Rabbi Bernard “Yissachar Dov” Illowy

Rabbi Bernard “Yissachar Dov” Illowy

Czech Republic
Death 22 Jun 1875 (aged 61)
Cincinnati, Hamilton County, Ohio, USA
Burial Price Hill, Hamilton County, Ohio, USA
Plot Section 1, Lot: 142, Grave 88
Memorial ID 81204648 · View Source
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In 1854, Illowy became one of the first rabbis of United Hebrew Congregation in St. Louis, Missouri during the early years of this synagogue which was then an Orthodox congregation. That same year, he started St. Louis's first Hebrew School which was the first Jewish parochial school in the city. He resigned after one year of service due to "philosophical differences" with the congregation. Rabbi Illowy is listed along with other rabbis who served St. Louis congregations. The full list of rabbis can be found at SAINT LOUIS RABBIS.



On account of political complications arising out of the revolt of the Bohemians, in 1848 (an address to the revolutionary army as it passed through Kolin on its way to Prague, the capital--which the force of circumstances compelled him to deliver), and the finding in his baggage, some time later, on his return from a journey to France, of a seal with the revolutionary inscription Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité! he was precluded from filling a rabbinical position in his native land. He was called to Cassel (Germany) to candidate for the position of Chief Rabbi (Landesrabbiner) of the Principality of Hessen. The congregations of the whole electorate unanimously favored his selection, but the then Minister of the Interior, Hassenpflug (nicknamed Hessenfluch [Hessian curse], a man of most reactionary tendencies, whose whole aim was the reestablishment of a medieval Germany, refused to sanction his election, because of his involvement in the Revolution aforementioned.) He then came to the United States, and filled the position of Rabbi in New York City at Congregation Shaare Zedek, in Philadelphia in Congregation Rodeph Shalom, in St. Louis in the United Hebrew Congregation, in Syracuse in the Congregation Kneset Shalom, in Baltimore in the Stadt Shule (Lloyd St.), in New Orleans in Congregation Shangarai Hased, and, finally, in Cincinnati in Congregation Sheerit Israel. COURTESY OF THE JEWISH AMERICAN HISTORY FOUNDATION

Rabbi Bernard Illowy, 1814 – 1875, born in Bohemia, came to the US in 1848. He was the rabbi at Shaare Zedek in New
York City, Rodelph Shalom in Philadelphia, United Hebrew
Congregation in St. Louis, Kneset Shalom in Syracuse, Stadt Shule in Baltimore, and Shangarai Hased in New Orleans. He
came to Cincinnati in 1865 as Rabbi of Ahabeth Achim, which later merged with Sherith Israel. He was known as an
eminent Talmudist, a powerful preacher, and a strict adherent of Orthodox Judaism. He engaged in fierce, polemical warfare with the leaders of the Reform movement but was also great friends with these leaders. Rabbis Wise and Lilienthal gave eulogies at his funeral. He died in an
accident when the axle of his buggy broke and he was thrown to the ground, leaving him paralyzed. COURTESY OF JEWISH CEMETERIES OF GREATER CINCINNATI.

The 3rd of Tammuz is the Yahrtzeit of Rav Yissachar Dov Illowy (1814-1871). born in Kolin, Bohemia. He learned in Pressburg under the Chasam Sofer. He later enrolled in the University in Budapest where he earned a doctorate. Rabbi Illowy arrived in America in 1853. In the 1840s, leading exponents of German Reform had begun to immigrate to the United States, and active opponents of Torah Judaism such as Isaac Mayer Wise and Max Lilienthal emerged as important factors on the American Jewish scene. As a talmid chacham and an educated university graduate, Rabbi Illowy was especially qualified to debunk Reform mythologies. He soon accepted the position of Rav of Shaarei Zedek in New York. However, his zealous speeches and writings against Reform resulted in several changes in employment. After a short tenure in New York, Rabbi Illowy moved on to Philadelphia (Congregation Rodef Shalom), followed by service in St. Louis, Syracuse, Baltimore, New Orleans (1860 until 1865), and finally Cincinnati.

Courtesy of Rabbi Simcha L. Weinberg
The Foundation Stone
© 2008
(Reproduced with Permission)

Rabbi Dr. Bernard Illowy was born in Kolin, Bohemia, in 1812. Ordained at the yeshiva of the Chatam Sofer, he also received his PhD at the University of Budapest. In 1848 he delivered addresses to revolutionary forces passing through Kolin, and, subsequently, was deprived of holding rabbinical office by a conservative government official. Consequently, Rabbi Illowy decided to leave Europe and, in 1853, arrived in the United States. He initially obtained the position as Rabbi of Congregation Shaare Tsedek in New York, but later in the year migrated to Philadelphia. He eventually moved to New Orleans.

In 1864, when a son born of a Gentile mother and Jewish father was presented for circumcision in New Orleans, Rabbi Illowy ruled that the Mohalim of the city could not perform this religious ceremony. Prior to this ruling it had been the custom of the community for such boys, upon the request of the father, to be circumcised in a Jewish ceremony by a Mohel and, in fact, there were at least 12 such children, ranging in age from five months to 12 years, then residing in New Orleans. There were three Mohalim serving in New Orleans at this time, and two agreed to obey the order issued by the Rabbi.

One, however, a Mr. Goldenberg, refused to obey the rabbis willing and, as a consequence, Rabbi Illowy "declared him unfit for the holy office of a Mohel." In addition, then, to ruling that a Mohel could not circumcise the son of a Jewish father and a Jewish mother, Rabbi Illowy announced that a Mohel who did perform such a circumcision was ritually unqualified and that it was sinful for any Jew to bring his son to such a person for circumcision.

On October 31, 1864, Rabbi Illowy wrote to a leading Orthodox periodical in Germany, in order to elicit the opinions of the European rabbinate one of the issues raised by this whole matter. Adjusting himself to Rabbi Dr. Lehman, the editor, Rabbi Illowy's letter was published under the title, "The Circumcision of Children Born to Non-Jewish Mothers in Mixed Marriages." Rabbi Illowy explained the matter to Rabbi Lehman and told of the controversy his decision had aroused in New Orleans. The mothers, he reported, had no intention of raising their children as Jews and the fathers, who were Jewish, or flagrant violators of the Law.

In addition, Rabbi Illowy related his argument with Goldenberg and stated that he had declared this Mohel who would not obey his decision to be ritually unqualified. He concluded by asking three questions of the European rabbi.

Is such a circumcision, as described in this report, forbidden according to Jewish religious law?

Has the Rabbi a right to declare a Mohel who disobeys his instructions to be unfit?

Is it sinful for someone to permit his child to be circumcised by a Mohel whom the Rabbi has declared to be unfit?

Rabbi Lehman replied by stating that a similar case had occurred in Hamburg and that the rabbis there had not permitted such children to be circumcised. Rabbi Lehman was of the opinion that this decision was correct, for if a blessing had been recited at the ceremony of such a child, God's name would have been taken in vain.

The one major European rabbi to dissent from Rabbi Illowy's views and attack his position was Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Kalischer:

"Regarding the question as to whether it is a sin to circumcise children such as these it seems to me that it is not a sin, but only a mitzvah."

These boys are to be considered holy offspring. "We are commanded to circumcise him at the proper moment according to the directive of his father, so that when he grows up, the boy will quickly be able to obey the directive of his father and immerse himself ritually according to Jewish law. And if we do not circumcise him, it is as though we repel him with both hands from the community of Israel.

"When a sinner direct seems hard to repent, how will his repentance be accepted if he raises his children as Gentiles? However, if we perform his will in this matter and circumcise his sons, he, along with his children, will return and we will have aided him in repenting. And if, God forbid, he should not repent, in this matter his desire to circumcise his children according to the Jewish Legion is a good one, without a doubt; when they grow up they can be immersed ritually before a Jewish court." END

Rev. Bernhard Illowy, of Cincinnati, Ohio
(printed in an unknown publication)
(written by an unknown author)

"It is always a source of deep sorrow to be compelled to chronicle the death of any public man, be his creed what it may, who for a whole lifetime has labored conscientiously to fulfill his duty to God and to the cause he espoused; but when that man's career has been brought to an untimely and sad end, through some violet and sudden accident, the painful nature of the task becomes much enhanced. It is even so with our departed brother, Rev. Bernhard Illowy, of Cincinnati. but a few days ago he was in sound health and in the enjoyment of all the happiness earned by a well-spent life. Unlike most clergymen, he had succeeded in securing for himself a certain competency of income which would enable him (when old) to retire in comfort from the toils and struggles of the world. It is now some time ago that the Doctor resigned his office in the ministry, and removed to his farm to pass the remainder of his days in agricultural pursuits."

"On Wednesday, June 21, 1875 while returning home from Lebanon, Ohio where he had gone to pay his taxes, the axle of his buggy, in which he was riding with his young son, broke, thereby throwing both father and son heavily to the ground. The fall received by the Doctor was so severe as to dislocate one of the vertebrae near the neck, thus producing complete paralysis of the body and lower extremities. The son, fortunately, escaping unhurt, had the presence of mind to arrest the horse, which had started to run away, and hasten for assistance. The injured man was speedily removed to the residence of a friend, where he was attended by five physicians. Medical skill was, however, unavailing, and the Doctor, after twenty-four hours of intense suffering, expired on Thursday, June 22nd. We are informed that he was entirely conscious to the last and knowing that his end was approaching, gave full instruction in regard to his affairs and bade farewell to his children and friends."

"We were unacquainted with the deceased. And, not being in possession of a full history of his life, can only give the following brief facts........"

"Bernhard Illowy was born in Rollin, Bohemia in 1814. His parents having destined him for the Jewish ministry, he became at the proper age a student in the Rabbinical College of Rabbi Moses Sopher of Presburg, Hungary. He emigrated to the United States about twenty years ago and became minister of the congregation at Syracuse. Thence he received a call to New Orleans, where he remained several years and finally accepted the pastorship of Shearith Israel congregation in Cincinnati, in which office he remained until 1869."

"He belonged to the orthodox school of Judaism and was a bitter opponent of all reforms. this feeling, however, did not seem to extend to individuals for which the reformed clergymen of Cincinnati, we believe, he was on terms of great intimacy. He was a member of the Masonic order and used to occasionally deliver lectures to the fraternity. He is represented to have been possessed of great abilities, to have had a thorough acquaintence with Science and Literature, and to have spoken readily Italian, German, Bohemian, English, and Hebrew."

"May the soul of the departed rest in peace!"

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The rabbi featured on this Find A Grave page is one of many included in a "Virtual Cemetery" of rabbis who've passed but who served on St. Louis pulpits during their rabbinate. The complete "Virtual Cemetery" list can be found at SAINT LOUIS RABBIS. Questions about this "Virtual Cemetery" project may be directed to:
Steven Weinreich
Email: steveweinreich26@gmail.com

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  • Created by: Brent Stevens
  • Added: 29 Nov 2011
  • Find A Grave Memorial 81204648
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Rabbi Bernard “Yissachar Dov” Illowy (14 Apr 1814–22 Jun 1875), Find A Grave Memorial no. 81204648, citing Adath Israel Cemetery, Price Hill, Hamilton County, Ohio, USA ; Maintained by Brent Stevens (contributor 47516363) .