October 1903 in the Exponent: What a Jewish Institution of Learning Should Be


In its early days, The Jewish Exponent (The was part of the title then) stuck to a standardized format that included a poem top center and a longer article — usually the reprinting of a speech — comprising the editorial copy.

The Oct. 23, 1903 edition was no exception, featuring the inaugural address by Rev. Dr. Kaufman Kohler (most internet sources spell his first name as Kaufmann) made five days earlier at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, where he had just become president.

Titled “What a Jewish Institution of Learning Should Be,” Kohler’s lengthy address touches upon Reform Judaism, of which he was a proponent.

“But what is the Talmud to the modern Jew that the most precious hours of the student should still be spent on its hair-splitting dialects, upon that ‘vast, bottomless sea’ of which only few fortunate divers know how to bring the precious pearls forth to the light of the day?” he asked.

Born in Bavaria in 1843, Kohler grew up in a family of rabbis, immigrating to the United States in the late 1860s and becoming a rabbi in Detroit.

According to Wikipedia (take it for what it’s worth), Kohler was among the youngest members of the Philadelphia Rabbinical Conference of 1869.

Kohler held a number of positions throughout his life (he died in 1926) and was a regular contributor to both the Jewish and scientific press.

Also on the cover were five advertisements for bankers/brokers. One for Tradesmen’s National Bank listed its capital at $500,000 and its “surplus and profits” at $516,000. It noted that it issued travelers’ letters of credit and that it was soliciting deposit accounts.


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