During Yeshiva I remember some bochrim made a point of not putting the Jastrow dictionary on top of sefarim, and would often talk about how it does not have kedusha because it was written by an apikores. Was Marcus Jastrow really an apikores?

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    Forget putting it on top of other seforim, some people I know will not use it at all (waste of a good resource)....the reason cited was that he was mechallel shabbos... – MTL May 8 '14 at 14:13
  • related: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/59431/5323 – MTL May 27 '15 at 3:55
  • From what I have read (which is little), he doesn't seem like an apikores... – ezra Jun 14 '17 at 4:23

From "Were Our Mouths Filled with Song": Studies in Liberal Jewish Liturgy by Eric L. Friedland.

Jastrow's Reform principles- the degree and definition of his Reform- are precisely defined in Antwort an Herrn I. M. Wise (1867) in the form of a syllabus errorum...:

  1. I am for any reform that is able to influence the moral enhancement of the Jews.
  2. I am against any kind of reform that issues out of a mere desire toward assimilation or grasping after innovation without its being a mean toward moral elevation.
  3. I am for any reform that is compatible with the spirit of Judaism.
  4. I am against any reform that denies this spirit.
  5. I am for any reform that confers the outer appearance of Jewish thought-content with beauty and worth.
  6. I am against any reform that ascribes all worth to outer appearance.
  7. I am for any reform that links itself with the historical development of Judaism.
  8. I am against any reform that severs its connection with the past.


13 . I am for any reform that is, without strain, consistent with the Bible and its oldest traditional interpretation, as set down by the Talmud.

14 . I am against any reform that arbitrarily creates new interpretations, inasmuch as I know I cannot do without the traditional guide in the practical implementation of the biblical commandments.

15 . I am for any reform that removes the old-fashioned prayers that came into being during the Middle Ages.

16 . I am against any reform that touches or alters the oldest portions of the prayers.


Now, nothing here is particularly heretical in the narrow sense of the term. I mean, there are wrong ideas, indeed disastrous ideas that as bad as they are, are not technically heretical.

It's quite clear that Jastrow would be very disappointed with today's Reform and Conservative Judaism. Orthodoxy has survived and thrived in the modern world. It could be, that given Orthodoxy's latter day success in living in the modern world, that Jastrow would not call for any reforms would he be alive today.

  • Fascinating. Did Jastrow ever advocate or implement anything which we would consider to go against halacha? (Wikipedia claims that he allowed a shul to install an organ, but that's not a totally clear cut violation of halacha.) – user3318 Nov 6 '13 at 20:28
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    This answer would be much improved by removing all the editorialization after "Now, nothing here is particularly heretical" – Double AA Nov 6 '13 at 23:30
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    Malper, Jastrow's own list here remains ambiguous. Perhaps the introduction of the organ could have been done without any technical violation, it doubtlessly represented a major break with the past- how did he justify it in respect to number 8 of his list? – Ephraim Nov 7 '13 at 7:41
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    Of course. I'm just curious how far he went "off the derech" in practice, as opposed to just what he preached. – user3318 Nov 7 '13 at 14:10
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    What did he have in mind with number 15, I wonder? – yoel Dec 2 '13 at 7:42