Rev Prof Jacob Prag (1816-1881)

by Rabbi Zvi Solomons and Saul Marks

Rev Prof Jacob Prag (1816-1881)

Born in 1816 in Gdansk, Rabbi Prag was the first Rabbi to serve in the newly-built Princes Road Synagogue of the Liverpool Old Hebrew Congregation, having been appointed in 1855 to succeed the late Rev Michael Solomon Oppenheim. Rev Prag received Semicha (certificate of rabbinic status) at Libau and occupied his first pulpit at the age of 18. He was later minister at Mainenwerden and then at Shoenek (now called Skarszewy, a few miles SW of Gdansk), from whence he was called to the Liverpool Old Hebrew Congregation, where he served until his death. Rabbi Prag also served as a mohel (circumcision surgeon) and the first chazan (cantor) of the community.

Shortly after settling in Liverpool he was elected Hebrew Master of the Congregational School, also filling the Chair in Hebrew at Queen’s College. He resigned the latter appointment in order to devote himself to his increasing pastoral duties as his synagogue was growing very quickly. His sermons were known for their earnest tone and graceful use of English, despite it not being his first language.

Rabbi Prag was known in religious circles to be one of the very finest Talmud scholars in the country, and he contributed anonymously to several works of Hebrew literature. He was also a friend to the poor and a keen freemason, serving as Chaplain of the Lodge of Israel from the date of its foundation.

Professor Prag taught many Christian clergymen, and was a member of the Liverpool Literary and Philosophical Society, serving on its council. He was a scholar of antiquities, and translated the inscription on the Moabite Stone, which contains one of the earliest historical references to Ancient Israel.

In April 1881, just 8 months before his death, the congregation presented Rabbi Prag with an ornamental silver inkstand to commemorate his 25 years of service. The inkstand is currently on display at the Museum of Liverpool Life. That summer, his health began to fail, and he was taken seriously ill on Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement, 3 October that year). Although he made a few subsequent appearances, he never fully recovered, and moved to Brighton for a short time, to clear his lungs. He soon moved in with his daughter in London, where he died on 27 December. His funeral, on 1 January 1882, was, unusually, preceded by a special synagogue service.


Other Sources
- Hudaly, D (1974) “Liverpool Old Hebrew Congregation 1780-1974″, Liverpool Old Hebrew Congregation, Liverpool. No ISBN.
- Jewish Chronicle, 30 December 1881, page 10 (available via JC Archive (subscription required) at

Grave References
Rev Prof Jacob Prag (1816-1881): A 15.16
Hedwig Prag (his wife; 1818/19-1896): A 15.17
Edward Joseph Prag (their son; 1862-1864): 151C
Leah Prag (their daughter; 1848-1867): A 08.07