Professor Simonsen Former Chief Rabbi of Denmark Dies in Eightieth Year
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Professor Simonsen Former Chief Rabbi of Denmark Dies in Eightieth Year

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Professor David Jacob Simonsen, former Chief Rabbi of Denmark, has died in Copenhagen in his 80th. year, it is reported here to-day.

Professor Simonsen was born in Copenhagen on March 17th., 1853. His father, Jacob Simonsen, was a big Danish banker. After graduating at Copenhagen University, he studied at the Rabbinical Seminary in Breslau under Frankel and Graetz, and when he completed his studies there in 1879, he returned to Copenhagen, and became assistant to Chief Rabbi Wolff, being the first Danish-born Rabbi of the Copenhagen Congregation.

When Chief Rabbi Wolff died in 1891, Rabbi Simonsen was unanimously chosen to succeed him as Chief Rabbi of Denmark.

He was Chief Rabbi for 11 years, resigning his office in 1902, in order to devote himself exclusively to scientific work. King Christian IX conferred upon him the honorary title of Professor on the occasion of his resignation.

Although no longer the official head of the Community, Professor Simonsen continued, however, to be the spiritual head of Danish Jewry, right up to the time of his death. When the pogroms swept Russia in 1905, and large numbers of Russian Jews passed through Denmark on their way to America, several thousand of them remaining behind in Denmark and settling there, he threw himself wholeheartedly into the relief work on their behalf.

It was due to Professor Simonsen and Moses Melchior, who was then President of the Copenhagen Jewish Community, that King Frederick VIII., of Denmark, who was an uncle of Czar Nicholas II., intervened in 1907 with the Czar on behalf of the Jews of Russia, as a result of which the pogroms which were then threatened were averted.

When Copenhagen, as the capital of a neutral country, became during the war a centre of Jewish relief work, Professor Simonsen stood at the head of this work, and when the Jewish Relief Conference was formed he was its first President.

He was also a member of the Executive Board of the Alliance Israelite Universelle.

Professor Simonsen was one of the early members of the Chovevei Zion movement, and when the Zionist Organisation transferred its central office during the war from Berlin to Copenhagen under Mr. Leo Motzkin, in conjunction with whom he founded the Jewish World Relief Conference, he placed himself at its service. It was the Copenhagen Bureau which restored communication between the Jewish war victims in Eastern Europe and Palestine and their relatives in England, America and Canada. It also collected funds, and most of this money was sent by the Copenhagen Bureau to Palestine in gold, and this, owing to the low value of Palestinian currency, was the one thing that saved the Palestine settlement from a catastrophe. He also actively assisted the work of the Keren Hayesod.

In April 1928, when Professor Simonsen attained his 75th. birthday, the Danish B’nai B’rith Lodge arranged a banquet in Copenhagen in his honour, at which Chief Rabbi Dr. Friediger and the leaders of Scandinavian Jewry paid tribute to him, declaring that the Scandinavian Jews were proud to have in their midst a man who was one of the outstanding personalities in Jewish life.

Professor Simonsen wrote many theological, historical and bibliographical treatises, and was a prolific contributor to Danish and foreign Jewish periodicals. Among his works is a study of the sculptures and inscriptions from Palmyra in the Jacobson collection in Copenhagen. Since 1917 he was joint-editor of the "Danish Journal of Jewish History and Literature".

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