Mordecai Ehrenpreis

Mordecai Ehrenpreis

Mordecai Ehrenpreis (later on: Marcus Ehrenpreis; 1869 - 1951) was a Hebrew author, publisher, Rabbi and Zionist.

He was born in Lviv and started already as a young man to write in Yiddish, studied later at German universities and at the Hochschule für die Wissenschaft des Judentums in Berlin. Since 1884 he worked for the Ha-Maggid and Ha-Meliz. From 1896 to 1900 he was a rabbi in Djakovar, Croatia. Still before Herzl, Ehrenpreis, Birnbaum and others were engaged to define the concept of a new national Judaism. Mordecai Ehrenpreis was an early adherent to zionism and helped Herzl to establish the first Zionist Congress. He was a member of the Democratic Faction of the World Zionist Organization and on the editorial board of the Jüdische Almanach.

From 1900 to 1914 he was in Sofia as Chief rabbi of Bulgaria and also publisher of several Spaniolic magazines. After 1908 his interest in zionism and in the Hebrew literature decreased noticeably which earned him some criticism; he devoted himself to other literary works and to his tasks as a Rabbi. From 1914 up to his death he was Chief rabbi of Stockholm.

In 1928 he founded the Judisk Tidskrift, was engaged as a translator as well as scientific writer for different encyclopaedias, since 1935 he worked as a professor at the university of Stockholm. During his time in Sweden he published some 20 books in Swedish.

Ehrenpreis, in his texts, emphazised the importance of seeking understanding for Jewish culture in the modern world and sought to create a synthesis between a general culture and the inherited culture of the Jewish minority.

In 1977 ultra-Orthodox (haredi) activist Moshe Schonfeld in "The Holocaust Victims Accuse" (published by Neturei Karta) claimed that the Swedish government wished to admit 10,000 German Jewish refugees during the Nazi era, and that Ehrenpreis asked the government to desist from this action.

In fact, there was never such an initiative coming from the Swedish government; the Swedish refugee policy until the last war years was to keep the numbers of the Jewish refugees down to a trickle. Ehrenpreis and other officials of the Stockholm Jewish community, however, managed to help a relatively small number of refugees to Sweden by making economic as well as moral guarantees to help them match the government's strict requirements for temporary residence permits. Ehrenpreis was also the chairman of another committee, Arbetsutskottet för hjälp åt Polens judar, devoted to sendig aid in the form of food, medicin, clothes and money, primarily to Poland but increasingly also to other parts of Nazi-occupied Europe.

Ehrenpreis was also the Chairman of the Swedish Section of World Jewish Congress from its institution in 1944 and was succeeded by historian and pioneering scholar of antisemitism, Hugo Valentin. Although it is unclear if Ehrenpreis acted as a representative of the Swedish Section of the World Jewish Congress, or the official Stockholm Jewish Community, Ehrenpreis was involved in planning the attempt by Raoul Wallenberg to rescue Hungarian Jews.

Marcus Ehrenpreis died in 1951 in Saltsjöbaden (Sweden).


  • Lexikon des Judentums, Gütersloh 1971
  • Michael Kühntopf-Gentz, Nathan Birnbaum. Biographie, Tübingen 1990, pp. 16, 70, 77-89, 94, 111, 113, 118, 123-124, 140-142
  • Theodor Herzl, Briefe und Tagebücher, Berlin/Frankfurt a. M./Wien 1983-1996
  • Svante Hansson, Flykt och överlevnad..., Stockholm: Hillel, 2004, pp. 75-76, 121, 266.
  • Steven Fruitman, Creating a new heart : Marcus Ehrenpreis on Jewry and Judaism, Umeå 2001.
  • Pontus Rudberg, "Restriktivitet eller generositet?" in Lars M. Anderson & Karin Kvist Geverts (Eds), En problematisk relation..., Uppsala 2008

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