Abraham de Sola
Died when: 56 years 260 days (680 months)
Star Sign: Virgo
Abraham de Sola (September 18, 1825 – June 5, 1882) was a Canadian Rabbi, author, Orientalist, and scientist. Originating from a large renowned family of Rabbis and scholars, De Sola was recognized there as one of the most powerful leaders of Orthodox Judaism in the United States during the latter half of the nineteenth century. Born in London, England, the sixth child of David Aaron de Sola and Rebecca Meldola, his maternal grandfather was Haham Raphael Meldola, a prominent English Rabbi. His sister Eliza married Rabbi Abraham Pereira Mendes and was the mother of Rabbi Frederick de Sola Mendes and Rabbi Henry Pereira Mendes. In 1846, De Sola was elected minister of the Shearith Israel congregation of Montreal, Quebec, Canada, and he arrived in that city early in 1847. In 1848, De Sola was appointed lecturer, and in 1853 professor, of Hebrew and Oriental literature at McGill University, Montreal, and he eventually became the senior professor of its faculty of arts. He was president of the Natural History Society for several years, and addressed its members frequently on those branches of scientific investigation which came within its province. The degree of LL.D. was conferred upon him in 1858 by McGill University. This was the first instance of a Jew attaining that honor in an English-speaking country. In 1873, by invitation of President Ulysses S. Grant's administration, De Sola opened the United States Congress with prayer. The event was of significance, as De Sola was a British subject, and this was the first indication of a more friendly feeling between the United States and Great Britain after the dangerously strained relations that had been caused by the recently adjusted "Alabama Claims." Mr. Gladstone, then premier, as well as Sir Edward Thornton, the British ambassador at Washington, extended the thanks of the British government to De Sola. Abraham de Sola frequently visited the United States, and, through his pulpit addresses and numerous contributions to the press, became recognized there as one of the most powerful leaders of Orthodoxy, at a time when the struggle between the Orthodox and Reform wings of the community was at an acute stage. He was intimately associated with Isaac Leeser, Samuel Myer Isaacs, Bernhard Illowy, , and other upholders of Jewish tradition, and on the death of Isaac Leeser was invited to become successor to his pulpit; but this and many similar offers he declined. For twenty years he was a constant contributor to Leeser's "Occident," and after the latter's death he purchased the copyrights and stereotype plates of his works and continued their publication. He married Esther Joseph on 30 June 1852. Amongst their children was , a businessman and pioneer Canadian Zionist. Abraham de Sola died in New York City in 1882 and was buried in Montreal. His archive is held at McGill University Archives.