Friday, April 2, 2021

Abraham Feinberg: The activist Rabbi

Abraham Feinberg (1899 –1986) was an American rabbi who lived much of his life in Canada.

In his obituary, the New York Times declared about him: "He was always ready to march, lend his name or send a telegram if there was a protest for disarmament or for a treaty on a nuclear test ban, or against racism in South Africa, radical injustice in America and United States policy in Vietnam".

Feinberg was born in Bellaire, the son of Ashkenazim immigrants from Grinkishki (modern Grinkiškis, Lithuania) in the Russian empire.

Bellaire was an impoverished coal-mining town located on the Ohio river across from Wheeling, West Virginia and Feinberg grew up in poverty. He found himself shocked by the mistreatment of the black residents of Bellaire when he was growing up. One day, he saw a young black boy known as Skeets being pelted with stones and garbage on the streets. When Skeets attempted to swim across the Ohio to escape his tormentors, he was hit on the head by a rock and drowned. His childhood experiences left him with a strong sympathy for Afro-Americans as fellow victims of prejudice, and throughout his life he was a champion of civil rights.

An intellectual prodigy, Feinberg graduated from high school at the age of 14. After graduating, he went to work as a menial laborer while saving up enough money to attend university.

He was educated at the University of Cincinnati, where he earned a bachelor of arts degree in 1920. In 1924, he was ordained a rabbi at the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati.

Much more on the colourful career and life of Rabbi Feinberg can be read here.

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