Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Lyon, Hart

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LYON, HART (more correctly Hirsch Löbel or Lewin) (1721–1800), chief rabbi, born at Resha, Poland, in 1721, was son of Rabbi Arjeh Löb (1690–1755), by his wife, a daughter of Rabbi Lewi Ashkenasi, called Chacham Lewi. His father, a well-known Jewish theologian, was rabbi successively of Resha, Glogau, and Amsterdam. At an early age the son distinguished himself by his knowledge of rabbinical literature, and wrote in 1751 with much vigour against Rabbi Jonathan Eybeschütz, who was regarded as an adherent of the Polish Pseudo-Messiah, Sabbathai Zewi. After the death of Aaron Hart [q. v.] in 1756 he was elected chief rabbi of the London congregation of German and Polish Jews, and assumed office in the next year. He was known in this country as Hart Lyon. In 1760 there was published at Altona a Hebrew work by Jacob Kimchi, entitled ‘Shaalah-u-Theshouvah,’ in which the officers of Lyon's synagogue entrusted with the duty of superintending the slaughter of animals by Jewish butchers were charged with neglecting the strict scriptural law. Lyon defended the orthodoxy of his officers, but the wardens of his synagogue refused him permission to make a public reply to Kimchi's charges. Lyon consequently resigned his post in 1763, and accepted an offer of the rabbinate of Halberstadt. He was afterwards called to Mannheim, and ultimately to Berlin, where he was the friend of Moses Mendelssohn, and where he died in 1800. He was both learned and witty. His name figures with that of his father and his son in ‘The Memorial of the Dead,’ which still forms part of the ritual of the chief London synagogue. A manuscript containing the commentary of Gersonides (Ralbag) on Averroes, which Mendelssohn gave him in 1773, is preserved in the London Beth Hammidrash (Neubauer, Cat. No. 43), together with three manuscript volumes of rabbinical ‘Responsa’ by himself (ib. Nos. 24–6). A portrait by Turner was engraved by Fisher.

The son, called Rabbi Saul Berlin (d. 1790), published at Berlin ‘Mizpah yokteel,’ an attack on a learned Talmudical work by Rabbi Raphael Cohen, and a collection of rabbinical ‘Responsa,’ which he falsely pretended to print from the manuscript of an early rabbi, Asher ben Jechiel. The fraud caused him to leave Berlin for London, where he died 19 June 1790 (Steinschneider, Catalogue, p. 2505).

[Dr. H. Adler on the Chief Rabbis of England, in Papers read at the Anglo-Jewish Exhibition (1887), pp. 278, 280–4; Landshuth's Berliner Rabbiner; Graetz's Geschichte der Juden, xi. 45 sq.; Carmoly's Revue Orientale, iii. 219; Auerbach's Geschichte der Israelit. Gemeinde Halberstadt, pp. 89 sq.]