FINKELSTEIN, SHIMON


FINKELSTEIN, SHIMON
FINKELSTEIN, SHIMON (1861–1947), U.S. rabbi and author. Born in Slobodka, Lithuania. Finkelstein was recognized as a child as a brilliant talmudist by some of the great scholars of his learned city. After his bar mitzvah, he studied at the Kovno Yeshivah. At the age of 17 he came under the influence of a maskil, who encouraged him to leave his rabbinic studies and travel. This led his father to insist that he study a bit more, and he moved to Rumsheshok, where he was exposed to the teachings of the musar movement . He studied with a major disciple of Rabbi israel salanter , Rabbi Isaac Blazer, and was ordained in 1882 by Rabbi Judah Meshil ha-Kohen, and one year later by Rabbi isaac elchanan spector . With Spector's approval he immigrated to the United States in 1887, serving for three years in Baltimore and then from 1890 to 1896 in Cincinnati, where he was rabbi to Congregation Beth Tephila. In Cincinnati he was exposed to Reform Judaism and apparently even offered a position at Hebrew Union College, which he declined. He did, however, recognize that Reform Judaism was keeping some Jews Jewish who were unmoved by Orthodoxy and might otherwise have left Judaism. The salaries of Orthodox rabbis were quite low and Finkelstein got into some legal trouble while officiating at a divorce and was sued in secular court. He also for a time tried to produce kosher food products in competition with Manischewitz, a company that became synonymous with kosher food products in the United States. In 1896 he moved to Syracuse, New York, and six years later to Congregation Ohev Shalom in Brownsville, Brooklyn, New York, which had a rapidly growing Jewish community. He remained there for some four decades. Finkelstein was a scholar and an authority on Jewish law. Among his books are Reshut Bikkuri (1889), Bikkurei Anavim (1899), and Bet Yiẓḥak (1923). Among his eight children was louis finkelstein , a rabbinic scholar who became chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary and who, like his father, was personally punctilious in his observance while being open to and indeed changing Judaism for a changing world. -BIBLIOGRAPHY: M.D. Sherman, Orthodox Judaism in America: A Bibliographical Dictionary and Sourcebook (1996). (Michael Berenbaum (2nd ed.)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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