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Simon Tuska

TUSKA, SIMON (1835–1871), U.S. rabbi. The son of the Reverend Mordecai Tuska, Tuska was born in Veszprém, Hungary. He went to the U.S. with his parents in 1849 and his father then became "rabbi, Reader … shoḥet …mohel" in Rochester, New York. After two years of U.S. schooling Tuska was awarded one of the first scholarships to the University of Rochester, founded in 1850. Although he specialized in Greek and Latin, his chief interest was Judaism. While still a student, he wrote and published "The Stranger in the Synagogue" to explain Jewish rites and ceremonies to both his Christian colleagues and the Jewish public. He was warmly praised by Isaac Mayer *Wise, but his critique of talmudic law drew the censure of Isaac *Leeser. Tuska wrote letters and articles for both The Israelite and The Occident, and Wise encouraged him to pursue the rabbinate. Upon graduation in 1856 Tuska attended courses at the Rochester Theological Seminary. He did not seek a pulpit because of his youth and the fact that most Reform congregations of the day required a German-speaking rabbi. However, as a result of Wise's constant urging, he decided in 1858 to go to the Breslau seminary to prepare himself for the rabbinate. In 1860 Tuska tried unsuccessfully to become English lecturer at Temple Emanuel in New York. He subsequently was also rejected by Congregation Berith Kodesh in his hometown, Rochester, because of his radical religious views. Shortly thereafter he was elected to the Reform pulpit in Memphis, Tennessee, where he served until his death. Tuska's importance lay in the pattern he set for the training of U.S. rabbis – English-speaking, with university degree plus theological training.


A.J. Karp, in: AJHSQ, 50:2 (1960), 79–97.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.