Rabbi Immánuel Löw (left) and actor Oszkár Beregi on the bimah of the main synagogue, Szeged, Hungary. Photograph by Bela Liebmann. (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Bela Liebmann)

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Löw, Immánuel

(1854–1944), rabbi, orientalist, art historian, and member of the Hungarian Parliament. The son of Leopold (Lipót) Löw, chief rabbi of the Neolog Jewish community of Szeged, Immánuel Löw completed his university and theological studies in Berlin and Leipzig. The Jewish community of Szeged elected him its rabbi in 1878 (his father had died in 1875). After World War I, he was imprisoned for 13 months because of his condemnation of the White Terror and Admiral Miklós Horthy.

From 1927, Löw was a member of the Upper House of the Hungarian Parliament, representing the Neolog trend. He was 90 years old when he was deported from Szeged in 1944. Even though he was taken off the train in Budapest, he could not be saved and died of starvation. In 1947, the Jewish community of Szeged exhumed his body and reburied him beside his father.

As a scholar, Löw made important contributions to Semitic philology, Jewish folklore, and the identification of the flora, fauna, and minerals mentioned in the Bible and Talmud. Löw contributed to the tenth and eleventh editions of W. Gesenius’s Bible dictionary. In his monumental work titled Die Flora der Juden (Flora of the Jews; 1926–1934), Löw identified plants mentioned in the Bible, the Talmud, rabbinic literature, and those grown in the Land of Israel, categorizing them according to Linnaeus’ system. He described the role of each plant in halakhah, in agadah, in Jewish folklore, in art, and in medicine. He also focused on the role of plants in gastronomy. He went on to write two volumes on animals and minerals mentioned in Jewish literature, but the manuscripts were destroyed in 1944. Alexander Scheiber published a collection of Löw’s previously published studies under the title Fauna und Mineralien der Juden (Fauna and Minerals of the Jews; 1969). Löw incorporated his interest in flora and fauna in planning the interior decorations of the new synagogue of Szeged, completed in 1903 (the building’s architect was Lipót Baumhorn).

Like his father, Löw was an outstanding orator. Several hundred of his sermons were published in four volumes in Szeged between 1900 and 1939. He translated the Song of Songs into Hungarian, wrote a prayer book for women, and cowrote a history of the Jews of Szeged, one of the first Hungarian communal histories (1885). He remained the rabbi of Szeged until the end of his life, even though, as a renowned scholar, he was offered appointments at institutions such as the Rabbinical Seminary in Breslau and The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Suggested Reading

Semitic Studies in Memory of Immanuel Löw, ed. Scheiber Sándor (Budapest, 1947).