This project examines the theological thought and social practice of Rabbi Emil G. Hirsch from 1880 -1923 to demonstrate how he bridged the gap between Judaic faith and modernity within American Reform Judaism. I argue that Hirsch’s approach to the problems associated with modernity were neither fringe or radical, but practical and part of a greater logic within one rabbi’s theological thought. I pursue this argument through close analysis of Hirsch’s writings, sermons, and congregational notes. I use the important secondary literature on American Reform Judaism to help contextualize Hirsch’s work. At the same time, I critique the assertion that rabbi Hirsch should be a forgotten voice within American Reform Judaism due to his controversial positions on topics, such as Zionism. I executed this through a series of chapters that lead the reader through Hirsch’s place at Chicago Sinai, the logic behind his view on Jewish identity within and outside the community, and why he could not be a Zionist to show that the rabbi acted in an ordered manner in responding to his congregation’s problems in the face of modernity.


Shaya, Greg




History of Religion | Jewish Studies | Social History | United States History


Emil G. Hirsch, Chicago, Chicago Sinai, Reform Judaism, Radical, Practical

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



© Copyright 2014 Elizabeth J. Boykin