;: An interpretation for our times' (London, Soncino Press, 1960)
  • 'Step by Step in the Jewish Religion' (London, Soncino Press, 1965)


  1. ^ Rabbi Dr Isidore Epstein - A Tribute.
  2. ^ a b c d e Diamond, Bryan (10 January 2019). "Epstein, (Ezekiel) Isidore (1893–1962)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. doi:10.1093/odnb/9780198614128.013.112215 (inactive 31 May 2021).CS1 maint: DOI inactive as of May 2021 (link)
  3. ^ Book review of Judaism: A Historical Presentation
  4. ^ Rabbi Dr. Isidore Epstien, Jewish philosopher and thinker
  5. ^ Isidore Epstein and the strengthening of faith