SILVER, ABBA HILLEL (28 Jan. 1893-28 Nov. 1963), religious leader, Zionist, and social-welfare activist, was born Abraham Silver in Neinstadt, Schirwindt, Lithuania to Moses and Dinah Seaman Silver. His father, grandfather, and great-grandfather had all been rabbis. Silver and his family emigrated to America and settled in New York City in 1902. In 1904 Silver and his brother Maxwell founded the Hebrew-speaking Herzl-Zion Club. In 1907, at age 16, Silver addressed the 10th annual convention of the Federation of American Zionists. Silver attended Hebrew Union College and the University of Cincinnati, during which time he changed his name to Abba Hillel. He graduating from both institutions in 1915. Ordained as a Reform rabbi, Silver served the Congregation Leshem Shomayim (the Eoff St. Temple), in Wheeling, W.Va. from 1915-17. Silver was awarded a Doctor of Divinity degree from Hebrew Union College in 1927.
Coming to Cleveland in 1917, Silver succeeded MOSES GRIES as Rabbi of the TEMPLE-TIFERETH ISRAEL, turning it from an "institutional synagogue" to one more religiously and culturally centered. He reinstituted Hebrew in religious education and openly-espoused political Zionism, for which he was a vocal advocate throughout his career. The congregation became the largest Reform congregation in the country by 1927. While affiliated with the Zionist Organization of America from the 1920s to the 1940s, he also was president of the United Palestine Appeal and co-chair of the United Jewish Appeal (1938). In 1943, Silver became co-chair with Rabbi Stephen S. Wise of the American Zionist Emergency Council (AZEC). In 1944, Silver lobbied for passage of a Palestinian Resolution by the U.S. Congress, which did so in December of 1945. That year Silver was elected president of the ZOA. Silver was appointed chairman of the American section of the Jewish Agency, on whose behalf he addressed the United Nations General Assembly 8 May 1947, advocating creation of the State of Israel. Following the establishment of Israel in 1948, control of the Zionist movement slowly transferred to Israeli officials. The resulting power struggle and controversies about fundraising led Silver to resign his positions at the ZOA, AZEC, and the Jewish Agency in 1948-1949. However, Silver's support for Israel remained strong. In 1956, an Israeli agricultural school, Kfar Silver, was named in his honor.
Locally, Silver was the first president of the BUREAU OF JEWISH EDUCATION (1924-32), and in 1933 helped create the LEAGUE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS, as well as the non-sectarian Anti-Nazi League to Champion Human Rights in 1938. Silver also supported trade unionism and worked for the Ohio Commission on Unemployment Insurance, which helped to pass the state's unemployment insurance law in 1936. Silver was a prolific rabbinic scholar, publishing 7 major works, including The Democratic Impulse in Jewish History (1928), The World Crisis and Jewish Survival (1941), Where Judaism Differed (1956) and Moses and the Original Torah (1961). Silver married Virginia Horkheimer in Wheeling in 1923. They had two children, Daniel Jeremy and Raphael David. When Silver died, his son Daniel succeeded him as Rabbi at the Temple.
Papers of Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver, The Temple-Tifereth Israel, WRHS
Silver, Rabbi Daniel J., ed., In the Time of Harvest (1963)