Thousands Attend Impressive Funeral for Rabbi Silver in Cleveland
Menu JTA Search

Thousands Attend Impressive Funeral for Rabbi Silver in Cleveland

Download PDF for this date

Thousands of mourners, including world and national leaders of the Zionist movement and high Washington, state and local officials, today attended funeral services for Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver, outstanding Zionist Leader, who died this weekend from a heart attack at the age of 70.

Eulogies lauding Dr. Silver as a Jewish leader, great orator and great American, were delivered before a hushed assemblage of 2,500 in The Temple, the famous synagogue in which he served as rabbi for many years, and at the graveside at Mayfield cemetery. Many thousands, unable to get into the overcrowded synagogue, listened to the services outside the building over loudspeakers.

The eulogies were delivered by Dr. Emanuel Neumann, chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel-American Section; U.S. Senator Frank J. Lausche, of Ohio; Rabbi Solomon Freehof, of Pittsburgh; and Rabbi Milton M. Matz, associate rabbi of The Temple. The services were conducted by Rabbi Leon Feuer, of Toledo; and Rabbi Arthur J. Lelyveld, of Fairmount Temple, Cleveland. El Moleh Rachmin, the traditional prayer for the departed, was chanted by Richard Tucker, of the Metropolitan Opera Company.

Messages of condolence were received from President Zalman Shazar, of Israel; Israel’s Prime Minister, Levi Eshkol; members of Israel’s Cabinet; and leaders of Israel’s political parties, left, center and right. Dr. Nahum Goldmann, president of the World Zionist Organization, hailed Dr. Silver as “an outstanding voice of American Jewry–a great American and a great Jew.”


The honorary pallbearers included a veritable Who’s Who of prominent civic and communal leaders, non-Jewish and Jewish, Zionist and non-Zionist. Among them were Anthony Celebrezze, Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare; Dr. T. Keith Glennan, president of Case Institute of Technology, here; Dr. Nelson Glueck, president of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion; Ambassador Avraham Harman, Israel’s envoy to Washington; Cleveland Mayor Ralph J. Locher; Dr. John S. Millis, president of Western Reserve University.

Also Rabbi Max Nussbaum, of Hollywood, president of the Zionist Organization of America; Dr. Joseph J. Schwartz, executive vice-president of the Israel Bond Organization; Louis E. Seltzer, editor of the Cleveland Press; Thomas Vail, editor-publisher of the Cleveland press; Max Bressler, president of the Jewish National Fund of America; Harry L. Shapiro, representing the United Jewish Appeal; Dr. J. Teichman, representing the Liberal Party of Israel as well as the executive council of Kfar Silver, an Israel youth settlement named after Abba Hillel Silver; Dr. Sidney Marks, executive director of the Zionist Organization of America; Harold Manson of New York; and many prominent rabbis from various cities.

Among the many tributes paid to Dr. Silver’s memory were messages of condolence and statements laudatory of his long career as rabbi, Zionist, Jew and American; from Moshe Sharett, chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel; Joseph Meyerhoff, general chairman of the United Jewish Appeal; Abraham A. Feinberg, president of the Israel Bond Organization; Rabbi Irving Miller, chairman of the American Zionist Council; Dr. Israel Goldstein and Mrs. Rose E. Halprin, co-chairmen of the World Federation of General Zionists; the World Union of General Zionists; the world executive of the Herut-Hatzoar movement in Israel; the executive committee of the Zionists-Revisionists in America. Label A. Katz, national president of B’nai B’rith.

Also from Dewey D. Stone and Gottlieb Hammer, national chairman and secretary of the United Israel Appeal; Mrs. Siegfried Kramarsky, national president of Hadassah; Samuel H. Daroff, president of the American Jewish League for Israel; the American Technion Society; the American Friends of the Hebrew University; Bnai Zion, American fraternal Zionist organization; the Council of Jewish Federations and Welfare Funds; the New York Board of Rabbis; the American Red Mogen David for Israel; the Women’s League for Israel; the American-Israel Seafaring Society; and many others.


Abba Hillel Silver was born in the Lithuanian town of Neistadt, the son of Rabbi Moses Silver. He was of the fifth generation of rabbis in his family–and one of his sons, Daniel, is also a rabbi. Young Abba Silver was brought by his parents to the United States at the age of 8, and grew up on New York’s lower East Side, He studied at the University of Cincinnati and at the Hebrew Union College, being ordained a Reform rabbi at HUC in 1915.

His first congregation was the Eff Street Temple, at Wheeling, W. Va. In 1917, he came here as spiritual leader of The Temple in this city. In World War I, he served as a chaplain in the U.S. Army in France, and later received a high decoration for his service from the French Government.

Rabbi Silver, building his congregation in Cleveland from a small synagogue to one of the outstanding religious institutions in the country, with a membership of more than 2,500 families, attracted wide attention early in his ministry through his theological writing, his vigorous and powerful oratory, and his advocacy of civil rights, the rights of labor, and his activities toward ending unemployment. Under President Hoover, he was a member of a national committee formed to fight unemployment. Later, he was chairman of the Ohio Committee on Unemployment Insurance, and a founder of this state’s unemployment insurance movement.


Meanwhile, he had become one of America’s most impassioned and most effective spokesmen for the rebirth of the Jewish Homeland in Palestine, He was chairman of the American Zionist Emergency Council in 1933-34 and again from 1945 to 1948. During the latter period, he was one of the leading fighters of world Zionism at the new United Nations, and was one of the most prominent participants in the UN debates that led to the UN’s adoption of the Palestine Partition Plan in 1947.

He had also served as president of the Zionist Organization of America; chairman of the American Section of the then Jewish Agency for Palestine in 1946-48; and as co-chairman of the United Jewish Appeal. At his death he was chairman of the board of governors of the Israel Bond Organization.

He had been president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis; director of the American Friends of the Hebrew University; a member of the board of trustees of the American Civil Liberties Union; and active in the Cleveland Bureau of Jewish Education; the Jewish Welfare Federation and the Jewish Community Federation of Cleveland; the Jewish Academy of Arts and Sciences; the Jewish Publication Society; the Council of Jewish Federations and Welfare Funds; the Council of Democracy; the American Birth Control League; the American Red Cross; and a member of the board of governors of the Hebrew Union College.

Rabbi Silver was honored at many outstanding events during the last year upon reaching the age of 70. His awards and decorations included a long list of honors from many institutions of higher learning, Zionist and other Jewish organizations. In Israel, he was made an honorary citizen of Nathanya, Ramat Gan and Tel Aviv. He was a prolific and prominent author on theology, world Jewish affairs and other progressive themes.

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