PROFILE OF RABBI MAX SAMFIELD, PhD
CONGREGATION CHILDREN OF ISRAEL 1871-1915
Max Samfield was born in Marksteft, Bavaria in 1844, the son of a rabbi. At age 12 he was an advanced student in all branches of study and fully prepared to enter a Talmudic school. After receiving further instruction in rabbinic lore, he was sent to Bayreuth where he entered the Real Gymnasia and for two years enjoyed the privilege of being aided in his studies by Dr J. Fuerst.
He then pursued a doctorate in Philosophy at the Julius University in Duerzburg and culminated his education with a course in Linguistic studies. In 1867, he was ordained into the Rabbinate, and he left Europe for the United States.
During his years of study he had become imbued with the new Reformed Judaism and pursued a new course with his American assignment in Shreveport, Louisiana, at B'nai Zion congregation. He remained there until 1871 when he received an invitation to relocate to Congregation Children of Israel, Memphis. He was then 25 years of age. In 1873 he married Pauline Frank of New Orleans. They were blessed with four sons (Lawrence, Marcus, Samuel, Joseph) and three
daughters, (Helene, Rosiland and Lelia). Two of their children succumbed to yellow fever and there were also two adopted daughters whose parents were yellow fever victims.
In Memphis he followed the tenure of Rabbi Simon Tuska who had died the previous December. He was quick to establish his new presence with many accomplishments. He obtained charter members hip for Children of Israel in the new American Reform Movement. He pursued all forms of philanthropy.
During the yellow fever epidemics of 1873, 1878, and 1879 he remained in Memphis ministering to the sick, helping the orphans and burying the dead regardless of race or conditions.
He was recognized as a scholar and a leader in public affairs such as public school work. The times required that he be a man of action as well as vision. Rabbi Samfield's marriage registries show that he converted individuals
prior to officiating at their marriage.
He was one of the governors of the Hebrew Union College and one of the founders of the Tennessee Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Children, the United Charities of Memphis, the Young Men's Hebrew
Association of Memphis, and the Hebrew Relief
Association. He was a trustee of the New Orleans Orphan Asylum Home. In 1885 he founded the Jewish Publishing Company and served as Chief Editorial Contributor. He was also the proprietor, assisted by his son Joseph. He published the Jewish Spectator with its first edition on October 19, 1885. The paper's main thrust was directed to matters of Jewish interests both political and social. The paper was distributed in Memphis and New Orleans, as well as other cities in Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas, Texas and Louisiana. The Business offices were located at 206 Front Street in Memphis. A yearly subscription was $2.50. It was later recognized as the oldest Southern Jewish Journal.
In 1847 Joseph Andrews bought the land to bury his brother, Samuel. This became the Bass Street Cemetery. As the Jewish community grew, so did the cemetery, necessitating a new
location. About 1884 the City of Memphis passed an ordinance to the effect that cemeteries must be located three miles from the city limits. The Bass Street Cemetery is where the Shelby County Health Department stands today, on Jefferson near the medical center. The new cemetery was located on Old Hernando Road with the purchase of 10 acres. The tombstones at Bass Street were moved to the new site. The congregation's Board of Directors assisted by Rabbi Samfield had made the selection.
In 1911 Congregation Children of Israel had brought to Memphis Rabbi William Fineshriber to serve as assistant Rabbi. This move was made with the anticipation that Rabbi Samfield would soon retire. In 1915 he announced his planned retirement for October 1, when he would deliver
his last sermon. On the last Tuesday in September he was suddenly stricken and passed away. He was buried on Friday October 1, the day of his planned retirement; he was 71 years of age.
He was mourned in many quarters and as a tribute to the rabbi, business activities ceased throughout the city for a few moments out of respect. Following Rabbi Samfield's
death the Board of Directors, Congregation Children of Israel, passed a resolution to create an annual gift to be paid to Mrs. Samfield for life. Pauline Samfield lived to celebrate her 100th birthday on February 9, 1954, and died three days later.
Bibliography: Rabbi Samfield's Folder Topics, (Temple Israel Archives)
The New York Times
September 29, 1915
RABBI MAX SAMFIELD
Rabbi Max Samfield of the Congregation Children of Israel in Memphis, Tennessee, died yesterday at his home in that city, in his seventy-second year. He was born in Germany and was widely known throughout the South. Rabbi Samfield was the founder of the Tennessee Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, of the Hebrew Relief Association and the Non-Sectarian United Charities. He was President of the Board of Governors of the Hebrew Union College of Cincinnati, a director of the Jewish Orphans' Home of New Orleans, and of the Jewish Consumptive Home of Denver, and the Sheltering House Association of New York.
Rabbi Samfield was also supervisor of the Central Conference of American Rabbis. He was a Scottish Rite Mason of the Thirty-second degree and was the former editor of the Jewish Spectator, which he founded in 1885. END
Memphis & New Orleans
Friday, October 8, 1915
Vol. 61 No. 1
RABBI MAX SAMFIELD PASSES TO HIS REWARD
Eminent Minister, Editor, Scholar and Charity Worker is Buried Upon the Day He Was To Become Rabbi Emeritus, and Upon the Thirtieth Anniversary of Journal He Founded--Entire City Pauses to Pay Homage to the Man Whose Demise is Lamented Throughout the United States
HUNDREDS ATTEND FUNERAL OF LATE RABBI M. SAMFIELD
LIFELONG FRIENDS OF RABBI TAKE PART IN THE EXERCISES
PAYING FINAL RESPECTS TO MINISTER AND SOCIAL WORKER, FILL TEMPLE AND OVERFLOW TO LOBBY AND STREETS
PALLBEARERS INCLUDE REPRESENTATIVE BUSINESS AND FRATERNAL MEN OF MEMPHIS, SPECIAL MUSIC AND IMPORTANT FEATURE.
A USEFUL AND BEAUTIFUL LIFE BROUGHT TO A CLOSE
HAD BEEN WITH MEMPHIS CONGREGATION OVER 40 YEARS
WAS FAITHFUL TO DUTY
ON OCT. 1 HE WOULD HAVE RETIRED FROM ACTIVE WORK AND BECOME RABBI EMERITUS OF THE CONGREGATION WHICH HE SERVED SO LONG AND SO WELL
Rabbi Max Samfield, author, editor, charity worker, lecturer and for more than forty-four years spiritual leader of the Congregation Children of Israel of Memphis, died suddenly Tuesday afternoon, September 28th, at the family residence, 213 Adams Avenue.
His death was primarily due to a uremic infection. Though his physical strength, in spite of his years and his labors, held up remarkably well, Dr. Samfield was occasionally troubled with uremia. Monday night he complained of having eaten something which did not agree with him.
About 10 o'clock Tuesday morning Drs. Ed Mitchell and P. A. Perkins weere summoned. By that time his sickness was so far advanced that he lapsed into unconsciousness. The physicians were unable to bring him back to consciousness. In the early afternoon he sank into sleep, which continued undisturbed until the final sleep came at 9:45 o'clock.
The death of Dr. Samfield marks the passing of one of the most distinguished church workers that two generations of Memphians ever knew. Often the story is told of a faithful and beloved old minister who has been active in the work for a half century and more, but it is doubtful whether many communities can rejoice in the work of a minister who ministered to the needs of the same congregation continuously for forty-four years.
Dr. Samfield was chosen rabbi of the Memphis congregation in 1871. He was to preach his last sermon Friday night, October 1, the congregation having generously elected him rabbi emeritus on his full salary for the balance of his life, and he was thus to bid farewell to a devoted flock, most of whom were little children, many unborn, when he first came among them.
The day of this contemplated honor, with a penceful and happy old age held out for him, will mark his departure from the walks of life.
As a scholar, Rabbi Samfield enjoyed a national reputation, being rated as one of the highest authorities on trsnslations of Sanskrit and the ancient Hebrew in the original. His name is also well known as the founder and editor-in-chief of the Jewish Spectator, a weekly which enjoys a wide prestige throughout the country.
When it became known in Memphis that Rabbi Samfield had passed away on last Tuesday a seemingly inexhaustible stream of people wended their way towards his late residence, and all through Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, until the hour of the funeral this continuous pilgrimage of friends of the dead rabbi kept up. And, when the sad news was flashed abroad, telegrams of condolence from every part of the country began to pour in and many were the expressions of sorrow in the messages. END
Rabbi congregation Children of Israel since 1871; German-Jewish descent; editor; born Bavaria, Germany, Jan., 1845; son of Samuel and Rosa (Mendel) Samfield; educated University of Wurtzburg, Normal College, received degree of doctor of philosophy; married Pauline Frank in 1873; member Masonic Lodge, Scottish Rite 32, B’Nai Brith and Elks; author of a collection of essays and sermons, “Moral Philosophy of Hamlet,” “Shylock Not a Jew,” founder of United Charities Tenn. So. Prevention of Cruelty to Animals; founder Y.M.H.A.; representative of National Charities and Prison Reform; governor of Cincinnati Hebrew Union College for education of rabbis; director of Jewish Orphans’ Home, New Orleans, Jewish Consumptive Hospital, Denver, Colo.; president of Hebrew Relief Association, Memphis; member of Oriental Society in London; director of Alliance Universelle, supervisor of synagogue and school extension
Grave Marker Photo Source: Selected Southern Jewish Databases and Cemetery Listings
. This photograph posted by exclusive permission of Lynn Franklin. All rights reserved.
Top photo courtesy of The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati, Ohio AMERICAN JEWISH ARCHIVES.ORG
Sponsored by Ancestry