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To say that Leon Harrison of St. Louis is a rabbi indicates to many merely the actual work of the church as a preacher and teacher, but his interpretation of the term is much broader. It means service to mankind in every possible way in which it can be rendered, and those who know Leon Harrison bear testimony to the fact that he seems to have lost no opportunity to do good to his fellowmen. Born in Liverpool, England, August 13, 1866, he is a son of Gustave and Louisa (Nelson) Harrison. Brought to America in his youthful days he was graduated from the New York City College, to which he won entrance at the head of nine hundred and twenty candidates, ranking above every other student in the city, in 1880. In 1882 he matriculated in Columbia University and was graduated with the Bachelor of Arts degree and first honors of his class in 1886. He determined to devote his life to the work of the ministry and was graduated from the Emanuel Theological Seminary of New York as a rabbi. He took postgraduate work in philosophy in Columbia University through a period of three years and in 1886 was ordained in Brooklyn, New York, by Rabbis Kohler and Gottheil. His first service for his church in St. Louis began in 1891, when he was called as rabbi to Temple Israel (the Reformed Jewish church) of this city. Here he has since lived and labored and he is one of the best known people of his faith in the entire country. When but twenty-one years of age he delivered an oration in Brooklyn before three thousand people at the funeral services held for Henry Ward Beecher. At the invitation of the municipality he delivered the McKinley memorial address In the St. Louis Coliseum before twenty thousand people. He was also chosen for the Thanksgiving oration at Festival Hall at the St. Louis Exposition in 1904, representing the Jewish community on that occasion. He has been called upon to address many other momentous gatherings and is regarded as an orator of notable ability whose fluency is equaled by his fervency and whose utterances never fail to carry conviction to the minds of his hearers.
Mr. Harrison has done most effective work in connection with the improvement of sociological conditions and along the lines of public betterment. He is the vice president of the Anti-Tuberculosis Society of St. Louis, a director of the Tenement House Improvement Association and the founder of the sisterhood of Personal Service of St. Louis, which has seven hundred active members, the work being divided into various departments, including kindergarten, day nursery, evening classes, industrial school and a section for visiting the sick and needy. Mr. Harrison was also the founder of the Social Settlement League and the Fresh Air Society, with a settlement at Ninth and Carr streets in St. Louis. Who can measure the scope of his activities? His work will have never reached its full fruition until the societies of which he was the organizer have ceased to function. He is prominently known as a Lyceum and Chautauqua lecturer and is the co-editor of the Editor’s Encyclopedia in the department of semitics. He belongs to the Phi Beta Kappa and is the vice president of the Columbia College Alumni of Missouri. He is also well known in several of the leading clubs of the city, including the Columbian, Contemporary and University Clubs, and St. Louis numbers him among her most helpful, most scholarly and most honored residents.