Rabbi Abraham Blum: Third Rabbi of Congregation B’nai B’rith, Los Angeles

Rabbi Abraham Blum

Abraham Blum, the 3rd rabbi of Congregation B’nai B’rith in his later years

Values Codes I – H – E – L – P

 

Rabbi Abraham Blum was born in Gutzenheim, near Strasbourg, in Alsace in 1843, when the province was under French rule.

He received rabbinic training at the Rabbinical School at Niederbronn, graduating at the age of 17.

 

Along the way 

Rabbi Blum arrived in the United States in 1866.

He served synagogues in Ohio and Galveston, Texas.

He spent fourteen years in Galveston, where he also received a medical degree from a local college.

 

Los Angeles

Abraham Blum arrived in Los Angeles in 1889 and assumed the position of 3rd rabbi of Congregation B’nai B’rith (now Wilshire Boulevard Temple).

During his time in Los Angele, the city was going through a serious economic downturn that affected the synagogue, as well as relations between the rabbi and its Board of Directors.

To help matters, the rebbitzin (rabbi’s wife), Hanna Henrigues Blum, took on the tasks of the synagogue’s school principal, making her the first rebbitzin to be involved in the workings of the Temple.

She built the Sunday School attendance up to 132 children.

Rabbi Blum re-activated the Associated Charities of Los Angelesoriginally organized by Rabbi Dr. Emmanuel Schreiber before him. Times were difficult again in Los Angeles.

The 2nd Building of Congregation B’nai B’rith, where Rabbi Blum served

Rabbi Blum is also credited with performing the first conversion to Judaism in Los Angeles, that of Edward Kinney.

The Synagogue continued its drift toward more Reform services, and some “Orthodox” members finally left, placing a bigger strain on the finances of the synagogue.

The board was forced to discontinue the choir and let go of its organist.

Rabbi Blum fueled board discontent when they discovered he had applied for a part-time job as a French teacher at the Los Angeles High School.

In 188, the rabbi and the board agreed that he should leave “gracefully” after one more year.

However, after the next High Holy Days, Blum refused to leave. He was dismissed in 1885.

Leaving California, Rabbi Blum moved to New York City where he made a good name for himself.

He became the rabbi of both Bellevue and Lebanon Hospitals, head of the Board of Jewish Ministers, and most important, the First Jewish Chaplain of the New York Police Department from 1911 to 1921.

Recently, on the 100th anniversary of the NYPD Jewish Chaplaincy, Rabbi Abraham Blum was honored as the “Founder of the NYPD Jewish Chaplaincy” in a special event at 1 Police Plaza. The Western States Jewish History Association helped with both information and photographs that were part of that special day.

 

Civic

The Blums invested in real estate, acquiring a 1/2 block on 77th street in Manhattan.

 

Fraternal

Rabbi Blum was a member of Orange Lodge #224 of B’nai B’rith and served as its Vice-President.

 

Family

Abraham Blum married Hanna Henrigues in Galveston in 1871

They had two sons: Jacques and Ralph.

Rabbi Abraham Blum passed away in 1921.

Sources

  • Reva Clar and William M. Kramer, “Rabbi Abraham Blum: From Alsace to New York by Way of Texas and California, Part 1,” Western States Historical Quarterly 12/1
  • Reva Clar and William M. Kramer, “Rabbi Abraham Blum: From Alsace to New York by Way of Texas and California, Part 2,” Western States Jewish Historical Quarterly 12/2.
  • Reva Clar and William M. Kramer, “Rabbi Abraham Blum: From Alsace to New York by Way of Texas and California, Part 3,” Western StatesHistorical Quarterly 12/3.