Early Life

Jacob Rader Marcus was born in New Haven, Pennsylvania on March 15, 1896. He was the son of Aaron Marcus and Jennie Rader (Reider). When he was four years of age his family moved from Pennsylvania to Wheeling, West Virginia. Though he became a bar mitzvah in accordance with Judaism’s traditional rite, Marcus first encountered Reform Judaism when he attended religious school at Wheeling’s Eoff Street Reform Congregation, whose rabbi, Harry Levi, was a graduate of the Hebrew Union College (HUC). Reform Judaism’s commitment to Wissenschaft des Judentums, the “scientific study of Judaism,” appealed to Marcus. Impressed by the young Marcus’s scholarly diligence and ardent interest in Judaism, Rabbi Levi urged him to consider a career in the Reform rabbinate. In the fall of 1911, a fifteen-year-old Marcus traveled to Cincinnati to begin his rabbinical training at the Hebrew Union College. With the exception of his two years of military service during World War I, and his years of graduate study in Europe, Marcus spent the rest of his life in Cincinnati.