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Magnes, Judah Leon (05 July 1877–27 October 1948), rabbi, communal leader, and first chancellor and first president of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, was born in San Francisco, California, the eldest of five children of David Magnes and Sophie Abrahamson. His father had emigrated from Poland at age fifteen in 1863 and his mother from eastern Prussia in 1872. When Magnes was five, the family moved to nearby Oakland, California, where his father opened a dry-goods store. The Magneses were a close-knit family. English was the language of the home, although Magnes’s mother and maternal grandmother insisted that the children learn German. The family belonged to the local Reformed congregation, where Magnes received his early religious education. From his father he gained an empathy for the Jewish religious traditions and Yiddish culture of Eastern Europe and from his mother a grounding in German culture. In later life his appreciation for both religious-cultural strands in American Jewish life made him an ideal mediator between the two....

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Zhitlowsky, Hayim (1865–06 May 1943), philosopher and theoretician of Jewish socialism, diaspora nationalism, and Yiddish culture, was born in Uschatchi, a small town near Vitebsk, Russia, the son of Yosef Zhitlowsky, a successful flax merchant, and Hava Hasia Weinstein. His father, a child prodigy, combined rabbinical learning with hasidic pietism and business acumen with devotion to modern Jewish enlightenment. Zhitlowsky disliked the traditional Jewish elementary education he received in ...