The Shofar Call To My Memories

By Emil G. Hirsch III

82 years ago I stood on this Sinai’s bimah, then on Grand Boulevard and 46th Street, with 132 other fourteen-year-old boys and girls, and was confirmed in  our Jewish faith by Rabbi Dr. Louis Mann. 

I recall at the beginning of the Jewish year on Rosh Hashanah in 1939, for the  first time attending high holiday services with my grandmother Hirsch who  had assigned seats on the left center aisle about ten rows back. The  prayerbook we prayed from was the English translation by my grandfather  Emil, of the prayerbook written in German by my grandmother’s father, Rabbi  Dr. David Einhorn; which he authored in 1855 when he came to the United  States to become Rabbi of Temple Har Sinai in Baltimore. 

At that Sinai service in 1939, many congregants introduced themselves to tell  me about my grandfather, Rabbi Dr. Emil G Hirsch, and their encounters with  him. I, much later in life as I approached old age, realized they were recalling  the personality of my grandfather as they had felt it from a quarter century  before. I feel their presence even today as I stand on this spiritual platform. 

I remember my call to Military Service as a combat infantryman and Bronze  Star medal recipient in the battles of Metz and The Bulge and on my return;

the welcoming smile of Rabbi Mann and his asking me to teach the sixth grade  of Sinai’s Religious School about the history of the Jews in the United States.  

The most spiritual experience of my life had occurred in late December in  1944 in a foxhole during our attack on the soil of Germany of the Siegfried  line. 

I remember my wife, Mary Ellen Portis, and our marriage in 1953 by Dr. Mann  in the dining room of my mother-in-law, Helen Abt Portis. 

In 1966, I remember the rabbinic visits in the hospital and at our home on  Constance Avenue in Chicago by Sinai Rabbi Dr. Samuel Karff and Rabbi Karff  sadly presiding at Mary’s funeral in May of 1966. 

The shofar calls to memory my marriage by Rabbi Karff in Sinai on South Shore  Drive to Minnie Epstein Pollack, a widow with four children, in September of  1967; and the confirmation by Rabbi Dr. Karff of my daughter, Beth, and my  stepdaughter, Joan, in 1970 and my son, Bernie, in 1972. 

In 2010 Rabbi Emeritus of Sinai, Dr. Howard Berman, invited my son Bernie  and me to accompany him and twenty rabbis to the ceremony in Seesen  Germany near Berlin, to recall the 200th anniversary of the dedication of the  opening of the first Reforms Synagogue and School and my grandfather’s and 

my two great-grandfathers roles in presenting and defending the philosophy  of the Reform Movement in Judaism. 

In 2016 Rabbi Dr. Berman was unable to attend himself but asked me to  represent him at the installation of a new young Rabbi in Luxembourg City  who was continuing the rabbinic role my great-grandfather, Chief Rabbi of  Luxembourg and German philosopher, Dr. Samuel Hirsch, assumed in 1843  when he was appointed by the king of the Netherlands to start a Jewish  community in Luxembourg. 

My parents, my wives, my grandparent’s Hirsch, and my great grandfather, Samuel and his wife, are buried in the Sinai section of the Civil  War cemetery, Rosehill, in Chicago. 

The shofar call today brings to memory the spirit of all who have lived before  us; and with us; and it summons us to begin the new Jewish year of 5753 with  our determination to help continue to civilize our world for the benefit of all  mankind. 

Amen and May God Bless All Of Us. 

Emil G. Hirsch, III

View Sinai’s 5783 Rosh HaShanah service sheet by clicking here.

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