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Dr. Judah L. Magnes, President of Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Dies in New York

October 28, 1948
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Dr. Judah L. Magnes, president of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and leader of the Ihud Party in Palestine advocating the establishment of a bi-national state there, died here today of a heart attack while on a visit to the United States. He was 71 years old.

Israeli Consul-General Arthur Lourie will represent the state of Israel at the funeral which will take place tomorrow. Leading Jewish organizations, including the American Jewish Congress, the American Jewish Committee, the Joint Distribution Committee and Hadassah, today issued statements mourning Dr. Magnes’ death.

Dr. Stephen S. Wise, president of the American Jewish Congress, said: “One of the most gallant figures in the history of world Jewry in our day has passed, Dr. Judah Leon Magnes. Gallant and pioneering as a student in the seminary which prepared him for the rabbinical calling; gallant and unafraid in his early espousal of the Zionist cause; gallant and effective in communal leadership in New York nearly half a century ago; gallant and unyielding in his championship of Weizmann’s ideal of the Hebrew University, Dr. Magnes has deserved well of the Jewish people.”

Judge Joseph M. Proskauer, president of the American Jewish Committee, stated: “The death of Dr. Magnes constitutes a grievous loss to Jewry and to humanity. He was one of the founders of the American Jewish Committee and the members of that Committee will especially mourn his loss. As president of Hebrew University, he created a great instrument of education for the Middle East and for all the people thereof. His intellectual integrity and his uncompromising morality were such that he was held in the highest esteem even by those who differed from him in some of his objectives.”

Edward M.M. Warburg, chairman of the Joint Distribution Committee, declared: “As a Jew who thrilled to the spiritual heritage of his religion and to its ethical concepts, Dr. Magnes labored all his adult life in behalf of Jewish welfare, in the United States, in Europe and in Palestine.” He emphasized that “for over thirty years we of the Joint Distribution Committee benefited continuously from his leadership and insight, in the conduct of our programs of relief and reconstruction for Europe’s Jews.”

Hadassah, in a resolution expressing “deep sorrow” at Dr. Magnes’ death, said: “As chairman of the Hadassah Council in Palestine, Dr. Magnes selflessly and tirelessly gave to Hadassah the benefit of his profound wisdom and vast experience. In his death Hadassah has lost a distinguished colleague, a wise counsellor and a cherished friend.”


Born in San Francisco in 1877, Dr. Magnes received his rabbinical degree from Hebrew Union College at the turn of the century. He was awarded his Ph.D. from the University of Heidelberg two years later. He was one of the early advocates of Zionism in this country and took an active role in the relief and protest projects undertaken at the time of the Kishinev pogroms in 1904. In 1908, he accepted the pulpit of Temple Emanu-El, but resigned two years later because of his advocacy of the resumption of more traditional aspects of worship and custom. He organized the Kehillah of New York City and served as its chairman during the entire period of its existence from 1909-22.

One of the moving spirits behind the organization of the Joint Distribution Committee in 1914, he headed the first commission that went to Europe to arrange for the distribution of J.D.C. relief funds. At the end of World War I, he was asked to undertake the organization of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He laid the foundation for the institution’s academic structure and was made its first chancellor in 1925. Ten rears later he become president of the university.

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