Varied Life of U.S. Jewry Told in Late Despatches
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Varied Life of U.S. Jewry Told in Late Despatches

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The Rev. Samuel H. Goldenson, rabbi of Rodef Shalom Temple of this city, has won one of the highest honors in American Reformed Judaism with his nomination as senior rabbi of Temple Emanu-El.

Selection of Dr. Goldenson to fill the rabbinate at Temple Emanu-El, America’s wealthiest reform synagogue, surprises few of the Jewry of Pittsburgh and national religious leaders, who have acclaimed the rabbi one of America’s greatest pulpit orators. Leaders in Pittsburgh’s social, civic and cultural life, Jews and non-Jews, have already expressed what the loss of Dr. Goldenson means to Pittsburgh.

Only last June Rabbi Goldenson was elected president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, a group made up of the heads of the leading Reformed congregations in America

Though this honor places Dr. Goldenson first in this particular religious circle and makes him prominent in church activity internationally, his climb has not been an easy one.


Rabbi Goldenson’s most difficult task was performed when he took over the rabbinate of Rodef Shalom Temple in 1918. He was chosen after practically every available Reformed rabbi in the United States had been heard in the temple pulpit.

The high standard set by the late Rev. Dr. J. Leonard Levy, Dr. Goldenson’s predecessor, made it difficult for the Rodef Shalom congregation to fill the rabbinate. Rabbi Goldenson’s election was practically assured after a two-day visit to the Pittsburgh temple, of which he has since been senior rabbi.

As the members of Rodef Shalom became better acquainted with their new rabbi, they learned that they had chosen a man with the rare combination of profound learning and sympathetic humanity.

Dr. Goldenson was born in Poland on March 26, 1878, the son of Hyman and Fanny Leah (Frankel) Goldenson, who came to this country when he was still a child. The family settled in Rochester, N. Y., where he received his early education in the public schools.


He then went to Cincinnati and entered a high school. After graduation he matriculated at the University of Cincinnati, and while studying at the university he also attended the Hebrew Union College of that city, pursuing his studies seven years, preparing for the rabbinate.

Before the expiration of his senior year an event occurred, which not only shaped his professional course, but foreshadowed the success of his future career.

A community of worthy but disorganized Jews in Lexington, Ky., who had made several attempts to form themselves into a religious unit, filed a requisition with the Hebrew College authorities for the services of a man who could bring order out of chaos, and Rabbi Goldenson was selected for the task. He assumed his duties in February, and so excellent were his services that in May the community of Lexington asked him to become its rabbi.

He took charge in September, and at the end of nine months he organized them and procured a house of worship free from indebtedness. His work continued two years and today Temple Adath Israel in Lexington stands as the pioneer house of Jewish worship in that city, and the fine edifice eloquently testifies to the perseverance and genius of its sponsor. A beautifully engrossed memorial was inscribed to him by the community, expressing its gratitude and appreciation for his services.


In 1906 Rabbi Goldenson was called to Albany to occupy the free pulpit of Temple Beth Emeth. It was no slight undertaking for a man still in his twenties to assume the responsibilities that had been inherited, developed and transmitted by the founder of the Hebrew Union College, and the leader of reformed Judaism in America, the late Isaac M. Wise. However, he at once assumed leadership that has never been questioned.

The Ministerial Association of Albany, a body organized for the purpose of discussing religious and moral problems, marked a departure from its usual course when it elected Rabbi Goldenson secretary, which was a distinct tribute, a Jew never before having held office in that body. He was also treasurer of the Labor Tuberculosis Pavilion and in every way has manifested a lively interest in the social and civic affairs of Albany, during his stay there.

He was nominated without his sanction for mayor on the Progressive ticket, but declined the nomination. He was instrumental in promoting the City Planning Association of Albany, and is a member of the executive committee of the Albany Civic League.


Dr. Goldenson earned his B. A. degree at the University of Cincinnati. Later he received the degree of B.D. from Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati. In 1917 Dr. Goldenson won his Ph.D. degree at Columbia University and in 1925 he received the honorary degree of Doctor of Hebrew Law from Hebrew Union College.

In Pittsburgh at present Dr. Goldenson is on the board of the Civil Liberties Union, the Foundation of Jewish Charities and Tuberculosis League. He is a member of the Hungry Club, and an organizer of the “Honest Government League,” devised to keep politics out of the schools.

Always a worker for religious tolerance and goodwill between all church denominations, Rabbi Goldenson considers his address at the Civic Memorial Service for the late Dr. C. W. Petty, of the Frist Baptist Church, in the Trinity Episcopal Church, one of the most significant events of his career. It was a very unusual thing, being the first time that a Jewish rabbi ever spoke in an Episcopal Church on such an occasion.

Dr. Goldenson is also known for his papers on religion which have been printed in various magazines and books. He has always been a welcome speaker in the city’s schools and colleges and before scores of organizations throughout Pittsburgh and its surrounding districts.

Temple Emanu-El’s new rabbi will take over his new duties sometime in February.

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