Jewish Labor World -- February 14, 1918Rabbi Simon Harry Album (Chicago's Greatest Rabbi)
When we read in the works of A. Litvin, A. S. Sachs, S. Rosenfeld, and other writers the descriptions of the rabbis of Eastern Europe who loved human beings, we find that they actually practiced the teachings of the ancient, sacred writings--especially the precept that the "people came before the Torah". We search in vain, however, for a ray of that holy light in America--that light which illuminated the spirits of the European rabbis. And when we see that several "Orthodox" synagogues lie in the hands of godless politicians, and that their rabbis peddle their kosher licenses and bow down before every Jewish and Gentile Haman, we then begin to think that the American atmosphere cannot digest the story of the cedars of Lebanon--the strong, Jewish oaks which have grown into forests in Eastern Europe.
We are forced to change our opinion upon seeing Rabbi Simon Harry Album. We must then agree that America is not the cause for our rabbis becoming "businessmen" and "politicians". On the contrary--these rabbis would have been 2magicians or organ grinders in Europe.
The true rabbi--he who follows the traditions of Rabbi Israel Salanter, Rabbi Hyman Brisker, Rabbi Meyer Radiner--does not become a dishonest rabbi in America. This fact is proven by the example of Rabbi Album whom the great rabbis throughout the world honor with the name "eminent scholar" and "the prince of the Torah"; and whose views on Jewish religious affairs are accepted as "law" by all the rabbi, young and old.
Rabbi Album was raised in the spirit of the beloved scholars of Eastern Europe. He did not peddle Judaism; did not earn his livelihood by granting Kosher licenses; and did not bow down before those who became wealthy from the sweat and blood of the poor man. He was always ready to fight for the honor of the Law and the Prophets, and for the interests of the Jewish masses. He came to America not intending to be a rabbi, but with the intention of securing sustenance from private industry. His body, however, was too weak for physical labor, and his soul was too pure for the atmosphere of business. He was forced 3to become a rabbi in an academy of poverty-stricken students. His weekly salary was smaller than that which a well-paid laborer earns in one day. Yet he lived up to the standards expected of a spiritual leader of a group.
Unless one saw with what pride Rabbi Album refused to accept money, one would not believe that any man would resist a remunerative offer. Rabbi Album interpreted the laws of the Torah in everyday affairs; devoted much effort toward making peace between husband and wife (he never granted a divorce); and went to the stockyards to watch the workers and to see that they observed the dietary laws. He visited the butcher shops and the bakeries (so that they should not work on the Sabbath); he lectured in synagogues; helped found Hebrew schools, the Hebrew Theological College, and the Home for the Aged; always defended the shohatim; acted for some time as the only rabbi on the West Side; and supervised all the Jewish activities in the community himself. When the meat magnates were made aware of the fact that the noted rabbi was working without pay, they wanted to pay him a wage for his visits to the 4slaughter house, but he proudly refused their offer.
His love for the masses and his strong sentiments for justice were clearly seen in his attitude toward a trust of Jewish butchers in Chicago in 1893, twenty-five years ago. The butchers, at that time, had planned to establish a small trust which would control the Jewish meat market by not permitting new butchers to open shops and by raising the price of meat. In order to sanctify their trust, they offered Rabbi Album a sum of money for his approval, but he scornfully rejected it. Moreover, he was not satisfied with the role of a passive on-looker, but he himself began to fight against the trust.
Later, when a clique at the Jewish Courier became ambitious and wished to rule the city by introducing new "taxes" and by riding on the Jewish "horse," they attempted to drag Rabbi Album into their gang. When he left them, because of their corrupt methods, these "new social workers" leveled many false accusations against him. Rabbi Album, however, possesses a very "sharp pen"--he is one of the most brilliant scholars among the Orthodox rabbis of America. The fight 5against Rabbi Album was very bitter. He was libeled by the Jewish Courier and by other hypocrites who speak for Judaism. There were also "city robbers" in Chicago who hired gangsters to murder him. But Rabbi Album always triumphed. He stood against them with the strong weapon of truth and righteousness.
The Jewish masses know how to evaluate the work of the sixty-eight year old sage. His household is waited upon by the old and young, and everyone wishes that this eminent, beloved scholar, the pride of Judaism in Chicago, should live many more years and continue to protect Judaism and fight for it.
IV, I B 4, I D 1 a, II B 2 d 1, III H
Secondary listingsJewish // Attitudes > Mores > Religious Customs and Practices (I B 4) ?
Jewish // Attitudes > Economic Organization > Capitalistic Enterprise > Big Business (I D 1 a) ?
Jewish // Contributions and Activities > Avocational and Intellectual > Intellectual > Publications > Newspapers (II B 2 d 1) ?
Jewish // Assimilation > Relations with Homeland (III H) ?
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