Dr. Louis Finkelstein Resigns As Chancellor of Jewish Theological Seminary; Had Served 30 Years
Menu JTA Search

Dr. Louis Finkelstein Resigns As Chancellor of Jewish Theological Seminary; Had Served 30 Years

Download PDF for this date

Dr. Louis Finkelstein resigned today as Chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America and President of its Faculties, effective next June 30, after 30 years as the chief executive of the Conservative center. Dr. Finkelstein served as President of the Seminary from 1940 to 1951, after which he became Chancellor. He served as Provost from 1937 to 1940. The gray-bearded Jewish leader cited his age–he will be 77 next June 14–as the reason for his resignation. He explained that “it is necessary and proper for the professional leadership of the Seminary and the Conservative Movement to be in younger and stronger hands.”

He would not speculate on his successor, who will be named by the board of directors following recommendations by a committee representing the board, the faculty, the studentry, the Rabbinical Assembly and the United Synagogue, the latter including the National Women’s League. But Seminary sources said there was a “strong consensus” for either Rabbi Bernard Mandelbaum, 49, President of the institution, or Rabbi Gerson D. Cohen, 47, professor of Jewish history. Dr. Finkelstein said he would serve past next June if no successor is named by then. “I will, of course, be glad to offer my successor any help for which he asks,” he commented, “and will be careful not to offer any help or advice which he does not request.”


Dr. Finkelstein added to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that his successor, being considerably younger, would probably give the Seminary leadership a “slightly different emphasis.” He described his own basic philosophy as one rooted in education, remarking: “All other problems stern from lack of education and lack of scholarly leadership. All my life I’ve tried to stress excellence in scholarship.” He said Hebrew day schools in the United States “certainly” need financial aid, but declined again–as he has for 30 years–to discuss the question of public aid to private schools.

“I’ve been elected here not to give my views,” he explained, adding: “It’s not cowardice, it’s a matter of principle.” The Conservative leader said his greatest regret was that his plan for a World Academy of Ethics had not been realized. “Maybe the way I present it, it’s too abstract,” he mused. Dr. Finkelstein, who is working on two books, will continue as Solomon Schechter Professor of Theology and as chief academic officer of the new Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities. Rabbi Wolfe Kelman, executive vice president of the Rabbinical Assembly, the International Association of Conservative Rabbis, commented to the JTA that under Dr. Finkelstein’s leadership, the Seminary had experienced its “greatest growth.”

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund