Rabbi Leopold STEIN's
200th birthday
5th November 2010




We have had some incredibly moving experiences in Germany during the past few weeks!

Let’s start with the weekend of 4-8 November 2010.

We travelled to Furth in Bavaria where we met the charming Daniela Eisenstein, Director and Curator of the Jewish Museum there.  We wanted to interest her in either doing a special exhibition about Rabbi Leopold Stein or, at the very least, a permanent small exhibit in the museum.  We had brought along several of Rabbi Leopold Stein’s books including his poems and his drama about the Maccabees.  We also told Daniela about Leopold’s eldest son, my great grandfather Dr Sigmund Theodore Stein. 

Leopold was one of the foremost Reform Rabbis of his time.  Born in 1810, he became the Rabbi in Frankfurt in 1843.  Unfortunately he fell out with his congregation mainly over his wish to create a school for girls but also because they asked him to keep out of the politics, presumably synagogue politics.  We have three letters from the well-known Rabbi Abraham Geiger to his friend Leopold.  At the time of his writing (1861 – 1863) Geiger was the Rabbi in Breslau and begged Leopold not to give up his post in Frankfurt.  Later Geiger became the Rabbi in Frankfurt, replacing Leopold Stein!

Leopold’s son Sigmund wanted to become a doctor.  Leopold wouldn’t hear of it – “what, cut up cadavers!!” He wasn’t that liberal after all.  So Sigmund studied science till his 21st birthday, when he switched to medicine!
The result was that Sigmund combined his two skills and became an amazing inventor, including work on polaroid photography (heliopiktor) and electricity, as well as the forerunner of the ECG (sphygmophon).  He published several works – about the use of the microscope using electric light, and the art of optical projection for scientific teaching.  He also edited the Electrotechnical Review for many years.

We also showed Daniela letters written to or by Sigmund.  Her enthusiasm and excitement fired us up even more.  We were so delighted with her very positive response to these two interesting men. 

Sadly the museum has a funding crisis – what a surprise!! and it might take some time till our dream of an exhibit comes true.

From there we travelled to the home of Josef Motschmann, a theologian with a great interest and love for Leopold Stein.  We were invited to stay in his home for the two nights we were there, where we had the opportunity of getting to know his charming family as well.

On Sunday 7th November we travelled with them to Altenkunstadt, the place where Rabbi Leopold Stein had his first Rabbinate (from 1835-1843).  5th November had been the 200th anniversary of Leopold’s birth and Josef Motschmann had organised a commemoration in the rebuilt synagogue.  This proved to be a most moving experience, particularly for me.
David, Oliver Samhaber and I represented the family and, as part of the warm welcome which we all received, I was introduced as the great great granddaughter of Leopold.  My grandmother, who was the granddaughter and who had spent much of her life ensuring that the memory of both Leopold and Sigmund was maintained, would have been so touched by the whole event.

70 people, none of them Jewish, listened in rapt attention to Josef speaking about Leopold’s life.
In a melodious, sonorous voice he read from Leopold’s works including several poems.  In this way it was as if Leopold Stein was talking directly to us.  This was interspersed by beautiful music played on the harp.  At the end he also included information about Sigmund, who lived the first 3 years of his life in this small town.   

This whole experience of the wonderment of how some Germans won’t let the Jewish heritage die had begun two weeks previously when we travelled with friends to the town of Dahn in the Pfalz.  In a Catholic church, televised by a local station, the Jews of the area, who 70 years previously had been taken by the Nazis to the concentration camp of Gurs, were honoured and remembered.  Before we went, we looked on our data and found out that 14 of our own family members were amongst them.  This included David’s cousin Jack Lewin, who had in fact escaped from there and whom we met several times in recent years.  Jack’s parents died in Gurs, as did many of our other family.  (We could find no Stein members in the list. Do you know of any?).
After the moving telling of the events and the reading of a letter from one of the inmates, outlining the horrors of being in a concentration camp, the names of the local people were read out.  For every one of them who died a small candle was lit and placed in a circle on the table. 
At that point, my tears were unstoppable.

We wanted to share with you, our beloved Stein family members, these experiences which have humbled us in their magnitude. 

- Sylvia Lewin



OBERMAIN-TAGBLATT - Dienstag, 9. November 2010


KUNSTADT UND DER JURA - Dienstag, 9 November 2010


We made the Press!

Auf den Spuren jüdischer Vorfahren - Rhön-Grabfeld Nachrichten -
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Hassberge - 16 Juni 2010 - Für „Preppich" einst viel gelestet

Ebern - report in the local newspaper of our visit