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Solomon Schechter (1847-1915)

Solomon Schechter (1847-1915)

Entry by Louis Jacobs in the Blackwell Companion to Jewish Culture: from the Eighteenth Century to the Present (Blackwell Publishing: 1990)

Schechter, Solomon (1847-1915)

Scholar, theologian, and president of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. Schechter was born in Fascani, Romania, where his father, a Habad Hasid, was a shohet (hence the family name). After the usual traditional course of study in the Talmud and Codes, Schechter took courses at the University of Berlin and the Berlin Hochschule. Soon after his arrival in England to be the private tutor to C. G. Montefiore, Schechter won a reputation as a scholarly exponent of traditional Judaism, in a felicitous English style he had acquired through wide reading in English literature. In 1892 Schechter was appointed reader in Rabbinics at Cambridge University and, in 1899, he also became Professor of Hebrew at University College, London.

Schechter established his scholarly reputation by the publication of Avot According to Rabbi Nathan (1887), and, especially, by his discovery of the Cairo Genizah, of which he brought to Cambridge over 100,000 fragments. The investigation of these shed new light on the history of medieval Jewry. Schechter's three-volume Studies in Judaism (1896-1924), and his Some Aspects of Rabbinic Theology (1909) fast became classics of the genre. Schechter was appointed President of the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, a position he occupied until his death. Here he was responsible, more than any other, for the training of Conservative Rabbis with an approach to traditional Judaism based on the ideas of Zecharias FRANKEL. Judaism, in this view, is a developing religion, with its authority vested ultimately not on this or that sacred book, but on the historical experience of what Schechter called 'Catholic Israel.'

BIBLIOGRAPHY
Aspects of Rabbinic Theology, intro. L. Finkelstein (New York: Schocken Publishers, 1961) vi-xx
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