People A-Z / Rabbi Israel Aaron
Born on November 20, 1859, in Lancaster, Philadelphia to Moses Aaron, a German Jewish immigrant from Hesse-Darmstadt, Israel Aaron’s birth was recorded in Congregation Rodeph Shalom, Philadelphia mohel records. Israel Aaron attended public schools and then studied at the Franklin and Marshall College and the University of Cincinnati, where he obtained a B. A. At Hebrew Union College, also in Cincinnati, he was in the first rabbinical class in 1883, becoming the first ordained rabbi and Doctor of Divinity by the college. He was the author of articles published in the Jewish and the secular press, as well as a number of translations.
From 1883 to 1887 he served as rabbi at Fort Wayne, Indiana and married Emma Falk in 1886. In 1887, he was appointed to Temple Beth Zion, Buffalo, New York. Active in the civic and cultural life of his city and a popular public speaker, Rabbi Aaron spearheaded the expansion of Beth Zion’s membership from 70 to several hundred. He also oversaw the building of a new temple building at 599 Delaware Avenue which was dedicated in 1891. When large number of Jewish immigrants made their home in Buffalo from Eastern Europe, he proposed the creation of a settlement style house to aid with acculturation, led by the Sisterhood of Zion.
The Sisterhood of Zion and the Daughters of the Star built Zion House for $5000 in 1891 that ran a multi-session kindergarten for new immigrant children on the East Side. In addition to his position as Honorary President of the Sisterhood of Zion, he was a member of the Executive Board of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, and a member of the Board of Governors of the Hebrew Union College. He was also a member of the Board of Governors of the Federated Charities, the fore-runner to the Buffalo Jewish Federation.
In 1912, he was honored at his 25th year of service to Temple Beth Zion and presented with a silver tea service set by members of the congregation. Tragically, just a few days after the celebration he died of an ear infection, at the age of 52.
- “Rev. Dr. Israel Aaron Dead: Buffalo Rabbi Dies After Celebration of Twenty-fifth Anniversary,” New York Times, May 16, 1912, p. 11.
- Rabbi Israel Aaron, “The Jews of Buffalo,” The Reform Advocate, 15 June 1912, p. 30.