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.