Can you name the speaker who preceded Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech at the 1963 March on Washington? It was Rabbi (Dr.) Joachim Prinz, a German Jew who had been expelled by the Nazis in 1937. A passionate player in the fight for civil rights, Rabbi Prinz consistently spoke out against the great crime of silence.
Born in 1902 in Burkhardsdorf, Silesia, and ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary in Breslau in 1925 (two years after earning his PhD in philosophy with a minor in Art History at the University of Giessen), Rabbi Prinz began his oratorical career at the Friedenstempil (Peace Synagogue) in Berlin. From early on, Rabbi Prinz was recognized as a brilliant and popular speaker who drew crowds, but he also upset many by his early warnings about National Socialism and by encouraging Jews to emigrate. When he himself arrived in the United States under the sponsorship of Rabbi Stephen Wise, his message portraying the dire circumstances in Germany, was met by charges of exaggeration and pessimism.
In 1939, Rabbi Prinz assumed the position of rabbi at Temple B’nai Abraham in Newark, New Jersey. Once again, his oratorical ability drew large crowds. Thereby, revitalizing a synagogue that was faltering under great debt and failing membership. He served Temple B’nai Abraham until his retirement in 1977. Additionally, he was active in many Zionist and national Jewish organizations such as the World Jewish Congress, the World Zionist Organization, the American Jewish Congress and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
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