Latest update: September 4th, 2012
After four years of study he possessed an unusual combination of skills for his time, namely, he was an Orthodox rabbi who was at home both in the Torah and secular world. “He was able to appeal to a wide range of people. He became an outspoken proponent of the use of English in sermons, and criticized Eastern European rabbis who did not learn this skill.”1
His first rabbinical position was in Des Moines, Iowa, starting in 1902, just after his marriage. By 1904, he had published his first book, a history of the Jews of Iowa.2 One must consider that this book, whatever its deficiencies, was the product of a man who had been in America for less than a decade. [See last month’s Glimpses column for information about this publication.] Moreover, he also began editing an English-language Jewish newspaper in Iowa, the Jewish Herald.3
In 1905 Rabbi Glazer become a Rov in Toledo, Ohio, where he edited the Anglo-Jewish newspaper The Jewish Compromiser. In 1907 he published in English The Sabbath School Guide, a textbook designed for use in Jewish Sunday schools. While Rabbi Glazer certainly felt that a once-a-week Jewish education was not at all ideal, he realized this was the only religious education that many Jewish children received. Until the appearance of his book, most Sunday religious schools used books prepared by reform rabbis. Rav Glazer felt he should provide an alternative that presented Judaism from the standpoint of Orthodoxy.
Rabbi Glazer was an activist in the area of labour relations. He was, apparently, a supporter of the organization of the Jewish Butcher’s Employees Association of Montreal in 1909 and instrumental in getting this association recognized by other Jewish labour organizations. He also intervened in other labour disputes involving Jewish workers, in one of which he incurred the wrath of one of the manufacturers for having denounced him in a sermon.4
Gazer was thus a man who did not merely know English (and at least a smattering of Latin and French); he was also able to write a powerful essay, which expressed some very interesting ideas, and, indeed, a unique vision of Judaism’s future in North America.5
Rabbi Glazer left Montreal in 1917 for a pulpit in Seattle, Washington. In 1920 he became the chief rabbi of eight Orthodox congregations in Kansas City, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri. In 1923 he came to New York, where he served as the rabbi of several congregations in Manhattan and Brooklyn. His activities in New York will be the focus of next month’s column.
5. Ibid., pages 48-49.
Dr. Yitzchok Levine was a professor for 40 years in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, New Jersey. Glimpses Into American Jewish History appears the first week of each month. Dr. Levine can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.Dr. Yitzchok Levine
About the Author: Dr. Yitzchok Levine served as a professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, New Jersey before retiring in 2008. He now teaches as an adjunct at Stevens. Glimpses Into American Jewish History appears the first week of each month. Dr. Levine can be contacted at email@example.com.
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