Solomon Bennett Freehof (1892 - 1990) MP

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Birthdate:
Birthplace: London, Greater London, United Kingdom
Death: Died in Pittsburgh, PA, USA
Occupation: Rabbi,Writer, Jewish Law Expert
Managed by: Lorraine (Lorrie)
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

    • Lillian
      wife
    • Golda
      mother
    • Isaac
      father
    • Morris
      brother
    • Ada Charlotte
      sister
    • Louis
      brother
    • Jeanette Freilicoff
      sister
    • Esther Freilicoff
      sister
    • Fanny
      sister

About Solomon Bennett Freehof

Solomon B. Freehof was a world famous and world renowned Reform Rabbi. There are many books, sermons and references that he wrote that can be found by searching him on the Internet. He was an wonderful storyteller with a commanding presence. He was devoted to his sisters and brothers and helped his sisters in particular throughout his lifetime. He was highly respected, a learned man in every way. He was a master of information before the "information age", seemingly knowing everything about everything. For many years he was the Rabbi at Rodef Shalom Synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA.

Solomon Bennett Freehof (August 8, 1892 – 1990) was a prominent Reform rabbi, posek, and scholar. Rabbi Freehof served as president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis and the World Union for Progressive Judaism. Beginning in 1955, he led the CCAR's work on Jewish law through its responsa committee. He also spearheaded changes to Reform liturgy with revisions to the Union Prayer Book (siddur). For many years, he served as the pulpit rabbi at Rodef Shalom in Pittsburgh, PA ). According to the congregation, "For more than 35 years, Dr. Freehof's weekly book review series attracted audiences of more than 1,500 Christians and Jews."

Freehof was born in London, moved to the U.S. in 1903, received a degree from the University of Cincinnati (1914) and ordained from Hebrew Union College (1915). He was a World War I army chaplain, a liturgy professor at HUC, and a rabbi at Chicago's Congregation Kehillath Anshe Maarav before moving to Pittsburgh. He retired in 1966.

He is descended from the Alter Rebbe, the founder of Lubavitcher Hasidism. He studied halakhah with various Orthodox rabbis, including Rabbi Wolf Leiter of Pittsburgh and Rabbi Yekutiel Yehuda (Leopold) Greenwald.

Lillian (née Simon) Freehof, his wife, wrote plays, novels and children's books. They married in 1934. Freehof was followed at Rodef Shalom, and in work on Reform responsa, by his protégé, Rabbi Dr. Walter Jacob, who later established the Freehof Institute of Progressive Halakhah.

Sources

  1. • Cohn-Sherbok, Dan “Law in Reform Judaism : a study of Solomon Freehof” in Jewish Law Annual
  2. • Encyclopaedia Judaica, Vol.7 p. 121
  3. • Friedman, Rabbi Dr. Joan. Solomon B. Freehof, the 'Reform Responsa', and the Shaping of American Reform Judaism doctoral dissertation, Columbia University, 2003
  4. • "The writing of 'Reform Jewish Practice and Its Rabbinic Background'" in CCAR Journal 51,
  5. • "A critique of Solomon B. Freehof’s concept of "minhag" and Reform Jewish practice" in Re-Examining Progressive Halakhah
  6. • Inventory of the Freehof papers, including a biography [1]
  7. • Jacob,Walter et al., Eds. Essays in Honor of Solomon B. Freehof 1964 (A collection of 19 essays about Freehof, including a bibliography.)
  8. • Weiss, Kenneth J. “Freehof’s methodology as a Reform Jewish halachist” in Journal of Reform Judaism 32,
  9. Selected works
  10. • Contemporary Reform Responsa, 1974.
  11. • Current Reform Responsa, 1969.
  12. • Modern Reform Responsa, 1971.
  13. • New Reform Responsa, 1980.
  14. • Reform Responsa, 1960.
  15. • Recent Reform Responsa, 1963.
  16. • Reform Responsa for our Time, 1977.
  17. • The Responsa Literature Hebrew Union College Press, 1955
  18. • Today's Reform Responsa, 1990.
  19. • "The Natural Law in the Jewish Tradition", University of Notre Dame Natural Law Institute Proceedings, v.15, p. 15
  20. • Commentaries on Ezekiel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Job, Psalms, e.g., Book of Job, A Commentary. UAHC, 1958
  21. • Preaching the Bible: Sermons for Sabbaths and high holy days , 1974
  22. • Reform Jewish practice and its rabbinic background, 1952
  23. • The small sanctuary: Judaism in the prayerbook, 1942
  24. • Stormers of heaven, 1931

Websites

  • Solomon B. Freehof Institute of Progressive Jewish Law

--------------------------------

Rabbi Dr. Solomon B. Freehof, a leader of the Reform Jewish movement and a world-renowned interpreter of Jewish law, died yesterday at Montefiore Hospital in Pittsburgh. He was 97 years old.

Dr. Freehof, who lived in Pittsburgh, was rabbi emeritus of Rodef Shalom Temple, that city's leading Reform Jewish congregation, which he headed from 1934 to 1966. He returned to the pulpit there on occasion to preach at the High Holy Days or on the anniversary of his bar mitzvah. Until recently he made periodic visits to the temple to work in the library.

A rabbi for 75 years, he was Reform Jewry's designated expert on responsa, or interpretation of Jewish religious laws. For many years he provided Reform Jews with answers to questions on how they should observe Jewish teachings. His role was to free Reform Jews from strictures of rabbinic law but at the same time to help them remain faithful to Jewish teachings.

Blending Freedom and Loyalty

I'm struggling for a philosophy which will allow us to have a kinship with the greatness of the Jewish spirit, he said in an interview in 1975. The problem is how to have loyalty and freedom - and it's a problem. The purpose of my responsa is not governance, but guidance.

In 1959, he became the first American elected president of the World Union for Progressive Judaism, the international organization of Reform Jews. He held the post until 1964. He also served as president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis and served with the Commission on Jewish Education for Reform Judaism and the National Jewish Welfare Board.

Dr. Freehof began his interpretations of Jewish law in World War II, when he headed a committee of Jewish chaplains. With Jewish soldiers stationed in Iceland, where night lasted six months, when was sunset? His decision was that it would be the same time as in New York.

Born in London on Aug. 8, 1892, Dr. Freehof came to the United States when he was 11 years old. The family first lived in Baltimore, where he received his primary and secondary education. He later moved to Cincinnati, where he attended the University of Cincinnati, while attending Hebrew Union College. He was ordained a rabbi in 1915 at the age of 22. He then taught at Hebrew Union for several years and served as a chaplain with the American Expeditionary Forces in Europe in World War I. Afterward, he became rabbi of Kehillath Anshe Mayriv Temple in Chicago and in 1934, he married Lillian Simon, who had been his secretary and was an author of children's books His library contained thousands of volumes, including one of the world's greatest collections on Jewish law. He did his own bookbinding.

A Prolific Author

He was a prolific author who wrote hundreds of articles, a series of book reviews and more than a score of books on Jewish law, including Stormers of Heaven, The Responsa Literature, Book of Job and Preface to Scripture.

For years he spoke on radio on one of his favorite subjects, Shakespeare. He was also in demand as a lecturer.

Even before the days of television he expressed concern for young people, warning of the excesses that could come from radio and films.

There is little that religion can do to influence them except to try and hold radio and movies to standards of decency, he said.

He is survived by his wife and several nieces and nephews.

Photo: Dr. Solomon B. Freehof (Pittsburgh Post Gazette, 1982)

A version of this obituary appeared in print on June 13, 1990, on page B20 of the New York edition

-Rabbi Solomon Freehof, 97, Dies; Leading Interpreter of Jewish Law , By ALFONSO A. NARVAEZ - Published: June 13, 1990

  
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Rabbi Solomon Freehof's Timeline

1892
1892
London, Greater London, United Kingdom
1990
1990
Age 98
Pittsburgh, PA, USA
1990
Age 98
Pittsburgh, PA, USA
????
????
- present
Hebrew Uniion Theological Seminary