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This is taken from a reprint from the American Jewish Year Book, Vol 47, 1945-46, 
provided by Mickey Harris in September of 2000.

 
             Simon Miller, 1862-1945

SIMON MILLER

By EDWIN H. SCHLOSS

ALTHOUGH Simon Miller, a modest man, would have rejected any claim even to minor historic importance, to many his passing, on August 12, 1945, symbolized the fading of a warm and gracious era in the Jewish community of Philadelphia.

It was the era of the 80s, the 90s, and the turn of the century, when the community was smaller, more closely knit, more friendly with a small-town friendliness, and more aware of the little hum an things as well as the bigger things of Jewish culture and social life. It was in this background and as an active and warm-hearted part of it that Simon Miller spent the most abundant years of his life.


A native of Harrisburg, Pa., he lived his entire adult life in Philadelphia. He was graduated, in 1880, from that city's Central High School and, in 1883, from the University of Pennsylvania.

Thereafter he entered the business founded by his father, Jacob Miller's Sons and Company, shirt manufacturers, and later became its president. The firm, one of the oldest in its field in this country, is still in family hands and Mr. Miller was active in its affairs until a few weeks before his death at the age of eighty-three.

During his business career of more than sixty years, his reputation for probity became axiomatic in the trade as did his name as a just and kindly employer in labor circles. His counsel was sought on both levels. On one occasion he was appointed by the late Judge Charles Y. Audenreid to decide a question of fact as a layman for the court in an important business suit.  He had the respect and liking of labor leaders.

Beginning in 1892 till his death, for 52 years Mr. Miller was an,executive director of the Philadelphia Manufacturers Mutual Fire Insurance company, the oldest mutual company in this countrv. He was the only Jewish member of a board that included some of the most distinguished businessmen in the Philadelphia area.

But the humanity, good will, and ripe wisdom of Simon Miller's nature overflowed from his vocation to his avocation which abided in the concern and pleasure he felt in Jewish cultural, communal, and educational affairs.

The son of pious parents, he was a genuinely religious man though no formalist. He was proud of his Jewish spiritual inheritance and cherished it, but his breadth of tolerance for all races and creeds was his crowning grace. He was Bar Mitzvah at Philadelphia's reform Rodeph Sholom Synagogue of which he remained a member all his life, one of the most widely-known and loved among its congregation.

In 1888, Mr. Miller married Hettie Herzberg, daughter of Herz Herzberg, graduate of Heidelberg University, who afterwards became a merchant in Philadelphia. They had three daughters, in whose education their father took a more than usually wise and tender parental interest, and therefore led Mr. Miller to an even more active interest in communal education and welfare.

After more than a half century of happy and devoted married life, Mrs. Miller died almost exactly one year before her husband, in August of 1944.

Simon Miller's intellectual and cultural interests were almost Franklinesque in their diversity. A man of scholarly bent and keen scientific curiosity, he was an ardent and gifted amateur of science as well as of history and literature, especially Jewish literature, sacred and secular. As a young man he was an absorbed spare-time student of the "electrical phenomenon" then being investigated at Philadelphia's Franklin Institute. He loved nothing better than to putter about with automobile engines in the days when they were far less predictable than they are now.  He inventcd many minor mechanical improvements for use in his business which at one time included weaving as well as shirt making. But his horizons were not limited to mechanics. Like Benjamin Franklin, who was one of his heroes, Simon Miller was by instinct both experimenter and scholar.

And his lifelong love and reverence for Jewish scholarship found its fullest satisfaction in the Jewish Publication Society of America. He became a member of that Society's Board of Trustees in l898, and second vice-president in 1908. In 1913, he became its president and remained in that office for twenty years.

During his administration the Society published some of its most important works, including the great translation of the Bible by a board of eminent scholars who made the first translation from the original Hebrew directly into English.

Mr. J. Solis-Cohen, president of the Society and Mr. Miller's successor, wrote the following tribute which appeared shortly after Mr. Miller's death in the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent:

Simon Miller had a genuine interest in Jewish literature of every type, scholarly and fictional, historical and poetical, juvenile and judicial. His prime communal activity for nearly half a century was The Jewish Publication Society of which he was the president for two decades, from 1913 to 1933.

Originally elected to the Board of Trustees in 1898, he became vice-president ten years later and succeeded Edwin Wolf as head of the Society in 1913. During his administration many important projects were completed. Jewish scholars and authors realized that in Simon Miller they had a real friend who encouraged their research and literary efforts with publication and wide distribution of their books.

Associated with Simon Miller during many of these years in directing literary activities of The Jewish Publication Society were other Philadelphia laymen, Judge Mayer Sulzberger, Dr. Cyrus Adler, Justice Horace Stern, Dr. Solomon Solis-Cohen and others. This group had the respect and confidence and support not only of the American Jewish public but of thoughtful Jews all over the world.

During Simon Miller's presidency the new Bible translation was completed and published; Marx and Margolies' comprehensive one volume History of the Jews was issued, which has since been translated into three foreign languages; funds were raised for the establishment of the Press Division of The Society; The Schiff Library of Jewish Classics and the Jewish Community Series were started.

What these books have meant to Jewish scholarship cannot be measured by words. Few laymen in his or any other generation in America had the perception, the understanding, and the driving force to see that these and other volumes were published, with the realization that the written words of great Jewish students, scholars and authors should be preserved for posterity. Written in English, available for all interested in Jewish literature, 
Simon Miller carefully laid the foundations for "Jewish Books in every Jewish Home."

His interest in The Society continued until his passing. He was a regular and active participant in the proceedings of the Board of Trustees and Publication Committee, encouraging and assisting the present administration in continuing the work of The Publication Society on the high plane he established.

His associations with the scholars and writers whom he met as president of the Publication Society and the many friendships that arose therefrom were always a source of unassuming pride and pleasure to Mr. Miller. Among those friends were, particularly, Dr. Solomon Schechter, Dr. Max L. Margolis, and Mr. Miller's closest lifelong friend, Dr. Cyrus Adler, a fellow-member of the Pennsylvania class of '83.

For many years Mr. Miller was the secretary and one of the leading spirits in the "Pharisees," a unique club in Philadelphia, which counted among its members writers, physicians, lawyers and journalists, leaders in the intellectual and professional life of the community devoted to the discussion and furtherance of Jewish and cognate culture. The club, which included many brilliant minds, had its more relaxed social side, too, and Simon Miller glowed quietly when supper had been disposed of, cigars lighted and the good talk had begun.

A wise, loving, and unselfish personality, Simon Miller had the gift of clairvoyant sympathy for many men at many levels. He liked people and liked to be with them. And, as usual in such cases, people reciprocated by liking him.

He counted among his friends all orders of men from distinguished scholars and men of affairs to the janitor of his factory. He was accepted as an intellectual equal by the learned and, without patronage or ostentation, he was guide, philosopher, friend, and financial savior to many a humble soul.

Perhaps the blending of the human and the intellectual, the scholarly and the convivial in Simon Miller is indicated by the fact that while serving in his scholarly-executive post as president of the Publication Society he was a member of Philadelphia's most prominent social organization (The Mercantile Club) and a member of its Committee on Admissions and House Committee.

He was also a member of the Mercantile bowling team, finding thereby, in his middle years, some outlet for the perennial interest in athletics which dated from his school and college days when he played football at Central High School and the University of Pennsylvania.

An excellent amateur boxer and a paladin on the football field in his early twenties, his athletic activities probably contributed to the iron constitution that served him sturdily through life. He became in the fullness of time one of the most robust of octogenarians. Until a few days before his final illness, Mr. Miller went to his office daily. His mind remained as vigorous as his body. His interest in his fellow-man, individually and in the mass, stayed with him to the end. His sunset years were happy with his family, which included seven devoted grandchildren and two great-grandchildren; his many friends of all ages, his books, and his scrutiny of the state of the world. His heart was also with the football wars of his Alma Mater. When he was 82, Simon Miller still elbowed the crowds jauntily to attend the University of Pennsylvania's football season where he could be found in the cheering section, head bared, cheering himself hoarse and singing "Hail Pennsylvania."

One of his great prides, too, was the service button he wore for four years with its five blue stars for his five grandsons and grandsons-in-law in the Armed Forces.

Simon Miller's courage matched his kindliness and wisdom. It can he said of him that all his life he was fearless in the right, willing to fight for it and given to see the right more clearly than most men.

When, at the age of eighty-three, he was confronted with the inescapable necessity of a dangerous operation, he faced the ordeal with quiet fortitude. And when, at the harvest of his many years, it was decreed that he was to go, one felt that Simon Miller went out into eternity as he had lived, fearlessly, with love in his heart and without reproach.

 
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