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Lewis Naphtali Dembitz

DEMBITZ, LEWIS NAPHTALI (1833–1907), U.S. lawyer and Jewish leader. Dembitz was born in Zirke, province of Posen, Prussia, and went to the U.S. in 1849. He completed law studies in Cincinnati and then settled in Louisville, Kentucky, where he practiced law. Dembitz entered politics early and was elected to several Republican Party offices. He was a delegate to the Republican National Convention that nominated Lincoln in 1860. In 1888 he drafted the first Australian (secret ballot) voting system. Dembitz wrote a number of books on American law, including Kentucky Jurisprudence (1890); Law Language for Shorthand Writers (1892); and Land Titles in the United States (2 vols., 1895). Dembitz's affiliation with Jewish life was at first through the Reform movement, and he was a member of the commission on the plan of study for Hebrew Union College. But after that institution became openly Reform, and especially after the acceptance of the *Pittsburgh Platform, he joined the Conservative movement and helped to establish the Jewish Theological Seminary. Dembitz contributed several articles on Talmudic jurisprudence and on liturgy to the Jewish Encyclopedia and prepared the translations of Exodus and Leviticus which were incorporated into the revised English Bible of the Jewish Publication Society (1917). His volume Jewish Services in Synagogue and Home (1898) was widely used. His nephew, Louis *Brandeis, who admired him greatly, changed his middle name from David to Dembitz.


M. Davis, Emergence of Conservative Judaism (1963), 333–5.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.