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Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

MAYER, REV. DR. JACOB

MAYER, REV. DR. JACOB

MAYER, REV. DR. JACOB (d. 1890) was a German orator and Rabbi at The Temple (see TIFERETH ISRAEL), 1867-1874. Liberal, outspoken, and controversial, he sought to end antipathy between Jews and Germans, and promote the study of Hebrew and religious literature. In 1871 Mayer was president of the committee organizing the FRANCO-PRUSSIAN WAR PEACE JUBILEE.

Born in Prussia, Mayer came to the United States in 1866 and was naturalized in 1872. Mayer came to Cleveland from Cincinnati in 1867 when he was elected rabbi of Tifereth Israel on the recommendation of Rabbi Wise who believed Mayer would strengthen the congregation's Reform affiliation. The congregation initially favored Mayer's liberal views regarding Judiaism. A brilliant orator, Mayer gained the reputation as "the best preacher in Cleveland".

In 1870 Mayer was re-engaged as rabbi for 10 more years, although his term actually ended in 1872. Although he elevated Judaism in the eyes of many Christians, critics claimed that his sermons lacked substance and accuracy, and that he alienated both traditionalist Jews and Christians.

The Franco-Prussian War Peace Jubilee celebrating the German victory ending the Franco-Prussian War was held 10 April 1871. Cleveland's German societies began planning the celebration in March 1871, electing Mayer to head the organizing committee.

Mayer resigned as rabbi of Tifereth Israel in 1874 to become rabbi of Baltimore's Har Sinai Congregation. In 1876, it was revealed that before coming to America Mayer had converted to Christianity and was a missionary in Glasgow. Mayer denied the allegations, yet their persistence eventually forced Mayer to admit their truth. Mayer left Baltimore for St. Louis where he died.