Shimon Schwab

Shimon Schwab

Rabbi Shimon (Simon) Schwab (December 30, 1908 - March 28, 1995) was an Orthodox rabbi and communal leader in Germany and the United States. Educated in Frankfurt am Main and in the "yeshivot" of Lithuania, he was rabbi in Ichenhausen, Bavaria, after immigration to the United States in Baltimore, and from 1958 until his death at Khal Adath Jeshurun in Washington Heights, Manhattan.cite book | author=Schwab ML | title=Biographic notes in "Rav Schwab on Prayer" | year=2001 | publisher=ArtScroll Mesorah publications | location=Brooklyn, NY | isbn=1-57819-512-8] cite book |last=Klugman |first=Eliyahu Meir |editor=Nisson Wolpin |title=Torah Lives |series=ArtScroll Judaiscope Series |year=1995 |chapter=Rabbi Shimon Schwab | publisher=Mesorah Publications |location=Brooklyn, NY | isbn=0-89906-319-5 |pages=45–64] He was an ideologue of Agudath Israel of America, specifically defending the "Torah im Derech Eretz" approach to Jewish life. He wrote several popular works of Jewish thought.

Early life in Frankfurt

Shimon Schwab was born and grew up in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. His family had been longstanding members of the "Israelitische Religionsgesellschaft" ("IRG"), the Orthodox Jewish community that had established its own independence from the Reform Judaism-dominated general community. The "IRG" had been led until 1888 by Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch and was then under the leadership of Rabbi Solomon Breuer, Hirsch's son-in-law.

Shimon completed the "Realschule", the local school that combined religious studies and general subjects in conformation with the "Torah im Derech Eretz" ideology propagated by Rabbi Hirsch. After the "Realschule" he was a full time student for a number of years in the "Torah Lehranstalt", the local yeshiva founded by Rabbi Breuer.

tudies in Lithuania

In 1926, at age 18, Shimon enrolled in the yeshiva in Telshe yeshiva located in Telšiai, Lithuania, where he studied Talmud on an intense level for three years, and afterwards spent two years in the Mir yeshiva. It was not very common for German-Jewish students to study in Eastern-European "yeshivot", but two of Shimon's brothers (Moshe and Mordechai) would follow the same path.

In 1930, he spent a weekend with Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan (the "Chafetz Chaim"), then the leader of non-Hassidic Eastern-European Ashkenazi Jewry. The visit made a strong impression on him, and he would later often refer to the encounter in public speeches throughout his life.

After receiving "semicha" ("rabbinic ordination"), Rabbi Schwab relocated to Germany, where he married Recha Froehlich of Gelsenkirchen, and worked for two years as "Rabbinatsassessor" ("assistant rabbi") in Darmstadt before accepting the post of community rabbi in Ichenhausen, Bavaria.

Work in Ichenhausen

In Ichenhausen, Rabbi Schwab was involved in general rabbinic duties, but he also worked hard to establish a traditional yeshiva that would teach Mishnah and Talmud. He also published a booklet titled "Heimkehr ins Judentum" ("Coming Home to Judaism" published in 1934) exhorting his Jewish contemporaries to devote more time to in-depth Torah study and abandon their fascination with modern culture and social progress.

The yeshiva started off, but immediately ran into trouble as threats were made by local Nazi activists. In the end, the students were sent home after one day, and this incident probably inspired Rabbi Schwab to apply for a position overseas.

Through the American Orthodox leader Rabbi Dr. Leo Jung he got in touch with a community called "She'erith Yisrael" in Baltimore. He travelled to the United States, and after a trial period the community elected him as a rabbi. The family was therefore able to apply for visas and escape the Holocaust.

Life in Baltimore

In Baltimore, Rabbi Schwab as the rabbi of community Shearith Israel became a local leader of Orthodoxy, hosting the annual conference of Agudath Israel several years after his arrival. He was involved in the first Jewish day school for girls, Bais Yaakov, and was to travel to San Francisco in the late 1940s to act as a lobbyist during the early activities of the United Nations.

Leadership in Washington Heights, NYC

In 1958, Rabbi Schwab was invited to join Rabbi Joseph Breuer in the leadership of the German-Jewish community in Washington Heights, located in upper Manhattan in New York City. This community, widely regarded as the spiritual "continuation" of the pre-War Frankfurt "kehilla" ("community"), had been close to Rabbi Schwab's heart, and with Rabbi Breuer's increasing age and infirmity he took on many leadership roles until the latter's passing in 1980.

From then until 1993, he led the community alone. He was succeeded after his death by Rabbi Zechariah Gelley, the Sunderland (England) Rosh Yeshivah who had already joined the "kehilla" several years earlier as second Rav.

Philosophy and ideas

Rabbi Schwab, being a product of both the German Torah im Derech Eretz movement and the Eastern-European "yeshiva" world, initially identified strongly with the latter.

During the 1960s, however, it became apparent to him that the continued emphasis on religious studies and downplay of secular education would be harmful to the community as a whole. He thus wrote his pamphlet "These and Those", in which he champions the "Torah im Derech Eretz" approach as being equally valid. (The title of the pamphlet is a quote from the Talmud - "These and those ["Eilu va'Eilu"] are the words of a Living God", emphasizing that both approaches are divinely sanctioned.)

Other points often discussed in his work the independence of Orthodoxy and the perceived materialistic excesses and expenses of the modern world, especially at weddings. He did not shirk from difficult and potentially controversial questions, such as those concerning the Jewish view on the age of the universe and problems in harmonising a 165-year gap in traditional Jewish history with scientifically accepted calculations.


* "Heimkehr ins Judentum", Frankfurt am Main: Hermon-Verlag, 1934. 153 pages.
* "Beth ha-Sho'eva", published privately, 1940s; a collection of material on the times of Moshiach;
* "These and Those", New York: Philipp Feldheim, 1966. 47 p.
* "Selected writings", CIS publishers; ISBN 0-935063-49-8.
* "Selected speeches", CIS publishers; ISBN 1-56062-058-7
* "Selected essays", CIS publishers (includes "These and Those" and translated selections from "Heimkehr ins Judentum"); ISBN 1-56062-292-X.
* "Shemesh Marpei" (Hebrew), collected responsa, Talmudic novellae and biography of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, edited by Rabbi Eliyahu Meir Klugman;
* "Maayan Beth ha-Sho'eva", Torah interpretation, Mesorah publications 1994;
* "Rav Schwab on Prayer" (posthumously, compiled from taped lectures under the editorship of his eldest son Moses L. Schwab); ISBN 1-57819-512-8.
* "Iyun Tefilla", Hebrew version of "Rav Schwab on Prayer".
* "Rav Schwab on Iyov - The teachings of Rabbi Shimon Schwab zt"l on the Book of Job" (posthumously, commentary on the Book of Job). Mesorah publications 2006. ISBN 1-4226-0090-4.


External links

* [ On the Breuer Kehilla] , Rabbi Pinchas Frankel

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