Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Rabbi Hayim (Henry) Pereira Mendes (1852-1937)

Rabbi Hayim (Henry) Pereira Mendes was born in England on April 13, 1852. Coming from a long line of Sephardic rabbis, including his father, Abraham Pereira Mendes, and his maternal grandfather, David Aaron de Sola.  At the age of twelve he began his studies at London's Northwick College, a boarding school which combined secular and religious studies, founded and directed by his father. From 1870 through 1872, while continuing his studies at Northwick, Mendes also attended London's University College.

In 1873, Mendes began his ministry at the newly-formed Sephardic congregation in Manchester, England. In 1877, he was called to the United States to serve as Rabbi in New York City's Congregation Shearith Israel, where he was to remain the rest of his life. 

In 1884 he received a medical degree from New York University. 

Apart from serving Shearith Israel as Rabbi and Hazan, he was involved in a vast array of other activities. He was instrumental in the organization of many communal projects in New York, such as the Montefiore Hospital, the Institute for the Improved Instruction of Deaf-Mutes, the New York Guild for the Jewish Blind and the New York Kehillah. 

Championing an enlightened modern Orthodoxy, Rabbi Mendes used his privileged position as rabbi at Shearith Israel to work closely with all sectarian and social elements in Jewish life.  He was one of the founders and leaders of the Union of Orthodox Congregations of America and the New York Board of Jewish Ministers. Rabbi Mendes also served as professor of homiletics at Yeshiva Isaac Elchanan (Yeshiva University) from 1917 to 1920.

At the personal request of Theodor Herzl, he became one of the founders of the Federation of American Zionists. Until his death, he worked to promote the religious ideals of Zionism.

Rabbi Mendes was also a prolific writer. His books include religious books for children and adults, prayer books, poetry and plays.

Rabbi Henry Pereira Mendes died October 21, 1937 in New York City. 

Some of his better-known books are: Looking Ahead (1899), Bar Mitzvah (1938),Esther and Harbonah (1917), Jewish Religion Ethically Presented (1905), Jewish History Ethically Presented (1898), Mekor Ḥayyim: Mourners Handbook (1915), and Derekh Ḥayyim: Way of life (1934) . 

Read one Rabbi Mendes books online:  Jewish Religion Ethically Presented, by Google-books