Hildesheimer Rabbinical Seminary

The Hildesheimer Rabbinical Seminary ("Rabbiner Seminar für das Orthodoxe Judenthum") was founded in Berlin on 22 October 1873 by Rabbi Dr. Azriel Hildesheimer for the training of rabbis in the tradition of Orthodox Judaism.


In accepting the call as rabbi of the Berlin Orthodox party in 1869 A. Hildesheimer stipulated that he should be allowed to continue his activities as rabbinical teacher just as he had done at his former rabbinical office in Eisenstadt, Hungary. After delivering lectures which attracted a great many pupils, he addressed ten prominent persons in different parts of Germany in 1872, and explained to them the necessity of organizing an Orthodox rabbinical seminary at Berlin. These men at once took up the subject, and a central committee was formed, which included Oberrath J. Altmann of Karlsruhe, Rabbi Dr. Auerbach of Halberstadt, Chief Rabbi Dr. Solomon Cohn of Schwerin, A. H. Heymann (a banker) of Berlin, Gustav Hirsch of Berlin, Sally Lewisohn of Hamburg, and Emanuel Schwarzschild of Frankfurt-am-Main.

The seminary was dedicated on 22 October 1873. At the opening of the institution the faculty included the rector, Dr. Israel Hildesheimer, and two lecturers, Dr. David Hoffmann (for the Talmud, ritual codices, and Pentateuch exegesis) and Dr. A. Berliner (for post-Talmudic history, history of literature, and auxiliary sciences). In 1874 Dr. Jacob Barth, subsequently son-in-law of Hildesheimer, was added to the faculty as lecturer in Hebrew, exegesis of the Bible with the exception of the Pentateuch, and religious philosophy. Dr. Hirsch Hildesheimer, son of the founder and a graduate of the seminary, was appointed in 1882 lecturer in Jewish history and the geography of Palestine. When Dr. Solomon Cohn removed to Berlin from Schwerin in 1876 he took charge of the courses in theoretic and practical homiletics, continuing them until he went to Breslau in 1894.

By this time the attendance had greatly increased, and owing to the large number of pupils at the institution it became necessary to employ a new teacher; accordingly in 1895 Dr. J. Wohlgemuth, a former pupil, was appointed. After the death of the founder, Dr. Hildesheimer, on 12 June 1899, Rabbi David Z. Hoffmann was elected rector of the institution. Hoffmann was succeeded by Rabbi Avrohom Eliyahu Kaplan, a graduate of the Slabodka Yeshiva and a brilliant talmudist. Kaplan died young however after only four years as rector. He was succeeded by Rabbi Jechiel Jakob Weinberg, the last rector of the Seminary. The Seminary was closed by the Nazis in 1938.


The seminary was divided into an upper and a lower division. Pupils in the lower division followed a two year course, being promoted to the upper division on passing an examination; but pupils who had qualified in the principal branches were immediately admitted to the upper division. The course in this division lasted four years. The conditions for admission to the seminary included the following: (1) the candidate had to prove by examination that he was able to understand a moderately difficult Talmudic text, Rashi and the Tosafot; (2) as regards the secular sciences he had either to have a certificate of graduation from a classical "Gymnasium" or to be able to show that he was fitted for the graduating class of such a "Gymnasium". At the end of the course, pupils who left the institution as qualified rabbis had pass special examinations showing that aside from their attainments in the various branches of Jewish science they were sufficiently familiar with the ritual codices to decide correctly on ritual and religio-legal questions.


* 1873-1899 - Dr. Azriel Hildesheimer (1820-1899)
* 1899-1920 - Dr. David Zvi Hoffmann (1843-1921)
* 1920-1934 - Rabbi Avrohom Eliyahu Kaplan (1890-1934)
* 1934-1938 - Dr. Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg (1878-1966)


* Dr. Jacob Barth, lecturer for Hebrew language
* Dr. Abraham Berliner (1833-1915), lecturer for Jewish history and literature
* Dr. Solomon Cohn, lecturer for theoretic and practical homiletics
* Dr. Hirsch Hildesheimer, lecturer in Jewish history and geography of Palestine
* Dr. J. Wohlgemuth

Famous alumni

Among the Seminary's graduates were:

* Prof. Dr. Alexander Altmann (1906-1987), Chief Rabbi of Trier, founder of the Institute of Jewish Studies at University College London, and longtime professor at Brandeis University
* Dr. Eduard Baneth (1855-1930), lecturer at the "Lehranstalt für die Wissenschaft des Judentums" ("Institute for the Study of Judaism") in Berlin
* Dr. Eliezer Berkovits (1908-1992), rabbi, theologian and author
* Pinchas Biberfeld, (1915-1999), Chief Rabbi of Munich and Rosh Kollel of Zlatipol-Chortkov
* Dr. Joseph Zvi Carlebach (1883-1942), Chief Rabbi of Luebeck, Altona and Hamburg
* Josef Hirsch Dunner (1913-2007), Chief Rabbi of East Prussia, head of the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations, European President of Agudath Israel
* Prof. Dr. Israel Friedländer, professor at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York
* Dr. David Herzog, lecturer at the University of Prague
* Dr. Hirsch Hildesheimer, lecturer in Jewish history of the Seminary
* Prof. Dr. Hartwig Hirschfeld (1854-1934), lecturer for Judaeo-Arabic studies at the Jews' College, London, translator of the Kuzari into English
* Dr. David Zvi Hoffmann (1843-1921) Rector of the Seminary (successor of Hildesheimer)
* Dr. Jacob Horowitz, lecturer at the University of Berlin
* Dr. Leo Jung (1892-1987), rabbi and influential figure of American Orthodox Judaism
* Prof. Dr. Alexander Marx (1878-1953), professor at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York
* Shlomo Wolbe (1914-2005), rabbi and Mashgiach of Yeshivas Be'er and Lakewood Yeshiva in Israel


* [http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=34&letter=R&search=RABBINER%20SEMINAR The Jewish Encyclopedia: "RABBINER SEMINAR FÜR DAS ORTHODOXE JUDENTHUM"]
*Harvard reference | Surname=Shapiro | Given=Marc B. | Title=Between the Yeshiva World and Modern Orthodoxy: The Life and Works of Rabbi Jehiel Jacob Weinberg, 1884–1966 | Publisher=Littman | Place=Oxford | Year=2002 | URL=.

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