Rabbi Jacob Joseph was born in Kovno, Lithuania in 1848. He studied under the leadership of Rabbi Hirsch Berlin, and later was elected magid (communal preacher) of Vilna, Poland. He arrived in New York in 1888, to unite the Orthodox Ashkenazi community under a single leadership. He is recognized as the first and only “Chief Rabbi” of New York City. Nevertheless, not every synagogue recognized Joseph as the Chief Rabbi and created many obstacles to his authority. He helped to create a European-style Orthodox community in New York, with a rabbinic leadership and a rabbinic court.
Joseph was immobilized by a stroke in 1895, and passed away in 1902.