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Cyrus Adler Edit Profile

educator , religious leader and scholar

Cyrus Adler, American educator, Jewish religious leader and scholar.


ADLER, Cyrus was born on September 13, 1863 in Van Buren, Arkansas, United States. Son of Samuel Adler and Sarah Sulzberger. Cyrus Adler was taken by his family to Philadelphia when he was four, after his father died.


After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, he studied Assyriology and taught Semitics at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore.


Adler visited the Far East as special commissioner of the World’s Columbian Exposition and became librarian at the Smithsonian Institute in 1892. In the same year he founded the American Jewish Historical Society and served as its president for more than two decades, having played a part in the establishment of the Jewish Publication Society of America, whose committees he chaired and whose Hebrew press he instituted.

His commitment to Jewish scholarship was further expressed as editor of the first seven volumes of the American Jewish Year Book (1899-1905) and of a department of the Jewish Encyclopedia (1901-1906).

Adler played a central role in the early reorganization of New York’s Conservative Jewish Theological Seminary of America at the beginning of the 20th century, chairing its board of trustees with Solomon Schechter as its president. After assuming the presidency following Schechter’s death, he led the building campaign for new facilities. Concurrently, he took on the presidency of Dropsie College in Philadelphia, for which he edited the Jewish Quarterly Review, and, eventually the presidency of the United Synagogue of America, having been among its founders in 1913.

An organizer of the American Jewish Commitee, Adler was called to chair its executive, to represent it at the Paris Peace Conference, and to become its president at the beginning of the Great Depression. Adler’s frequent clashes w'ith the American Zionist establishment did not prevent him from participating in the Jewish Agency for Palestine, which was founded in 1929.

Adler’s rare talents of far-reaching vision and tireless, exacting administration combined with his scholarship both in Jewish and general (including governmental) areas of expertise served to make him a pivotal figure in bringing the needs of the American Jewish community to the attention of the philanthropists of his day. The organizational network that he helped to found continues to represent and shape American Jewry today.


  • In 1892 he founded the American Jewish Historical Society.

    An editor of the Jewish Encyclopedia, the American Jewish Year Book (1899-1906), and Jewish Quarterly Review (1910-1940)


  • Clubs: Cosmos, Washington; University, Baltimore; University, Philadelphia; Pliilmont, Philadelphia.


Sarah Sulzberger