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Jastrow, Markus

(1829–1903), rabbi, political activist, and academic. Born in Rogasen (Pol., Rogoźno) near Poznań, Markus (Mordekhai) Jastrow received a traditional Jewish education from the local rabbi, Moses Feilchenfeld, and a secular education at the town’s elementary school. He later attended the Friedrich-Wilhelm Gymnasium in Poznań. In 1852, he began his studies in philosophy at the University of Berlin and in 1856 earned a doctorate from the University of Halle. He received rabbinic ordination in 1853.

In 1858, at the recommendation of Heinrich Graetz, Jastrow was appointed preacher of the so-called German synagogue on Daniłowiczowska Street in Warsaw, one of two “progressive” synagogues in Warsaw at the time. As spiritual leader, he introduced Polish-language sermons (a landmark change for his congregation) and implemented numerous educational activities to spur on Jewish youth in the spirit of Polish patriotism and integration.

Jastrow also acted against the Russian occupation. In 1861, he participated in the funeral of five Catholic demonstrators, and later that year shut his synagogue in solidarity with the closing of synagogues and churches in Warsaw caused by the profanation of a church by Russian soldiers. He was one of three rabbis arrested for such activities and after three months was deported to Prussia.

As the political situation changed, Jews in Warsaw facilitated Jastrow’s return. After three months working as a rabbi in Mannheim, Jastrow returned to Warsaw in 1862. He then took part in preparations for the uprising of January 1863 and was highly regarded in Polish circles. However, after he visited Berlin later that year Prussian authorities refused to issue him a passport to return to Warsaw. Jastrow then served as rabbi in Worms from 1864 to 1866. There he witnessed conflicts in the community and was himself investigated by the police. When an opportunity to take a position in the United States arrived, he gladly accepted it.

From 1866 Jastrow served in Philadelphia as rabbi of the Hebrew German Congregation Rodef Shalom, where he initiated some moderate religious reforms. As an academic, he taught and was the provost of Maimonides College in that city. He was an editor for the Bible translation project at the Jewish Publication Society as well as the Talmud section of the Jewish Encyclopedia. His most celebrated work is A Dictionary of the Targumim, The Talmud Babli and Yerushalmi, and the Midrashic Literature (1903).

Suggested Reading

Eric L. Friedland, “Marcus Jastrow and Abodath Israel,” in “Were Our Mouths Filled with Song”: Studies in Liberal Jewish Liturgy, pp. 55–69 (Cincinnati, 1997); Michał Galas, “Einmal Warschau-Mannheim und zurück: Rabbiner Marcus Mordechaj Jastrow zum hundertsten Todestag,” Judaica 59.4 (2003): 289–298; Natan Michael Gelber, “Dr. Mordekhai (Marcus) Yastrov,” He-‘Avar 11 (1964): 7–26; Magdalena Opalski and Israel Bartal, Poles and Jews: A Failed Brotherhood (Hanover, N.H., 1992); Amram David Werner, “Memorial Address on the Tenth Anniversary of the Reverend Doctor Marcus Jastrow Rabbi Emeritus of the Congregation Rodef Shalom by . . . (delivered at the Synagogue of the Congregation Rodef Shalom, October 23, 1913)” ([Philadelphia], 1913).