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Judah Leon Magnes
Birth: Jul. 5, 1877
San Francisco
San Francisco County
California, USA
Death: Oct. 27, 1948
New York
New York County (Manhattan)
New York, USA

Religious Leader. He is best remembered as a leader in the Pacifist movement during World War I and as one of the most widely recognized voices of 20th Century American Reform Judaism. Born Julian Leon Magnes in San Francisco, California he changed his first name to Judah when he was a young boy. He moved with his family moved to Oakland, California, where he was a top student at Oakland High School and the star pitcher of its baseball team. He attended Sabbath school at the First Hebrew Congregation in Oakland, and was taught by Ray Frank, the first Jewish woman to preach formally from a pulpit in the US. His views of the Jewish people was strongly influenced by First Hebrew's Rabbi Levy, and it was there he first began preaching. He attended the University of Cincinnati in Cincinnati, Ohio and in June 1900 he was ordained as Rabbi and went to study in Germany. He enrolled in the Berlin Jewish College, Lehranstalt, and in Berlin University where he studied under philosophers and theologians Friedrich Paulsen and Friedrich Delitzsch. While there, he became an ardent Zionist and spent time visiting Jewish communities in German Poland and Galicia. In December 1902 he received a Doctorate of Philosophy Degree at Heidelberg University in Heidelberg, Germany and returned to the US the following year. He spend most of his professional life in New York City, New York where he helped found the American Jewish Committee in 1906. He was one of the most influential forces behind the organization of the Jewish community in the city, serving as president throughout its existence from 1908 to 1922. The Kehillah oversaw aspects of Jewish culture, religion, education and labor issues, in addition to helping to integrate America's German and East European Jewish communities. From 1912 until 1920 he was the president of the Society for the Advancement of Judaism. His religious views were not all within the mainstream; he favored a more traditional approach to Judaism, fearing the overly assimilation tendencies of his peers. He advocated changes in the Reform ritual to incorporate elements of traditional Judaism, expressing his concern that younger Jews sought spirituality in other religions, rather than from within their own synagogues. He advocated for restoration of the Bar Mitzvah ceremony and criticized the Union Prayer Book, arguing for a return to the traditional prayer book. The disagreement over this issue led him to resign from his Congregation Emanu-El in 1910. From 1911-12 he was Rabbi of the Conservative Congregation B'nai Jeshurun in Manhattan, New York City. In 1914, with the outbreak of World War I, he became involved in collecting funds for the Jewish population in Palestine. The following year a greater crisis arouse with the war on the Eastern Front devastating the Jews in Russia. He fervently organized relied efforts in the US and by the end of 1915 he had raised around five million dollars in donations. The following year he travelled to Germany and Poland to organize the distribution of the funds and when he returned to the US at the end of 1916, he launched a new appeal to raise ten million dollars for the relief effort. When the US entered World War I in April 1917, he changed his focus to anti-war campaigning and became one of the movement's high profile leaders. In 1922 he moved his family to Palestine and played a key role in founding the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, serving as its first chancellor in 1925 and as its president from 1935 until 1948. He responded to the 1929 Arab revolt in Palestine with a call for a bi-national solution to Palestine and dedicated the rest of his life to reconciliation with the local Arabs, objecting to the concept of a specifically Jewish state. In his view, Palestine should be neither Jewish nor Arab but a bi-national state in which equal rights would be shared by all. In late 1937 he welcomed the Hyamson-Newcombe proposal for the creation of an independent Palestinian state with all citizens having equal rights and each community having autonomy. The proposal was a document put together by a leading British Arabist, Colonel Stewart Newcombe, and prominent British Jewish bi-nationalist, Albert M Hyamson. He attempted to use the document to work with moderate Arabs towards an alternative to partition that was not tainted by official British endorsement, but it did not come to fruition. Faced with increasing persecution of European Jews, the outbreak of World War II and continuing violence in Mandate Palestine, he realized that his vision of a voluntary negotiated treaty between Arabs and Jews had become politically impossible. In an article in January 1942 in Foreign Affairs he suggested a joint British-American initiative to prevent the division of Mandate Palestine. The May 1942 Biltmore Conference in New York City caused him and others to break from the Zionist mainstream's revised demand for a "Jewish Commonwealth". As a result, he and Jewish activist Henrietta Szold founded the small, bi-nationalist political party, Ihud (Unity). By mid-1948, when the conflict between the Jews and Arabs of Palestine was in full swing, he feared an Arab victory due to their overwhelming numerical superiority. He expressed the hope that if a Jewish state were declared, the US would impose economic sanctions, saying that there could be no war without money or ammunition on either side, and that sanctions would halt "the Jewish war machine." He supported a March 1948 US trusteeship proposal, in which the UN would freeze the partition decision and force both sides into a trusteeship with a temporary government ruling Palestine until conditions suited another arrangement, in the hope that there would be understanding and peace talks would be possible. He predicted that even if a Jewish state was established and defeated the Arabs, it would experience a never-ending series of wars with the Arabs, which came true. He died in New York City, New York at the age of 71, a few months after the creation of the State of Israel. The Judah L. Magnes Museum in Berkeley, California, the first Jewish Museum of the West, was named in his honor. The main avenue in Hebrew University's Givat Ram campus is named after him as well as their publishing press, the Magnes Press. (bio by: William Bjornstad) 
 
Family links: 
 Parents:
  David Magnes (1845 - 1922)
  Sophie Abrahamson Magnes (1850 - 1904)
 
Burial:
Beth Olom Cemetery
Ridgewood
Queens County
New York, USA
 
Maintained by: Find A Grave
Record added: Jan 01, 2001
Find A Grave Memorial# 2689
Judah Leon Magnes
Added by: William Bjornstad
 
Judah Leon Magnes
Added by: Nancie Davis
 
Judah Leon Magnes
Cemetery Photo
Added by: John T. Chiarella
 
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- R I P
 Added: Nov. 6, 2015
Thank you for your religious convictions and leadership. May you rest in peace.
- William Bjornstad
 Added: Oct. 24, 2014

- Bernard Johnson
 Added: Mar. 13, 2014
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