Thursday, May 10, 2018

Rabbi and Statesman, Rabbi Moses Schorr

Rabbi Moses Schorr was a passionate academic who dedicated most of his indefatigable energy to the Jewish people. Born on May 10, 1874, in Pryemysl, Galicia, when it was still part of Austria-Hungary, Rabbi Schorr moved to Vienna in 1893 and enrolled at both the Israelitisch Theologisch Lehrenstalt (ordained in 1900) and the University of Vienna (to study history). In 1897, he transferred to the University of Lvov, from which he received a PhD in 1898.

Upon graduation, Rabbi Schorr took a teaching position at the Jewish Teachers Seminary for Men in Lvov, but he had not lost his thirst for academic study. In 1902, on a scholarship from the Austrian Ministry of Education, Rabbi Schorr pursued Ancient Near East Studies in Berlin and Vienna. A few years later he became an assistant professor at the University of Lvov, and, in 1916, he was appointed a full professor of Semitic Languages and History of the Ancient Near East. Seven years later, Rabbi Schorr moved to Warsaw, where he had been invited to assume the pulpit of the progressive Great Synagogue on Tlomackie Street and to join the Warsaw Rabbinic Council. In 1928, he was one of the founders of the government supported Institute for Judaic Studies.

Rabbi Schorr’s involvement in community organizations is far too long to be included in one Jewish Treat. Most notable, however, was his involvement with B’nai Brith. At different points in his life, he served as the head of the B’nai Brith lodge in Lvov, then Warsaw and then helped found a lodge in Lodz.

The great respect in which Rabbi Schorr was held is demonstrated by the fact that in 1935 he became a presidentially appointed member of the Polish Senate. In this role he constantly warned about the growing anti-Semitism in the country. He was also a representative at the Evian Conference that met to determine a solution to the large Jewish refugee situation.

When the Germans arrived in 1939, Rabbi Schorr and his wife, Tamara, headed east to live with their daughter in Ostrog, Ukraine. Unfortunately, his political activities and Jewish communal ties drew the attention of the NKVD (who are they?). Rabbi Schorr was arrested and eventually charged and convicted of defending bourgeoisie interests. In May of 1941, he was sentenced to five years in a Russian prison camp. Two months later he died of heart disease, although his fate was not actually known until several years later when the Polish government in exile tried to rescue him.

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