On the 100th birthday of our dear father 

RABBI DOCTOR LEOPOLD  STEIN

Born 5.November 1810

Died 2.December 1882

 

[written, we believe, by his daughter Bettina LANDAUER nee STEIN ]

 

[ Invitation ]

 

Our dear father Leopold Stein was born on 5.November 1810 in

 Burgpreppach, a market town in lower Franconia.  His father, Abraham Loeb Stein, was a learned man and teacher, and teacher of the Talmud. His mother Gella Stein, was a gentle, wise woman, about whom our father, for as long as he was able to think, spoke with a warm love and hung on to her with deep respect. His deep love for his parents home, and his devotion to his parents are described in particular in the deep and meaningful poems “Im Elternhause”  [ “in the parental home”] and “Segen eines alten Rabbi an seinen Sohn”.  [“blessings of an old Rabbi to his son”].

 

 

You have to read this story, my dear ones, also in order to learn the warm mind-set and the deep thoughts of our grandparents!   Abraham Loeb Stein was appointed as Rabbi in Adelsdorf near Bamberg when our father was 5 years old, where he officiated loyally for 39 years. He lived till 90 years old. 

 

Already at his Bar Mizwah our father gave a lecture – or Disputation – about his portion in the Talmud.  When he was 14 years old he attended the Rabbinical High School in Fuerth where he listened to famous Talmud Teachers. Living there at that time was the famous learned U. Wolfsohn,  student of Mendelssohn, emeritus Inspektor at the  Kaiser Wilhelm school in Breslau.  The 16-year old wrote to him after he had obtained his first lessons in German from a private teacher and requested the Learned Teacher to give him further guidance because he was getting no pleasure from the Talmudic disputation with which the Jewish students had to spend so many hours!  Ask to be shown this letter to Wolfsohn, and keep it safely, because it is rare that a 16-year old youth, even if he has been well educated in a school, is capable  to write such a letter.

 

After our father had equipped himself in Erlangen and Bayreuth with  the knowledge of a grammar school, he went to Wuerzburg, where he attended the lectures of Professor Johann Jacob Wagner, and devoted himself to  Philosophy and practiced homiletic lecturing in a debating society!  Here he displayed the early signs of an aptitude and proved that he was born to become Lecturer.

He was given this rare chance to do so already in his 17th year. He was to inaugurate the Franconia  Land-community of Diedenhofen on the instruction of his elder friend, the so revered Rabbi Doctor Loewi of Fuerth. That day remained unforgettable for him. Two protestant church officials, the old Deacon and his young Vicar accompanied the young preacher in a festive procession to the new House of God and proved thereby how early in the history of the beautiful Franconia tolerance and love for others had struck roots.

 

Similar recognition was given to our father after he had completed his year of studies in the autumn of 1834 in Frankfurt a.M, when he gave a sermon in the Prayer Hall which was received with such acclaim, that the Governing Body there invited him to give a second lecture.

 

It was here also where his first poetic work, his “Stufengesaenge” [“Song of Steps” ] was received with warm enthusiasm.  Many years later his compatriots told about the lecture of the 24 year-old, how he, animated with blond wavy [flowing] hair, a picture of fiery youth, elated the masses, and how he animated them. It must still be mentioned how few means he had. Both during his studies period in Fuerth and during his time in Wuerzburg,  his meals mostly consisted only of nuts and bread. On Saturdays and Sundays he had invitations from various families!

 

In Spring 1835 our father was called to become the Rabbi and Preacher of Burg- and Altenkundstadt, two crafts and trades towns in lower Franconia.

The Jews living there already belonged to the enlightened movement, and had formed a congregation of some 200 members, many of them successful and well to do.  Stein was influential there in particular in the religious and youth education spheres. The young people, many of them having emigrated to the USA where they had clearly prospered gaining respect and wealth, showed their devoted teacher their love and devotion to his dying day.

 

 

In Burgkunstadt Stein laid the foundation of his attempts of reform in the sphere of Synagogue practices. Here he published his liturgical work “Chissuk habajith”, which offered the „stepping stones“ to the Reform in German prayers and songs. He loved in particular to select the nicest of the treasured Synagogue melodies, and to give them German texts. The most well known of these works is the translation of the catching tonality of “Oh the Day of the Lord” with which the eve of the Day of Atonement  [ Kol Nidre] is introduced – a song introduced in German and American synagogues and which yearly touched the hearts of many of the devoted and which moved and uplifted those at prayer. With this song alone he built a monument to himself!

 

From his rural Rabbinate location he often travelled to visit Friedrich Rueckert, who had offered the young poetic Rabbi heartfelt participation and who included several poems in his almanacs. The corresponding individual improvements which Rueckert added in his own hand, remained for Stein an eternal valuable relics [ ???????? translation ????]

 

In 1838 our father got to know and to love  our mother Eleonore Wertheimer in Wuerzburg. She had spent some time there as part of her higher education.  One letter to his friends describes her beauty, her charm and her outstandingly attributes of a woman of valour. You must read this letter, my dears as well as an in particular „the letters of Stein to his Leonore“ and the group of songs which were written during the courting days. They predict the great joy which he had found in his bride, and his deeply poetic mind! In June 1838 our beloved parents  became engaged and on 2 March 1839 they joined in a happy marriage. Our mother was the daughter of Sandel Wertheimer from Mitwitz and his  apt wife Getta, nee Kuenstler,  from Burghasslach. Mother had a sister and a brother. Her parents later moved to Bamberg where her father owned a large Hops business which his son Ignaz Wertheimer transferred to Nurnberg in the 1850’s. There they, and one other family, were the first and only “tolerated” Jews. Our mother was born on 26.November 1820 in Mitwitz. Her entire life and thoughts were devoted only to others. She was so clever and capable with it which for our father, who was such an idealist, was most necessary! Our parents had eight [sic] children, four boys and four girls who had to be fed and educated. This clever and noble woman, who participated fully in all her husband’s thinking and striving, put herself into the background throughout her life. She lived only for her husband and children, and she fought bravely with him. She was the epitome of the most noble womanhood!

 

In 1844 Stein was called to be the Rabbi and Preacher in Frankfurt a.M. where his speeches from the pulpit were always received with great enthusiasm and acclaim, and which were published in the collection “Kohelet”.

Later appeared “our Wishes” and many other collections of sermons, especially in the “Folks Teacher” which appeared in 1851 – 1860. This was a periodical which Stein edited with the exception of Family sheet “The Friday Evening” which appeared in 1859 – 1860. These give an all round interesting report about Jewish matters at that time.

 

In 1845 he presided over the Assembly of Rabbis in Frankfurt a.M. whose meaningful decisions founded the Reform movement among the German Jews.

 

In 1848 he participated in the major German movement, having been a wholehearted democrat throughout his life, and acting for the benefit of society.

 

His great talent for poetry which he had initially directed to the benefit of the Synagogue culture and Judaism broadened later on and mostly so with happy success. We name the five-act drama “The Hasmoneans” which was enacted in 1859 on the National Theatre stage in Mannheim, and which earned great acclaim. Later followed the dramas “Der Knabenraub zu Carpentras “ (1862),  “House of Ehrlich or the  Feasts”  (1863),  “The Poets Des Dichters consecration”, a dramatic picture out of Shakespeare’s Youth (1864),  “Sinai”,  [a teaching poem about the ten Commandments ???] “ein Lehrgedicht ueber die zehn Bundesworte  (1868),   “Laura or Gold and Honour ”  (1877), as well as many other poetic works! 

 

Worth noting also is his love for the writings of Schiller, he never went to rest without having his Psalms and his Schiller with him in order to read a psalm or a poem before falling asleep.

 

 Apart from diligently prepared pulpit lectures on almost every Sabbath, and in addition to ceaseless work for the good of the Community, his gaze was also directed towards the interests of Judaism as a whole. Despite his far reaching activities of his office and his theological activities he took part in the general cultural life  and scientific events with utmost interest. This is proven, amongst others, by the following publications: “Rede beim  Fichte Jubilaeum “ (1862) [speech at the Spruce anniversary ???],  “ Rede zur  fuenfzigjaehrigen  Jubelfeier der Leipziger  Voelkerschlacht” (1863) ,[Speech at the 50th anniversary of the Leipzig folks massacre ???] (1863), “Friedrich Rueckert Life and Poetry”  (1866),  “Orient and Occident”, Speech for the  Mendelssohn-Festival (1866).

 

Father was banned from his beloved Bavaria for ten years because he had all spoken too forthrightly against the Jew-envy and the affront to the Bavarian Jews!

 

In 1860 the Synagogue in Frankfurt a.M. was inaugurated, the main synagogue in the Bornheimergasse. Orthodoxy distanced itself from the main congregation. Father had veritably preached the synagogue into being – the congregation loved its Rabbi and the youth hung veritably with innermost adoration on their teacher. But he was also the teacher of the youth with all his heart and internal joy!

 

While father had insisted to retain control of Religious studies in the school, while demanding a seat and a voice in all synagogue matters and committees, a demand which is now afforded to every Rabbi without question, the Governing body was not unanimous in its response to these demands and their relationship to him. Our father had to endure difficult battles. It was difficult for him, very difficult, but he could not give in! in 1862 he resigned his position. The Congregation were reluctant to let him go, fought long for him in the hope that no other Rabbi would agree to the position without these demands, and that thus Stein would remain for them after all.

 

Our father was the teacher of the youth with all his heart. Thus it was that after resigning of his position he founded, with the help of his daughters, a teaching and education establishment for girls, which quickly blossomed. The students all remember with warm love until this day at the memories of their beloved teacher! Our house, Schuetzenstrasse 10,  was converted into a school. Here our mother became the soul of the house. Just as she had cared for her children in the past she now cared for the pupils entrusted to her. In the school father taught Religion, Literature, Mythology and Composition in a rare, brilliant and popular method. The students hung on his every word!

 

In the house he held evening lectures every week in order to acquaint the students with the current historical and political events. The literary evenings at which many friends, academics and artists took part, were widely sought after and much loved.  There were readings with different participants each taking on a particular character from the piece read, of classics as well as new literary  creations, which were afterwards discussed. As an introduction and after the completion of such a work father, or one of the academics gave an illuminating talk. Whoever saw father on a Friday night at the family table, full of joyful homeliness [Gemuetlichkeit] and buoyancy, would really get to know his nature and learn to love him. To hear him sing each week his Sabbath songs was a hearts delight! Most of these songs came into being during the Swiss trips and are  versed along the old Jewish melodies – Above all, however he earned great recognition by rearranging an old German Passover celebration in accordance with the current times.  He reworked the Hagada and its songs in line with the old Jewish Seder melodies. Without doubt this celebration would have remained an unforgettable event for whoever has experienced a Seder Evening with our father. Particularly so with the concluding songs from which developed a retrospective look at all the happy and serious family events of the year! – the consecration of the Seder and the Friday Evenings, such as the haunting prayer before departing the house on the eve of the Day of Atonement left a permanent impression throughout the year on the children.

 

The Institute became larger year by year so that the space in the Schuetzenstrasse became too small. In 1865 the parents bought a property with garden on the Mainzer Landstrasse, and our mother supervised the entire alterations on her own as well as the move itself. The impression remains unforgettable for us when on the evening of 20 November 1866 she showed us the festively lit, practical and comfortable house. Here the good woman overexerted herself. (At lunchtime she mostly shared her food with the workers forgetting herself). This was partly the cause for her later illness. The new house, the nice garden and the upkeep for house and the children, which all belonged as part of a large family, gave much pleasure to our beloved mother despite the hard work. During the holidays she went to her beloved Koenigstein, onto the Oil mill, at that time still a small farmhouse, and collected new energy and strength for her selfless,  able and hard-working life. Our father spent his vacations for the previous 28 years up to 1870 each year in a different location and in a different part of Switzerland.  He loved Switzerland and the Swiss people above all else. There he sought mostly a small cottage, and lived there in friendship with the folk. The people enjoyed interacting with him and  admired him. Sadly only a few booklets of his so wonderful and brilliant Swiss diaries have survived. How intensively he was tangled with nature can be seen from his much adorned sermons and his so wonderful Swiss poems. For the Friday nights each week came a dear letter with pressed Swiss flowers at the top, full of poetry. From 1870 on Father went regularly to Ragaz and in Tarapsp [?????] because of his health.  In the last years of his life he went to  Nauheim.

 

Our father felt very well in his new profession, and freed of all compulsions was now able to unfurl all his reforming intellect. He worked diligently at the reforming of Judaism, was active literally and acted as a benefactor for the poor and oppressed in the town and the community. His activity in the field of Welfare was well known in the Polytechnic Company of which he was a co-founder, and the “Achava” – the Jewish charitable body  which he also co-founded.  There were also several Teacher and support organisations. He held a private Sabbath Service at home each week at which many of his friends participated. Out of these devotional hours the Western-Union was created in 1866, a place of worship in the Niederau,  founded and financed by a number of American and Frankfurter friends and admirers of our father. Here he was able to give the Reform movement a free reign, and he introduced a Reform prayer service at which he always found joy and satisfaction. He improved the prayer books for the Sabbath and Festive days and added a second volume, a prayer book for New Year and the Day of Atonement, which enriched those days for us each year and which brings the spirit of our father to us each year. (This prayer book, already introduced in Dresden for decades, was re-issued by the Dresdner Congregation this year). Apart from this a number of Sermon collections appeared, “ Der Kampf des Lebens”,   [“The fight of Life”], “Aus dem Westen”  [“Out of the West”] and numerous others.

 

On 21 December 1869 our wonderful and beloved mother died after a 10-month long illness.  Now she would have been able to enjoy the fruits of her labour without worries, and we, her daughters, who all found honest and capable husbands, could have fostered and nursed her and could have beautified her life. She was the mst precious and exemplary of women. Her children and children’s-children should be proud of her. Keep her memory precious and honoured!

 

In the year 1875 our father relinquished the boarding school and sold the house on Mainzer Landstrasse 53 (now the extended Westendstrasse and access to the Railway station). He now lived entirely for his literary activities and worked undisturbed at the “Schrift des Lebens”,  [ Scripture of Life”], a religious – philosophical reformation work, with which he created a permanent memorial to himself. The “Schrift des Lebens” consists of three volumes. The third volume, which we found in manuscript format, was published by us this year with the generous help of Dr. Seligmann. Both of the first volumes are, sadly, out of print. We hope, if there is a demand, to re-issue them soon.  Dr. Seligmann writes about “Die Schrift des Lebens”  in an article in the Frankfurter Zeitung on 2,December 1907, „is Stein’s personal work, a book full of live quaintness, full of energy and beauty, a commitment to life in which the stormy and stressful period of the Jewish reform movement is reflected as nowhere else”. A small, compact extract of the second volume of the Life work “Thorat Chayim, guidance to the Jewish Religious Law, how the present-day Jew has to organize his life in accordance with the requirements of his Religion” appeared in 1877, and this small volume should be of great service to the contemporary efforts of liberal Judaism.

 

In 1880 our father had to relinquish his position of Preacher at the Western-Union because of his failing health. The members of the small congregation to this day hang on with love, adoration and remembrance on their Dear Doctor Stein. He now lived in reclusiveness in the circle of his family, delighted in his children and splendid grandchildren!  On 5.November 1880 he still had a day of delightful recognition in that his friends and admirers festively celebrated his 70th birthday together with the 50th anniversary of his taking office. Numerous deputations of charitable institutions, of which he had been a member and in part their founder, marked the day with speeches, and through poetic dedications. He was pleased the most by the warm and artistically presented Address of our devoted Congregation in Burgkunstadt!  This celebration gave him an uplifting and joyous memory for the rest of his life.

 

Our dear father died on 2.December 1882. He had lived and fought for Judaism whose pure teaching he loved with all his might and with all his heart! He helped to bring Judaism a new Spring after a long bleak winter, and stood up for his convictions with speech, writing, deeds and honesty. He lived generations too early. All the thoughts and aspirations, which the energetic pioneers of liberal Judaism today put on their banners and for which they strive, had already been stipulated by him in his literary works and confirmed by him in his actions. He had to endure severe storms for this, but as a poet author and preacher he had always remained true to himself in all his battles and storms until his death. The participation at his passing showed how beloved he had been to people near and far. He was a man of the Word in the fullest meaning of the phrase. The following words, which he had written to be put as an inscription on his grave, are for him a wonderful monument:

 

My bequest:

“I declare the world-redeeming, world-binding doctrine of one God, may his name be praised! This Doctrine excludes all exceptions, while it encompasses all people into a single brotherhood!

A single God and only one Humanity! His proclamation was the aim of my life, is my bequest in death”