Moses Mescheloff
Moses Mescheloff
Moses Mescheloff (June 12, 1909 – May 9, 2008) was a renowned American Orthodox rabbi and community leader for 75 years, known especially within circles of American Orthodox Judaism, primarily in Miami Beach, Florida, and in Chicago, Illinois.
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Moses Mescheloff's personal information overview.
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    LATE_ADULTHOOD
  • 2008
    Age 98
    Died in 2008.
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  • 1989
    Age 79
    Mescheloff was elected by the Hall of Fame Selection Committee and inducted by Mayor Richard M. Daley into Chicago's Senior Hall of Fame, at a full session of the City Council on May 25, 1989. Mescheloff was honored by the city of Chicago on May 1, 2002, when Vice-Mayor Alderman Bernard L. Stone unveiled a street sign in front of the entrance to Congregation K.I.N.S., “Honorary Rabbi Moses Mescheloff Street”.
    More Details Hide Details Stone noted that "Not only did he have all the attributes of a rabbi — knowledgeable, articulate — he was an exceptionally kind and gentle man." Mescheloff was a member of the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) from 1935 until his death, for seventy-five years. He contributed annually to the RCA’s Sermon Manual for as long as it was published. Subsequently, he contributed sermons to the RCA’s holiday brochures, as well as scholarly articles for the RCA’s Hadarom (in Hebrew). He also wrote scholarly articles for Oraita (in Israel), and Chadashot (CRC) and has written articles on Judaism and on Jewish life for the Chicago Sentinel, Hadassah Women and AMIT Women magazines. The Legal Encyclopedia, “Florida Law on the Family, Marriage and Divorce” includes his chapter, entitled “Procedure in Obtaining a Jewish Divorce”. See a partial list of his publications below.
  • 1982
    Age 72
    After ten years, the congregation signed a life contract with Mescheloff. From 1982 he served as Rabbi Emeritus.
    More Details Hide Details Mescheloff worked in close cooperation and mutual respect and admiration with the two rabbis who followed him, in succession, as spiritual leaders of the congregation. They sat together at the front of the congregation during services. Rabbi Dr. Leonard Matanky has continued to lead the congregation as the central religious zionist synagogue in the Midwest, continuing the tradition of deep involvement in Jewish education and other Jewish and civic activities. When each new rabbi was away, Mescheloff would deliver sermons and teach Torah classes in his absence. Mescheloff's communal work continued apace well into his mid-nineties. He could be seen walking to the synagogue daily at a pace that tired young men who might accompany him, sitting in the Beit Midrash, attending lectures in halakha by Rabbi Gedalia Dov Schwartz, the head of the Bet Din of the RCA and the CRC, listening intently to Talmud lessons over the internet, and preparing Torah messages. Mescheloff made himself available to others for discussing Torah, academic and Jewish community issues of all types.
  • 1981
    Age 71
    Mescheloff was called upon frequently to open Chicago City Council meetings with an invocation. On one of these occasions, on May 13, 1981, the Mayor received word that Pope John Paul II had been shot.
    More Details Hide Details Mescheloff, still in the Council chambers, was called upon to offer prayers for his recovery. His non-sectarian prayer was then re-broadcast throughout that day. He served as an officer or a member of the Board of the Mayor's Advisory Council on Human Relations, the Chicago Commission on Race and Religion, the North Town Community Council, the North Town Inter-faith Fellowship, the Chicago Inter-religious Council for the Homeless, the Mayor's Advisory Council for the Department on Aging, and the North Town/Rogers Park Division for Chicago's Mental Health Association.
  • FORTIES
  • 1955
    Age 45
    Rabbi Joseph Lookstein was the installing officer and guest speaker at his installation, on January 9, 1955.
    More Details Hide Details This was a second period of major crisis for American Orthodox Jewish life. Sociologists and social scientists were proclaiming the end of Orthodoxy in America. Its European roots and lifeline had been destroyed in The Holocaust, and it was thought to be unable to maintain itself in the face of the newfound Jewish freedom and rampant assimilation in America. Mescheloff worked devotedly on behalf of Torah in his congregation. The synagogue had a very large Hebrew and Sunday School, with many hundreds of students for over twenty years. Moses Mescheloff oversaw the school, encouraging students to continue their education in more intense Jewish educational environments. He officiated at thousands of Bar-Mitzvahs and Bat-Mitzvahs. He also performed thousands of weddings, visited thousands of sick people, comforted the bereaved, and officiated at funerals and memorial services. For twenty-eight years he conducted weekly Talmud classes, organized adult education courses at the synagogue, and was one of the lecturers. The cumulative effect of his life's work was to leave an indelible imprint on the lives of tens of thousands for whom he ministered at crucial turning points in their lives.
  • 1954
    Age 44
    In 1954, Mescheloff moved to Chicago, in time to celebrate Hanukkah with his new congregation in West Rogers Park, Chicago, Congregation K.I.N.S. (Knesset Israel Nusach Sfard) of West Rogers Park.
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  • TWENTIES
  • 1936
    Age 26
    In 1936 Revel was deeply involved in his efforts to make Yeshiva College a full-fledged University.
    More Details Hide Details He needed funding, and contacted the famous Dr. Albert Einstein to lend his support. Revel also spoke to Rabbi Lazar Schönfeld, who spoke both German and Hungarian and was an acquaintance of Einstein. Einstein wrote a letter, in German, to Schönfeld, in which he spoke of the importance of Jewish education, and of the need for a Yeshiva where the ancient Jewish beliefs, wisdom and traditions are taught, in tandem with modern, scientific knowledge, where Jewish youth can learn without harassment and persecution. The letter was an introduction to and re-enforcement of Rabbi Revel's mission. Upon Schönfeld's death, the Einstein letter was willed to Rabbi and Mrs. Mescheloff. It was kept in its original envelope for many years, in the Mescheloff's safety deposit box. Upon the urging of Magda's brother, Frank Schonfeld, a 1939 graduate of Yeshiva College, the Mescheloff's presented it to the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, where it is now part of the extensive archive of Albert Einstein papers. A copy also went to The Yeshiva University Archives.
  • 1932
    Age 22
    Mescheloff received his semikhah from RIETS in 1932.
    More Details Hide Details Among the signatories were Rabbi Moshe Soloveichik and Revel. Soloveichik was Rosh Yeshiva of RIETS during the 1930s, until his death on Friday, 3 Shevat 5701 (January 31, 1941). Mescheloff was one of thirteen students who received semikhah from Soloveichik in America. Indeed, Mescheloff was the first native-born American to receive semikhah from Soloveichik at RIETS. At the same time, Mescheloff studied at the City College of New York (CCNY) as a night student. The subways were his "Study Hall". Mescheloff received the B.A. degree in 1932, graduating with high honors (Magna Cum Laude, election to the Phi Beta Kappa Society. Scholarly excellence and knowledge of a wide range of subjects characterized Mescheloff throughout his life. It was a tremendous challenge to maintain uncompromising loyalty to halakha and to Torah tradition, while injecting them into Jewish life in America. There was a need to translate them into the concepts and the language of contemporary American Jews, and to be open to absorbing the best of American culture into Jewish life. Mescheloff was among the first graduates of RIETS to meet this challenge in the Jewish communities of America, with the appropriate knowledge, commitment, skills and tools.
  • CHILDHOOD
  • 1909
    Born
    When Mescheloff was born, in 1909, his parents lived in Manhattan.
    More Details Hide Details Although he was sent to public school through junior high, his parents made sure that he had the finest and most knowledgeable Hebrew teachers they could find, who gave him private "Hebrew lessons" up to the study of the Talmud. When Mescheloff reached the age of 13, his third teacher, a knowledgeable young man, said that Moshe was ready for entrance to a yeshiva. Orthodox Judaism in America, and in New York in particular, was in a deep crisis in the first decades of the twentieth century. Several causes brought great numbers of adults to compromise their religious traditions, not observing Shabbat or the laws of kashrut and mikvah strictly, if at all: 1 - widespread ignorance of rabbinic literature and of the meaning of Jewish belief and practice in the modern world, 2 - a desire to be free of the heavy burden of Jewishness as it had been felt "in the old world", 3 - economic and social pressures, 4 - a dearth of qualified rabbis and effective community-wide institutions. The young people were set on being absorbed into American society, with its promises of wealth and freedom, and saw the strictures of Orthodox Jewish observance as impediments to their assimilation. The older generation, the great majority having no secular education and little formal Jewish education, was woefully unprepared to teach the young how to maintain their Jewish traditions in the new world.
Original Authors of this text are noted here.
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