Abba H. Silver

From Ohio History Central

Abba Hillel Silver was a prominent Jewish and Lithuanian-American resident of Cleveland, Ohio during the twentieth century.

Silver was born on January 28, 1893, in Schirwindt, Lithuania. His original name was Abraham Silver, but he changed it to Abba Hillel Silver upon enrolling in college. In 1902, Silver's family emigrated from Lithuania to the United States of America and settled in New York, New York. In 1904, Silver helped establish the Herzl-Zion Club. This organization's primary purpose was to preserve the Hebrew language and customs and also to promote the creation of a Jewish state in Israel. Silver eventually enrolled at Hebrew Union College and the University of Cincinnati. Both of these institutions were located in Cincinnati, Ohio. Silver graduated from both colleges in 1915, and he became ordained as a Reform Jewish rabbi. In 1927, Silver earned a Doctor of Divinity degree from Hebrew Union College.

In 1915, Silver became the rabbi of the Congregation Leshem Shomayim in Wheeling, West Virginia. He served in this capacity until 1917, when he became the rabbi to Temple-Tifereth Israel, which is located in Cleveland, Ohio. In this new position, Silver required the teaching of Hebrew in the temple's school. His temple boasted the largest Reform Jewish congregation in the United States by 1927.

While serving in Cleveland, Silver also continued his vocal support of Zionism—the creation of a Jewish state in Israel. To attain this, Silver joined several organizations. In most of these groups, Silver served in leadership positions, including as president of the United Palestine Appeal, co-chair of the United Jewish Appeal, co-chair of the American Zionist Emergency Council, and president of the Zionist Organization of America. His efforts helped result in the creation of the Jewish state of Israel in 1948. Israelis honored Silver's contributions by naming an agricultural school, Kfar Silver, after him.

Silver remained as rabbi of the Temple-Tifereth Israel until his death on November 28, 1963. At that time, his son Daniel Jeremy Silver assumed the position of rabbi.

See Also


  1. Gartner, Lloyd P. History of the Jews of Cleveland. Cleveland, OH: Western Reserve Historical Society, 1978.  
  2. Van Tassel, David D., and John J. Grabowski, eds. The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1996.