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Moses (Moshe) Mescheloff (Hebrew: משה בן מאיר משלוף) (June 12, 1909 – May 9, 2008) was a renowned American Orthodox rabbi and community leader for 75 years, known especially within circles of American Orthodox Judaism, primarily in Miami Beach, Florida, and in Chicago, Illinois.
Mescheloff’s rabbinical career spanned more than 75 years. He grew up and began his career in a period of crisis in American Orthodox Judaism, and continued to lead it through a second major crisis following World War II and the Holocaust. Ultimately he played a major role in bringing it to the more secure, self-confident, and expanding state it enjoyed by the end of the twentieth century.
Moshe Mescheloff, the third of four children, was born in New York City in 1909.
His parents were Meier Mischelow (Hebrew: מאיר בן יוסף ישראל, b. 1879, d. Sunday, 2 Cheshvan 5707 - October 27, 1946) and Bessie (Basse Mirel) Kroll (Hebrew: בתיה מרים בת אליעזר זאב, b. 1878, d. Thursday, 27 Tishri 5710 - October 20, 1949). They had married in Minsk on Monday night, 2 Kislev 5663 (December 1, 1902). Meier was a descendant of scholarly forebears, and had had a yeshiva education. Meier and Bessie had felt the endemic anti-Semitism in Czarist Russia, and joined the mass migration of Jews from Russia to the United States at the end of the nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries. Some 92,388 Russian Jews immigrated to the US in 1905. In 1906, a year of continued pogroms, Russian Jewish immigration reached 125,234, the highest figure in the entire period of mass immigration. This was out of a total Jewish immigration to the US during that record year of some 153,748, almost all of whom were of East European origin.
Meier and Bessie immigrated to the United States from Minsk, arriving on the SS Smolensk at Ellis Island on Friday, 24 Elul 5666 (September 14, 1906). Meier was then 27, and Bessie was 28. They arrived with two small children, Idel (Yehuda/Irving, then 3; 1903–1969) and Marjase (Mae, an infant; 1906–2005). Meier and Bessie had two more children after their arrival in the United States, Moshe (Moses) and Yitzhak (Al; 1912–1960). Thus their family bridged the Jewish cultures of "the old world" of Europe and of "the new world" of America, setting the background for Moshe's rabbinic career.
Meier had operated some small businesses in Minsk, including a Jewish book shop, with Bessie's help. In New York he first found a job at a grocery store, and then became its hardworking owner. Later he owned a delicatessen store. Meier's yeshiva background and love of books inspired the young Moshe with a lifelong love of books. Moshe's library grew steadily over the years until it numbered several thousand.
Bessie, too, was a lover of writing. A collection of her fifty poetic discourses in Yiddish was distributed among Rabbi Mescheloff's children in December, 1996. She undoubtedly laid a foundation for his extensive writings. In addition to his doctoral dissertation, several scholarly articles and popular booklets and articles (see below), over the many years of his career Rabbi Mescheloff wrote many thousands of divrei Torah (Torah discourses), for synagogue bulletins and for Jewish life cycle events.
When Mescheloff was born, in 1909, his parents lived in Manhattan. Although he was sent to public school through junior high, his parents made sure that he had the finest and most knowledgeable Hebrew teachers they could find, who gave him private "Hebrew lessons" up to the study of the Talmud. When Mescheloff reached the age of 13, his third teacher, a knowledgeable young man, said that Moshe was ready for entrance to a yeshiva.
Orthodox Judaism in America, and in New York in particular, was in a deep crisis in the first decades of the twentieth century. Several causes brought great numbers of adults to compromise their religious traditions, not observing Shabbat or the laws of kashrut and mikvah strictly, if at all: 1 - widespread ignorance of rabbinic literature and of the meaning of Jewish belief and practice in the modern world, 2 - a desire to be free of the heavy burden of Jewishness as it had been felt "in the old world", 3 - economic and social pressures, 4 - a dearth of qualified rabbis and effective community-wide institutions. The young people were set on being absorbed into American society, with its promises of wealth and freedom, and saw the strictures of Orthodox Jewish observance as impediments to their assimilation. The older generation, the great majority having no secular education and little formal Jewish education, was woefully unprepared to teach the young how to maintain their Jewish traditions in the new world.
Most of the rabbis who had studied in the European Jewish tradition were similarly ill-prepared to deal with the challenges presented by America to Jewish life. The Talmudical Academy of Yeshivat Rabbeinu Yitzchak Elchanan (Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS)) was a high school that combined traditional Jewish study with secular studies. It carried the promise of enabling a successful transition of Orthodox Jewish living into America. But it had grown out of a merger of two other institutions only in 1915. From that time it was headed by Rabbi Dr. Bernard Revel, who had arrived in the United States in 1906, like Mescheloff's parents.
Mescheloff was much younger than the other boys. They had come from Europe recently, and were all 16 to 20 years old. Yet the 13-year-old passed a rigorous examination by Rabbi Yehuda Weil, one of the roshei yeshiva at RIETS. Moshe was admitted to the Talmudic Academy of RIETS at the age of thirteen, in 1922. He progressed in his studies from teacher to teacher, through his high school years and beyond, until he reached the class of Rabbi Shlomo Polachek, renowned as the Meischeter (or Meitsheter, or Maichater) Illui.
Mescheloff loved his studies. He was also involved in the student government. He innovated a book store, and continued to thrive in his Torah studies. He was an American boy, now receiving a Yeshiva background. He was bi-lingual. Yiddish was his "mama lashon (mother tongue)" and he had no problem learning with his brilliant European teachers. He provided the genuine bridge between the old world and the new world that Rabbi Dr. Revel sought to produce at RIETS.
About this time, Mescheloff took an interest in his ancestral background and the bridge his family was building to America. He wrote an extensive genealogical study, going back several generations - to his great-great-great grandfathers, who had been born in the early 18th century. He included many cousins in various countries, based on interviews with his mother and aunts. Over half a century was to pass before this type of "family roots" study would become popular with junior high and high school students, and adults, in America.
Years later, Mescheloff attested to the major influence Rabbi Dr. Bernard Revel had exerted on him. For many of the ten years that Mescheloff spent as a student at RIETS, Dr. Revel was his teacher, friend, and mentor. To Moshe he was a fatherly figure, who took an interest in every phase of the life of each of his students. He met with their parents. He spoke to each in a concerned, friendly fashion, and he was interested in the students' interests. He sought to encourage and to inspire them.
Revel knew of Mescheloff's interest in books and of his project of researching the book stores and building a student library. Rabbi Dr. Revel chose Mescheloff to be the recipient of the golden medal for "Hasmadah (dedication to learning)", rewarded to the most studious student at the Yeshiva high school. The motto attributed to Mescheloff in his year book was "to learn something new every day". This prize and this motto characterized him throughout his life.
When Revel asked for a small class of distinguished students that he would teach himself, Mescheloff was included, even though he continued to be younger than his classmates.
While Mescheloff studied for semikhah (rabbinic ordination) at RIETS, Rabbi Herbert S. Goldstein was one of his professors of homiletics. The classes were voluntary, and Moshe attended them religiously every Friday morning. His other homiletics professor was Rabbi Joseph Lookstein, one of the great orators of his time. Many years later (see below), Lookstein was the installing officer and guest speaker at Mescheloff's installation in Chicago.
Mescheloff received his semikhah from RIETS in 1932. Among the signatories were Rabbi Moshe Soloveichik and Revel. Soloveichik was Rosh Yeshiva of RIETS during the 1930s, until his death on Friday, 3 Shevat 5701 (January 31, 1941). Mescheloff was one of thirteen students who received semikhah from Soloveichik in America. Indeed, Mescheloff was the first native-born American to receive semikhah from Soloveichik at RIETS.
At the same time, Mescheloff studied at the City College of New York (CCNY) as a night student. The subways were his "Study Hall". Mescheloff received the B.A. degree in 1932, graduating with high honors (Magna Cum Laude, election to the Phi Beta Kappa Society. Scholarly excellence and knowledge of a wide range of subjects characterized Mescheloff throughout his life.
It was a tremendous challenge to maintain uncompromising loyalty to halakha and to Torah tradition, while injecting them into Jewish life in America. There was a need to translate them into the concepts and the language of contemporary American Jews, and to be open to absorbing the best of American culture into Jewish life. Mescheloff was among the first graduates of RIETS to meet this challenge in the Jewish communities of America, with the appropriate knowledge, commitment, skills and tools .
By this time, Orthodox Jewish life in the United States was undergoing rapid change. The communities were becoming Americanized, as the mass immigration of Orthodox East European Jews had come to an end in 1924. RIETS began to ordain rabbis who were equipped to meet the challenges of life in America. A 1928 request from a congregation asked for "a conservative rabbi, who is well acquainted with the Talmud and Hebraic literature, and also well versed in English, and one who is familiar with all modern topics, who can keep the young people interested." The response from RIETS described its rabbis as "mostly American born, college graduates and fully ordained, ... serving in the capacity of modern Orthodox rabbis. Of course, they deliver lectures in English and take part in all the activities at the synagogue, but they do not deviate from the traditional way of service. If you wish to have a man who was born in America, holding several degrees from colleges, an ordained rabbi who is, or course, well-versed in Hebrew, Talmud, codes and rabbinical literature, and is also an excellent speaker in both English and Yiddish, we shall be glad to recommend you one of our graduates. We wish, however, to emphasize that he is an orthodox rabbi.".
During that period, in 1935, Mescheloff married Magda (Hebrew: מרים), the second of the four children of Rabbi Lázár (Hebrew: אליעזר בן משה) Schönfeld (Shabbat, 9 Av 5640 (July 17, 1880) - Friday, 9 Shevat 5733 (February 1, 1974)), and Sarah (Shari in Hungarian, Hebrew: קיילה שרה) Schönfeld.
Mescheloff took care to introduce Magda to Revel and to receive his blessing. He saw Revel as his beloved Torah teacher, his role model and a very significant part of his life.
After Mescheloff took the position of Rabbi of Congregation House of Israel, North Adams, Massachusetts (1936–1937), the Mescheloff's first of three children was born, a daughter, Renah Rachel (Hebrew: רנה רחל).
In 1936 Revel was deeply involved in his efforts to make Yeshiva College a full-fledged University. He needed funding, and contacted the famous Dr. Albert Einstein to lend his support. Revel also spoke to Rabbi Lazar Schönfeld, who spoke both German and Hungarian and was an acquaintance of Einstein. Einstein wrote a letter, in German, to Schönfeld, in which he spoke of the importance of Jewish education, and of the need for a Yeshiva where the ancient Jewish beliefs, wisdom and traditions are taught, in tandem with modern, scientific knowledge, where Jewish youth can learn without harassment and persecution. The letter was an introduction to and re-enforcement of Rabbi Revel's mission.
Upon Schönfeld's death, the Einstein letter was willed to Rabbi and Mrs. Mescheloff. It was kept in its original envelope for many years, in the Mescheloff's safety deposit box. Upon the urging of Magda's brother, Frank Schonfeld, a 1939 graduate of Yeshiva College, the Mescheloff's presented it to the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, where it is now part of the extensive archive of Albert Einstein papers. A copy also went to The Yeshiva University Archives.
In 1937, Mescheloff became the rabbi of Beth Jacob Congregation ("the Third Street shul") in Miami Beach, Florida, after the untimely, sudden passing of the previous rabbi. Beth Jacob was the only synagogue in Miami Beach at the time. There were Restrictive covenants in the land deeds of one of South Florida's biggest real estate developers in the 1920s. That is why no Jews lived north of Miami Beach's Fifth Street until the 1940s, when such limitations became unenforceable and, later, illegal.
Mescheloff made a major contribution towards completing the physical design of the synagogue. He designed its nearly 80 stained-glass windows. He designed the bimah - the central platform for the public Torah reading - by carving a model out of a block of soap for the architect.
Mescheloff played a leading role in establishing institutions for the rapid growth of the Jewish community in Miami Beach. He was the organizer and the Rav Hamachshir - the rabbi who certified the kashrut of food products and institutions - of the Vaad Hakashruth of Miami Beach. He served as President of the Dade County Rabbinical Association, Vice President of the Rabbinical Council of America, Vice President of the Florida Rabbinical Association, Chairman of the Jewish National Fund of South Florida, President of Greater Miami Mizrachi, Chairman of the Greater Miami Zionist Youth Commission, and Vice President of the Miami Beach Zionist District (ZOA). He led many adult education courses and was responsible for a large Hebrew school.
Most important was the building of a mikvah. Mescheloff led in the building of the first mikvah in Miami Beach. Those who questioned the need for a mikvah had to be won over. The mikvah was built during World War II at a time when, due to limited supplies of cement, special permits were required for building concrete structures, and such a permit had to be obtained for the mikvah.
It was also important to establish good relations between the Jewish community and the community at large, to overcome latent anti-Semitism. Mescheloff served as Secretary of the Association of Miami Beach Interfaith Clergy. He was featured on the radio for three years in South Florida as a member of a panel of “Men of Good Will”. He spoke regularly on another station promoting the cause of Zionism and the sale of Jewish National Fund trees.
When Miami Beach was taken over by the military during World War II for the training of new recruits, Rabbi Mescheloff became a civilian chaplain overnight. He was called for religious services and was flown to the men in the field where he counseled soldiers, and at home he counseled their frightened wives and parents.
It was during this time that Mescheloff became a member of the delegation who sought to save the refugees on the ship, SS St. Louis. Denied entry into Havana, Cuba, the ship sought sanctuary in the United States by docking in Miami. The delegation of some of the most prominent rabbis of the U.S. could not convince officials in Miami or Washington DC, that this was a question of life or death. Sadly the ship returned to Germany and the fate of the refugees was sealed; very few survived the European Holocaust.
In 1945, after World War II was over, the Mescheloff's youngest son, David Joseph (Hebrew: דוד יוסף), was born.
Revel had instituted the policy of inviting great European and Palestinian rabbis to give guest lectures before the yeshiva students at RIETS. Mescheloff invited many famous European rabbis, who came to Miami beach to lecture and raise funds for their yeshivot, to speak from the pulpit at Beth Jacob. He felt it was important for American Jews to experience that Torah greatness.
During the seventeen years that Mescheloff served in Miami Beach, he performed many hundreds of weddings, and, on the other hand, headed the Beth Din (Jewish ecclesiastical court) that presided over the writing of Jewish bills of divorce. In Miami Beach he came to know many highly regarded men in a more personal way, as Miami Beach became an increasingly popular winter vacation spot for visitors from the North.
In 1954, Mescheloff moved to Chicago, in time to celebrate Hanukkah with his new congregation in West Rogers Park, Chicago, Congregation K.I.N.S. (Knesset Israel Nusach Sfard) of West Rogers Park. Rabbi Joseph Lookstein was the installing officer and guest speaker at his installation, on January 9, 1955.
This was a second period of major crisis for American Orthodox Jewish life. Sociologists and social scientists were proclaiming the end of Orthodoxy in America. Its European roots and lifeline had been destroyed in The Holocaust, and it was thought to be unable to maintain itself in the face of the newfound Jewish freedom and rampant assimilation in America.
Mescheloff worked devotedly on behalf of Torah in his congregation. The synagogue had a very large Hebrew and Sunday School, with many hundreds of students for over twenty years. Moses Mescheloff oversaw the school, encouraging students to continue their education in more intense Jewish educational environments. He officiated at thousands of Bar-Mitzvahs and Bat-Mitzvahs. He also performed thousands of weddings, visited thousands of sick people, comforted the bereaved, and officiated at funerals and memorial services. For twenty-eight years he conducted weekly Talmud classes, organized adult education courses at the synagogue, and was one of the lecturers. The cumulative effect of his life's work was to leave an indelible imprint on the lives of tens of thousands for whom he ministered at crucial turning points in their lives.
Mescheloff also worked tirelessly for the advancement of Torah living in the general Jewish community. He made a major contribution to bringing about the renaissance of the Orthodox Jewish community in America. Through his religious Zionist work he also made a major contribution to the renaissance of Torah true Jewish life in Israel.
Over the years Rabbi Mescheloff held many positions in Chicago. He served as president of the Chicago Rabbinical Council (CRC), president of the Chicago Religious Zionist Council and president of the Chicago Board of Rabbis. He was Chairman of the CRC's Publication Committee. Together with Rabbi Schachnowitz, he was co-chairman of the Joint Vaad Hakashruth of the CRC and the Mercaz Harabbonim. He was a member of Chicago’s Jewish Community Relations Council, the Council for Jewish Elderly and was involved in many public causes. He was featured on the radio in a series of lectures on World literature and appeared on Chicago television programs presented by the Chicago Board of Rabbis, including several series: "The Jewish Court", "Some of My Best Friends", and "Sanctuary".
Mescheloff was called upon frequently to open Chicago City Council meetings with an invocation. On one of these occasions, on May 13, 1981, the Mayor received word that Pope John Paul II had been shot. Mescheloff, still in the Council chambers, was called upon to offer prayers for his recovery. His non-sectarian prayer was then re-broadcast throughout that day. He served as an officer or a member of the Board of the Mayor's Advisory Council on Human Relations, the Chicago Commission on Race and Religion, the North Town Community Council, the North Town Inter-faith Fellowship, the Chicago Inter-religious Council for the Homeless, the Mayor's Advisory Council for the Department on Aging, and the North Town/Rogers Park Division for Chicago's Mental Health Association.
Mescheloff was elected by the Hall of Fame Selection Committee and inducted by Mayor Richard M. Daley into Chicago's Senior Hall of Fame, at a full session of the City Council on May 25, 1989. Mescheloff was honored by the city of Chicago on May 1, 2002, when Vice-Mayor Alderman Bernard L. Stone unveiled a street sign in front of the entrance to Congregation K.I.N.S., “Honorary Rabbi Moses Mescheloff Street”. Stone noted that "Not only did he have all the attributes of a rabbi — knowledgeable, articulate — he was an exceptionally kind and gentle man."
Mescheloff was a member of the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) from 1935 until his death, for seventy-five years. He contributed annually to the RCA’s Sermon Manual for as long as it was published. Subsequently, he contributed sermons to the RCA’s holiday brochures, as well as scholarly articles for the RCA’s Hadarom (in Hebrew). He also wrote scholarly articles for Oraita (in Israel), and Chadashot (CRC) and has written articles on Judaism and on Jewish life for the Chicago Sentinel, Hadassah Women and AMIT Women magazines. The Legal Encyclopedia, “Florida Law on the Family, Marriage and Divorce” includes his chapter, entitled “Procedure in Obtaining a Jewish Divorce”. See a partial list of his publications below.
In 1980 Mescheloff received the degree Doctor of Hebrew Literature from the graduate school of the Hebrew Theological College of Skokie, Illinois, Summa Cum Laude. He is listed in the Biographical Encyclopedia of American Jews, Who's Who in World Jewry and Who's Who in World Zionism.
After ten years, the congregation signed a life contract with Mescheloff. From 1982 he served as Rabbi Emeritus. Mescheloff worked in close cooperation and mutual respect and admiration with the two rabbis who followed him, in succession, as spiritual leaders of the congregation. They sat together at the front of the congregation during services. Rabbi Dr. Leonard Matanky has continued to lead the congregation as the central religious zionist synagogue in the Midwest, continuing the tradition of deep involvement in Jewish education and other Jewish and civic activities. When each new rabbi was away, Mescheloff would deliver sermons and teach Torah classes in his absence.
Mescheloff's communal work continued apace well into his mid-nineties. He could be seen walking to the synagogue daily at a pace that tired young men who might accompany him, sitting in the Beit Midrash, attending lectures in halakha by Rabbi Gedalia Dov Schwartz, the head of the Bet Din of the RCA and the CRC, listening intently to Talmud lessons over the internet, and preparing Torah messages. Mescheloff made himself available to others for discussing Torah, academic and Jewish community issues of all types.
A few months before Mescheloff's ninety-ninth birthday, he took ill, and died, in Chicago, on Friday, 4 Iyyar 5768 (May 9, 2008)). He was interred in Mount Moriah Cemetery in Fairview, New Jersey, near his in-laws, Rabbi Dr. and Mrs. Schonfeld. He was survived by his wife of seventy-three years, Magda, their three children, sixteen grandchildren, and nearly sixty great-grandchildren, the great majority of whom are in Israel.
The Mescheloff children followed in their parents' path: Renah (married to Rabbi Alexander Bell), Rabbi Dr. Efrom Mescheloff (married to Felice, née Rosenberg), and Rabbi Dr. David Mescheloff (married to Irene, née Goldschmidt). The two sons are both members of the Rabbinical Council of America, and both immigrated to Israel and established large Othodox Jewish families there.
Mescheloff’s semikhah bears the signature of Rabbi Moshe Soloveitchik, who was the Rosh yeshiva of RIETS during the 1930s. Mescheloff was one of thirteen rabbis ordained in America by Moshe Soloveitchik. The semicha of Mescheloff's older son, Efrom, was signed by Soloveitchik's son, Rabbi Joseph Dov Soloveitchik, who followed his father as Rosh Yeshiva of RIETS. Mescheloff's younger son, David, received his semicha from the Hebrew Theological College of Skokie, where a younger son of Soloveitchik's, Rabbi Ahron Soloveichik, then the Rosh Yeshiva, signed his semikhah.
- Hundreds of sermons, in each volume of the Rabbinical Council of America Sermon Manual, Vol. 1 - 44, Rabbinical Council Press, New York, 1943 - 1986.
- Hundreds of editorials, bi-monthly, in the Chicago Sentinel (Anglo-Jewish weekly), as member of the editorial staff for ten years.
- Hundreds of Torah thoughts and reviews in the regular Bulletins of his synagogues, over the course of several decades.
- "Father's Place", in Abraham B. Shoulson, ed., Marriage and Family life, A Jewish View, New York: Twayne Publishers, 1959.
- The covenant of Abraham : the rite of circumcision, Chicago : Chicago Rabbinical Council, , OCLC: 7108513.
- The parting of ways : fundamentals of Jewish divorce, Chicago : Chicago Rabbinical Council, , OCLC: 7135122.
- The Ban as a Legal Instrument and a Social Institution from Scriptural Times through the pre-Mishnaic, Mishnaic, Talmudic, Gaonic and Middle Ages to Modern Ttimes, Chicago : Ph.D. Dissertation, M. Mescheloff, 1980, OCLC: 28911912.
- In the priest's office : functions of the Cohen, Chicago : Chicago Rabbinical Council, , OCLC: 7135138.
- Right before the King (Esther VIII, 5) : fundamentals of Kashruth, Chicago : Chicago Rabbinical Council, , OCLC: 7135198.
- Procedure in obtaining a religious Jewish divorce. Prepared for members of the legal profession by Moses Mescheloff, President, Chicago Rabbinical Council. Chicago : OCLC: 78018387.
- Hebrew: פסק דין בענין מוחלת כתובתה, כתב יד מהרב משה גואקיל, הדרום כרך נ"ד, סיון תשמ"ה
- Hebrew: שתי תשובות - תקנות מחכמי פס בענין סבלונות, אורייתא, כרך ט"ו, בעריכת הרב עמיהוד יצחק מאיר לוין, נתניה, ניסן תשמ"ו, עמ' מד-מז.
- Hebrew: תקנה עתיקה בעניין ההשגחה על סופרי סת"ם, מתוך כתב-יד, הדרום כרך נ"ה, אלול תשמ"ו
- In his youth he wrote his name "Maysheh", reflecting the phonetic pronunciation of his name by his parents and family; later in life they called him "Moe"
- The family name - pronounced Mischalov in Russian - was spelled several different ways in Latin letters, including: Meschalow - on the invitation to Meier's wedding to Basse Miril Kroll in 1902, Mischelow - on the 1906 immigration record in Ellis Island (see notes 7, 8, 9 below), and Mishaloff - on Bessie's privately published "Poetic Discourses" (1996, see note 10 below). Similarly, Meier, Moses' father, wrote his family name in several different ways in Hebrew and Yiddish. Two of Meir's sons Americanized the family name to Mitchell; Moses wrote it Mescheloff. Moses chose the Hebrew spelling Hebrew: משלוף from that Americanized name. Moses' older son, Rabbi Dr. Efrom Zev Mescheloff, maintained the Hebrew spelling Hebrew: משלוף in Israel, as did most of Efrom's sons. Moses' youngest son, Rabbi Dr. David Joseph Mescheloff, upon his arrival in Israel after Efrom, chose to spell the family name Hebrew: מישלוב, at his brother's recommendation, as had those family members who had emigrated from Russia to Israel before World War II. This was a more accurate phonetic transliteration of the Russian surname, and avoided the difficulties Israelis had pronouncing Efrom's name Hebrew: משלוף correctly. David's sons have adopted this spelling as well. Thus there is occasional confusion concerning the family relationship between the brothers, and between the cousins and their children.
- According to the Russian census of 1897, over half the population of Minsk was Jewish.
- The wedding invitation reads 18 November, as Russia had not yet gone over from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar.
- The wedding invitation indicates Monday, 1 Kislev, but the ketuba of Bessie Mischelow indicates Tuesday, 2 Kislev; clearly the wedding was Monday night.
- Rothkoff, Aaron, Bernard Revel, the Jewish Publication society of America, Philadelphia, 1972, p. 3.
- Ellis Island - FREE Port of New York Passenger Records Search
- Ellis Island - FREE Port of New York Passenger Records Search
- Ellis Island - FREE Port of New York Passenger Records Search
- "Poetic Discourses (in her own handwriting) by Bessie Mishaloff", collected and printed by Moses Mescheloff, private distribution, Chicago, 1999.
- This was the educational practice of only a minority of the immigrant Jewish families, according to Rothkoff in Bernard Revel, p. 9-10, and not a very effective one at that. Yet it was effective in the case of Mescheloff, as can be seen from his subsequent educational successes.
- As I Knew Him: Memories of Rabbi Dr. Bernard Revel - YUdaica
- See Jeffrey S. Gurock, American Jewish Orthodoxy in Historical Perspective (Ktav, 1996). See especially chapter one, "Resistors and Accommodators: Varieties of Orthodox Rabbis in America, 1886-1983," pages 1-63.
- The first class to attend Talmudical Academy for four years graduated on July 1, 1920. See Rothkoff, Bernard Revel, pp. 48-49.
- See: http://www.yucommentator.com/media/paper652/news/2004/09/20/Yudaica/Rabbi.Shlomo.Polachek.The.Unassuming.Iluy.Of.Maichat-713976.shtml?norewrite200603200307&sourcedomain=www.yucommentator.com. On July 8, 1928, at the age of fifty-one, Rabbi Polachek died of osteomyelitis of the jaw, the result of an abscessed tooth, after a brief two week illness. (Rothkoff, Bernard Revel p. 93 and pp. 115-118. This was four years before Moshe was ordained by RIETS; see below.
- The fifty page "Family History" has been scanned and is in the hands of Mescheloff's descendants.
- When Mescheloff arrived at RIETS, in 1922, Rabbi Meyer Berlin had just been elected President of the Board of RIETS, in March. However, he resigned on May 13, 1923, and Revel returned from an intense period of helping his family through an economic crisis, to serve as head of RIETS until his death in 1940; see below. See Rothkoff, Bernard Revel, pp. 66-69.
- As I Knew Him: Memories of Rabbi Dr. Bernard Revel - YUdaica
- Homiletical studies had been instituted in 1917 at the insistence of students of RIETS, who saw the need for such preparation for addressing American audiences successfully. See Rothkoff, Bernard Revel, pp. 49-50.
- Another student, Gilbert Klaperman, who received semikhah from RIETS in 1941, from Soloveichik's son, later recalled: "Permission to become a regular member of Reb Moshe's class was the crowning glory of a student's many years of study, and tacit certification that he was already a talmid chohom, an accomplished scholar. To weather Rabbi Moses Soloveitchik's exacting standards of diligence and achievement, and then to earn his signature on the semicha certificate of ordination, was the highest accolade that could come to any student." See The Story of Yeshiva University: The First Jewish University in America, New York, Public Relations Department of Yeshiva University, p. 313, quoted by Rothkoff in Bernard Revel, p. 123.
- Until 1936, semikhah was given jointly by the Yeshiva and Agudat Harabanim. Thus, in 1932, Mescheloff's Semikhah was conferred on him by Rabbis Moshe Zevulun Margolies (1851-1936), Hillel Klein and Shalom Jaffe, representing the Agudat Harabanim, and Rabbis Revel, Benjamin Aranowitz and Moshe Soloveichik on behalf of RIETS. See Rothkoff, Bernard Revel, pp. 122-123, 143.
- Rothkoff, Bernard Revel, p. 122.
- Thirty-one students, mainly graduates of the Talmudical Academy, constituted the first class of RIETS' new Yeshiva college, that began its studies on September 25, 1928. The first Yeshiva College graduation took place in June 1932. It is not clear why Mescheloff did not join that group. Perhaps it did not offer the program of studies that he desired; see Rothkoff, Bernard Revel, p. 83 and p. 147. Or, perhaps, he had already graduated the Talmudical Academy a year or two earlier, and had already begun his studies at CCNY before Yeshiva College opened. Or, perhaps, he feared that the Yeshiva College might not be a lasting institution, for it roused considerable opposition in the Orthodox rabbinic world, which repeatedly tried to have Yeshiva College closed (ibid).
- John D. Zeglis, corporate leader in wireless communications, said in a Phi Beta Kappa initiation speech, "You are here because you've made a habit of excellence. Occasional brilliance will not get you into Phi Beta Kappa. You are not one-subject wonders. You've established your intellectual credentials in a wide range of subjects. The excellence that brings you here is not accidental. You have chosen to pursue it, and you have earned it. You've broken the code of how to get it done. And that stays with you for life." http://www.pbk.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Membership3&Template=/CM/HTMLDisplay.cfm&ContentID=1974
- Revel had many struggles in trying to balance these aims in the new American Yeshiva he was building. See Rothkoff, Aaron, Bernard Revel - Builder of American Jewish Orthodoxy, The Jewish Publication Society of America, Philadelphia, 1972
- See Rothkoff, Bernard Revel, p. 158 ff.
- The first RIETS Ordination Ceremony was held on March 23, 1919 with five graduates. In 1926 sixteen rabbis had been ordained, and twenty-seven had been ordained in 1929.
- Rothkoff, Bernard Revel, pp. 162-163.
- Hebrew: הפרדס - קובץ רבני חדשי Volume 9, Number 1, April 1935, p. 22.
- A magyarság évfordulónaptára, 2005
- They married on January 5, 1908.
- Schönfeld had been ordained at the Pressburger Yeshiva. He had studied at the College of Szeged, the University of Budapest and the University of Vienna, where he received the Ph.D. degree. Schönfeld had first served as rabbi of Pakrac and Vinkovci, Yugoslavia, from 1907 to 1912. You can read more about Jewish life in Vinkovci a few decades later, at http://www.centropa.org/index.php?nID=30&bioID=177, and about the suffering of Rabbi Frankfurter, at http://www.state.nj.us/education/holocaust/downloads/curriculum/to_honor_all_children_file3.pdf, p. 61/380. Then, from 1912 to 1925, Schönfeld had served as chief rabbi of Nagykároly, Hungary, after the untimely death of his father-in-law, Rabbi Ferenc (Hebrew: אפרים) Fürth, at age 51; see http://mek.oszk.hu/04000/04093/html/0638.html or http://mek.oszk.hu/04000/04093/pdf/n.pdf; see also http://mek.oszk.hu/04000/04093/html/telepules.htm. Rabbi Fürth had served previously as rabbi of Hatvan; see 0354.png. In 1925 Rabbi Schönfeld brought his family to the United States, where he had gone to visit his brother, Michael. At Sarah's urging he had accepted the position of rabbi of Congregation Beth David Agudath Achim ("the Fox Street shul", or "the Hungarian shul"), at 832 Fox Street in the Bronx, New York; see http://www.bronxsynagogues.org/ic/bronxsyn/process.html?mv_nextpage=synsearch&mv_todo=return&ssb=browse&name=832Fox, http://www.museumoffamilyhistory.com/erc-syn-bronx.htm, http://www.bronxsynagogues.org/ic/bronxsyn/survey.html. After World War II, during the Cold War, Schönfeld broadcast sermons regularly in Hungarian for the Voice of America; see http://www.freepress-freespeech.com/holhome/tormay/m19452.htm; see also http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9405E6DC133BF932A0575BC0A967948260
- See Rothkoff, Bernard Revel, pp.135-136, 205-208, and, especially, pp. 194-196.
- A group had met to organize the first congregation on Miami Beach in 1925. Two years later, Beth Jacob Congregation was incorporated and lasted until the end of the century, when they sold their properties to the Jewish Museum of Florida. See http://www.jewishmuseum.com/fjhmspeech08.html Four rabbis preceded Rabbi Mescheloff: The first rabbi was reportedly Rabbi David Yallow followed by Rabbis Hurowitz, Axelrod and David I. Rosenbloom, see: http://www.jewishmuseum.com/historicalbuildings.html.
- Rothkoff describes a major challenge to Orthodoxy at that time, which persisted in various places for several decades, particularly in Chicago (see below), of maintaining separate pews for men and women in the synagogue (Bernard Revel, pp. 163-166): "Revel did not permit the Yeshiva to acquiesce to a congregation's introducing mixed pews. He insisted that the mechitza (partition, divider, screen) tradition be retained in the synagogue if a Yeshiva rabbinical graduate was to occupy its pulpit. There were instances when Revel did permit graduates to be interviewed by congregations with mixed pews, but only if the house of worship already had mixed pews and he felt that 'an able, diplomatic man could bring them back to the fold.' The rabbi was only authorized to accept the position if the congregation agreed to install a mechitza, or if the rabbi felt he had a reasonable chance of correcting the deviation. While ministering to the deviating synagogue, the rabbi corresponded with Revel to inform him of his progress. If the rabbi did not succeed within a year, Revel insisted that he leave the congregation." Except that it was Revel who recommended that Mescheloff take the position in Miami Beach, Revel's attitude towards Beth Jacob in this respect is undocumented. Revel died, at the age of 55, on December 2, 1940, and Soloveichik died in 1941. Perhaps they would have insisted that Mescheloff leave Beth Jacob. Perhaps they found it acceptable that he stayed longer because, although Beth Jacob had no mechitza, yet it provided separate seating areas for men and for women on the left and right sides of the synagogue, respectively, with mixed seating in the center (Rothkoff quotes a 1925 letter to Revel of a 1921 Yeshiva graduate: "I accepted the minimum, the most liberal interpretation of what Orthodoxy calls for in the seating of the sexes in the synagogue. The vast majority sat according to the arrangement I demanded; only an insignificant number, a mere handful, yet important "Chatzuphim" [arrogant individuals] had it their way;" perhaps this arrangement was acceptable to Revel under the circumstances; see p. 160). Or perhaps they found it acceptable because of the unique situation in Miami Beach, where there was only one Orthodox congregation, and Mescheloff was building the Orthodox institutions of that city - mikvah, kashruth, Jewish education. Perhaps he was allowed to stay longer because of realities created by World War II. Perhaps, too, they expected that with his skills he would be able to bring about the construction of a mechitza in Beth Jacob, only that it would take longer to do so than in other cities.
- http://www.jewishmuseum.com/tour.html; a great variety of Jews came to Miami Beach and attended the synagogue - one of the windows was dedicated to the donor, Meyer Lansky
- Rothkoff, Bernard Revel, pp. 123-125, 155-157.
- *As I Knew Him: Memories of Rabbi Dr. Bernard Revel, yucommentator.com
- The Congregation was the product of a merger between the new, local West Rogers Park Congregation, that prayed in the Ashkenazic liturgical style, and Congregation K.I.N.S., which had been on Chicago's old "West Side" Jewish neighborhood, but which had emptied out as Jews moved out en masse to new neighborhoods in the southern and northern edges of the city and to the suburbs. K.I.N.S. had followed the Sephardic liturgical style.
- Chicago Jewry retained "traditional" ("Conservadox") settings, attached to Orthodoxy with several aberrations: there was no mechitza (see note 39, above), and there was a microphone activated by a non-Jew on Shabbat. The seating arrangement at West Rogers Park Congregation was like that of Beth Jacob in Miami Beach. As a result of the merger that created KINS of West Rogers Park, all daily services were held in the smaller synagogue chapel (Bet Midrash), according to the Sephardic rite, and a mechitza was installed in the chapel. Shabbat morning and Holiday services were held in the large synagogue hall, according to the Ashkenazic rite, with the above-mentioned seating arrangement. In the late 1960s, when Rabbi Ahron Soloveichik came to head the yeshiva in Chicago, he held that Orthodox Jewry had already become stronger, to the point that a rabbi could insist that a synagogue have a mechitza without having to fear the loss of congregants. Indeed, he insisted that each of the rabbis, in the group that he ordained at the Hebrew Theological College in 1968, sign an undertaking never to serve as rabbi in a synagogue without a mechitza. Many years later, in the 1990s, after Orthodox Judaism had become much stronger in Chicago and the composition of the West Rogers Park community had changed, Rabbi Mescheloff's congregation merged with a congregation headed by Rabbi Leonard Matanky, and a mechitza was installed in the large hall as well.
- A typical statement was "Orthodox Judaism seems on the wane in America. It may linger for awhile...", in "The Jew in America Since World War II", by Hugh H. Smythe and Jerry J. Pine, in Phylon (1940-1956), Vol. 16, No. 1 (1st Qtr., 1955), pp. 65-70, Clark Atlanta University.
- Edward S. Shapiro gave a good rational explanation to the expected disappearance of Orthodoxy in America after World War II in his "Introduction" to American Jewish History - Volume 84, Number 4, December 1996, pp. 285-289, The Johns Hopkins University Press: "The motto on the Great Seal of the United States is "novus ordo seclorum"--a new order of the ages. The revolutionary nature of America was particularly true for Jews. For thousands of years they had lived in states in Europe and the Arab countries in which anti-Semitism was actively promoted or tacitly encouraged by the political authorities. Life in America, by contrast, was remarkable for the relative absence of official anti-Semitism. Here there were neither powerful anti-Semitic political parties or officially sanctioned barriers to the social and economic advancement of Jews, and the local and national governments protected the property and lives of Jews. As Washington noted in his famous letter of 1790 to the Newport, Rhode Island, synagogue, the policy of the United States was neither to sanction bigotry or to assist persecution. "The children of the stock of Abraham" and Christians will "possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities and citizenship." While America was not the Promised Land, to Jews it was the land of promise, and for every Jew who settled in Palestine between 1880-1920, at least forty immigrated to the United States. Not surprisingly, it was a Jew (Irving Berlin) who composed "God Bless America" and another Jew (Emma Lazarus) who wrote "The New Colossus," ...
- One of the early improvements he made concerned the synagogue fund-raising event held the night after Yom Kippur, "The Yom Kippur Night Ball". This was reminiscent of a particularly odious carryover from the earlier crisis in American Jewish life; see Rothkoff, Bernard Revel, pp. 6-7, 26. At first the event was rescheduled to a different date, to separate it from Yom Kippur. Later, the use of a dance as a fund-raising technique, so inappropriate for an Orthodox Jewish synagogue, was replaced by other techniques, including an art fair, inspired for many years by Magda Mescheloff, who contributed numerous art works of her own to the fund-raising event.
- Rabbi Dr. Moses Mescheloff, longtime Chicago religious leader, dies at age 98 - Religious Events, Skokie, Bernard Stone - chicagotribune.com
- Glassman, Leo M. (ed.). - Biographical encyclopaedia of American Jews: 1935. New York, Maurice Jacobs & Leo M. Glassman, 1935. 606 pp., Over 2500 short biographies. `This volume was conceived, planned and compiled as an historical record of participation by American citizens of Jewish origin in every phase of contemporary American civilization'.
- A biographical dictionary of outstanding Jews. by Itzhak J Carmin, New York, Pitman, 1972. OCLC: 3462751
- "Rabbi Moses Mescheloff, rabbi emeritus of Congregation KINS, was always there to discuss scholarly topics and help me focus my ideas. He listened to most of my ideas for my monthly column before I wrote them wrote them down. See Stuhlman, Daniel, "Hebrew Names and Name Authority in Library Catalogs", D.H.L. dissertation, 2004, p.4 at http://idea.library.drexel.edu/bitstream/1860/465/12/Stuhlman_Daniel.pdf, and see http://home.earthlink.net/~ddstuhlman/crc84.pdf.
- As I Knew Him: Memories of Rabbi Dr. Bernard Revel, yucommentator.com