Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Hirschel, Solomon

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HIRSCHEL, SOLOMON (1761–1842), chief rabbi, born in London in 1761, was son of Rabbi Hirsch Levin Berliner, at the time chief rabbi of the Great Synagogue. His father, who was lineally connected with many eminent Jewish rabbis in Germany or Poland, was appointed to the chief rabbinate of Halberstadt in 1765, and subsequently to that of Berlin. While at Berlin Rabbi Hirsch joined Moses Mendelssohn, at the request of Frederick the Great, in translating the rabbinical code of Jewish ordinances into German. Solomon Hirschel left England with his father in 1765, zealously applied himself to biblical and Talmudical study, married at the age of seventeen, and in 1793 became chief rabbi of Prenzlau in Prussia. In 1802 he succeeded Tewele Schiff, as chief rabbi of the German and Polish congregation of Jews in London. He performed the duties of his office for forty years with much wisdom and tact. Under his rule the Jewish community in England was emancipated from almost all legal disabilities. Hirschel was a pious observer of Jewish customs, and was much troubled in his old age by the cry raised by a section of his congregation for a reformed ritual. The agitation led to a secession in the last year of his life. Some of his sermons were printed; one on the death of Nelson in 1805 attests his simple faith and political loyalty. His latest published sermon is dated 1837. He died in London on 31 Oct. 1842, and was buried in the Jewish cemetery in the Mile End Road on 2 Nov., amid notable demonstrations of respect. A memorial sermon preached by Henry Hawkes at Portsmouth on 27 Nov. 1842, and published in 1843, proves the veneration felt for him throughout the country. His library was purchased for the Beth Hammidrash, London, where it is still preserved. Hirschel was of very dignified presence, and his portrait, painted by Barlin, was engraved by Holl. He left four sons and four daughters, twenty-eight grandchildren, and twenty-four great-grandchildren.

[European Mag. March 1811 (with portrait); Picciotto's Sketches of Anglo-Jewish Hist. pp. 307–10; Dr. H. Adler on the Chief Rabbis of England, in papers read at the Anglo-Jewish Exhibition, 1888, p. 287; Voice of Jacob, 11 Nov. 1842; Morais's Eminent Israelites, pp. 142–4; Jewish World, 16 Jan. 1888 (pedigree).]