Mojżesz Schorr (standing, center) at a gathering organized by the Institute for Judaic Studies in memory of Felix Warburg, president of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, Warsaw, 1937. Photograph by Leo Forbert. (YIVO)

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Schorr, Mojżesz

(1874–1941), historian, Semitic-language scholar, and rabbi. Born in Przemyśl, Galicia, Mojżesz (Mosheh) Schorr studied philosophy and history between 1893 and 1898 in Vienna at the University of Vienna and the Israelitisch-Theologische Lehranstalt. In 1897, he transferred to the University of Lwów and received his Ph.D. in history in 1898. Two years later he was ordained as a rabbi.

A founder of Polish Jewish historiography, Schorr’s scholarly research focused on the pre-partition organization of Jewish self-government and the history of the Jews of Przemyśl. His pathbreaking doctoral dissertation, “The Organization of the Jews in Poland from the Earliest Times until 1772,” was published in Lwów in 1899. He described Jewish autonomy, based primarily on the Polish legal system, as a special phenomenon that was particularly advantageous for the development of Jewish culture and literature. In 1903, he published an additional monograph on the subject of his hometown, Żydzi w Przemyślu (The Jews of Przemyśl), on its history to the end of the eighteenth century. Changing the focus of his studies, in 1902–1903 Schorr pursued ancient Near Eastern studies in Berlin and Vienna.

From Mojżesz Schorr on behalf of the Provisional Representation of Polish Jewry in Warsaw to the Board of Deputies of British Jews in London, 10 December 1937, assuring them that Jewish medical students in Poland have an adequate number of Jewish cadavers to practice on despite reports and rumors to the contrary. English. Typed. Polish, Yiddish, Hebrew, and English letterhead listing members of organization's executive. RG 107, Letters Collection. (YIVO)

After receiving his doctorate, Schorr taught Jewish religion at the Secondary School and Teachers Seminary for Men in Lwów. In 1904, he helped to found the Union of Jewish Religion Teachers in Galicia, becoming its first chair (and, in 1923, its honorary president). In 1905, he participated in the Seventh Zionist Congress in Basel, and in that same year he married Tamara Benjacob, daughter of the publisher and bibliographer Isaac Benjacob. In 1910, Schorr became an assistant professor and in 1916 a full professor of Semitic languages and history of the ancient Orient at the University of Lwów. In 1923, he was invited to Warsaw to succeed Shemu’el Poznański as rabbi of the progressive Tłomackie Street Synagogue, and to serve as a member of the Warsaw rabbinical council.

Schorr was active on the Central Committee of Care for Jewish Orphans in Lwów and the Jewish Rescue Committee. A member of B’nai B’rith, he became head of its lodge in Lwów in 1921 and in 1924–1925 he headed the Brotherhood lodge in Warsaw. In addition, he initiated the creation of the Montefiore lodge in Łódź.

In interwar Poland, Schorr worked on the School Council of the Warsaw Jewish Community and joined the State Examination Commission for lecturers in Jewish religious subjects. From 1929 on, he was among the leaders of the Jewish Agency in Poland and belonged to the association Friends of Hebrew University and to the board of the Keren Hayesod in Poland. From 1935 to 1938, he served as an appointed member of the Polish Senate, defending the rights of Polish Jewry.

In 1923 Schorr became a professor of Semitic languages at Warsaw University. He was a member of various scholarly associations, including the Polish Academy of Sciences. In 1928, he was the founding rector of the Institute for Judaic Studies in Warsaw, also lecturing there in Hebrew philology and the Bible. In 1937, he received an honorary doctorate from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York.

Following the outbreak of World War II, Schorr fled to the east. When the NKVD arrested him in Ostróg in October 1939, the Polish government-in-exile’s attempts to have him released proved unsuccessful. In May 1941, Schorr was sentenced to five years of forced labor and died in a camp in Uzbekistan on 8 July 1941.

Suggested Reading

Artur Eisenbach, “Jewish Historiography in Interwar Poland,” in The Jews of Poland Between Two World Wars, ed. Yisrael Gutman, Ezra Mendelsohn, Jehuda Reinharz, and Chone Shmeruk, pp. 453–493 (Hanover, N.H., 1989); Philip Friedman, “Polish Jewish Historiography between the Two Wars,” in Roads to Extinction: Essays on the Holocaust (New York and Philadelphia, 1980); Jacob Goldberg, “Mojżesz Schorr pionier badań dziejów Żydów polskich,” in Żydzi w Przemyślu, by Moses Schorr, pp. 9–22 (Jerusalem, 1991), translated into German as “Moses Schorr: Pionier der Erforschung der polnischen Juden,” Judaica 51.2 (1995): 83–96; Księga jubileuszowa ku czci Prof. Dr. Mojżesza Schorra (Warsaw, 1935); Rafał Żebrowski, “Mojżesz Schorr: Wybitny lider Żydów Polskich,” in Mojżesz Schorr i jego listy do Ludwika Gumplowicza, pp. 13–58 (Warsaw, 1994).

YIVO Archival Resources

RG 499, Moshe Schorr, Papers, 1940s.