Yom Kippur in the NJWB Recordsby Rachel Rudman, M.A., Reference Services Research Intern, Center for Jewish History
This post is part of the Holiday History Series. To view all posts in the series, click here.
Above image: Text on back of photograph reads, “Yom Kippur services at Great Lakes, Ill. I think 1942 or 1943. Rabbi Julius Mark was chaplain. Services held in drill hall, now Catholic chapel.” c/o American Jewish Historical Society.
I wrote my last post on sermons and bulletins specific to Rosh Hashanah. Now I will explore a few examples from Yom Kippur announcements. Like the previous examples, these again highlight events most concerning to American Jewish communities as well as the ways in which Jewish leaders connected such events to the Days of Awe. The materials come from records of the National Jewish Welfare Board (NJWB), housed in the American Jewish Historical Society collections here at the Center for Jewish History.
The first example is an excerpt from a sermon delivered on Yom Kippur 1943 titled “The Jew and the Draft.” Doctor Rabbi A. Herbert Fedder of Laurelton Jewish Center begins his speech with a joke popular at the time: “What goes faster than a P-40? A Jew passing a draft board.” His sermon is devoted to debunking the myth that Jews avoid the draft in larger proportions than the rest of the American population, and arming Jews with facts that they can use to answer such a charge. After explaining common reasons Jews have been associated with avoiding the draft, Rabbi Fedder gives numerical evidence of Jewish involvement in the army at a proportion greater than that of other Americans. He calls for Jews to read, analyze, memorize and repeat the great contribution of the Jewish community to the American army. (AJHS I-337, subgroup 1, series C, subseries 4, box 168, Folder 10. Click here for the finding aid.)
Another example can be seen in a letter from Rabbi Manning Bleich addressed to the worshippers of Ohev Sholom Synagogue in Lewistown, Pennsylvania. Before the penitential period of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur in 1945, Rabbi Bleich wrote that while arms have been laid down, the community should approach the Days of Awe with no less meaningful prayer than in previous years. True penitence can help return the world to peace and alleviate suffering of Jews everywhere. He dedicated his Slichot service that year (a service of prayers for forgiveness said before Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur) to Lieutenant Louis Krentzman, the first member of his congregation to fall “for G-d and Country.” He called for the pews to be filled in order to honor this brave soldier’s memory. By dedicating the Slichot service to a fallen member of his congregation, Rabbi Bleich both incorporated the realities of WWII into his High Holiday agenda and made the Days of Awe more relevant to his community. (AJHS I-337, subgroup 1, series C, subseries 4, box 168, Folder 10. Click here for the finding aid.)A final example comes from a statement by Frank Weil, the President of the National Jewish Welfare Board in September 1945. Echoing the message of Rabbi Bleich, Weil expresses the feeling of hope for the Jewish community that accompanies the downfall of the tyrannical regimes in Europe. He commits the NJWB to relief and rehabilitation of displaced survivors of the war and reconstruction of Jewish communities abroad. He calls for prayer on these High Holidays—for Jews in America and for soldiers in Europe and the Far East—to be focused on the historic task of world peace, put forth by the prophets and proclaimed as the goal of mankind. In his message, Weil reveals the contemporary interest of the American Jewish community in supporting the rebuilding and revitalization of the Jewish people in Europe. (AJHS I-337, subgroup 1, series C, subseries 4, box 168, Folder 11. Click here for the finding aid.)Check back for children’s quizzes on the High Holidays, and a look into historic Jewish communities through Sukkot bulletins and sermons!

Yom Kippur in the NJWB Records
by Rachel Rudman, M.A., 
Reference Services Research Intern, Center for Jewish History

This post is part of the Holiday History Series. To view all posts in the series, click here.

Above image: Text on back of photograph reads, “Yom Kippur services at Great Lakes, Ill. I think 1942 or 1943. Rabbi Julius Mark was chaplain. Services held in drill hall, now Catholic chapel.” c/o American Jewish Historical Society.

I wrote my last post on sermons and bulletins specific to Rosh Hashanah. Now I will explore a few examples from Yom Kippur announcements. Like the previous examples, these again highlight events most concerning to American Jewish communities as well as the ways in which Jewish leaders connected such events to the Days of Awe. The materials come from records of the National Jewish Welfare Board (NJWB), housed in the American Jewish Historical Society collections here at the Center for Jewish History.

The first example is an excerpt from a sermon delivered on Yom Kippur 1943 titled “The Jew and the Draft.” Doctor Rabbi A. Herbert Fedder of Laurelton Jewish Center begins his speech with a joke popular at the time: “What goes faster than a P-40? A Jew passing a draft board.” His sermon is devoted to debunking the myth that Jews avoid the draft in larger proportions than the rest of the American population, and arming Jews with facts that they can use to answer such a charge. After explaining common reasons Jews have been associated with avoiding the draft, Rabbi Fedder gives numerical evidence of Jewish involvement in the army at a proportion greater than that of other Americans. He calls for Jews to read, analyze, memorize and repeat the great contribution of the Jewish community to the American army. (AJHS I-337, subgroup 1, series C, subseries 4, box 168, Folder 10. Click here for the finding aid.)

Another example can be seen in a letter from Rabbi Manning Bleich addressed to the worshippers of Ohev Sholom Synagogue in Lewistown, Pennsylvania. Before the penitential period of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur in 1945, Rabbi Bleich wrote that while arms have been laid down, the community should approach the Days of Awe with no less meaningful prayer than in previous years. True penitence can help return the world to peace and alleviate suffering of Jews everywhere. He dedicated his Slichot service that year (a service of prayers for forgiveness said before Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur) to Lieutenant Louis Krentzman, the first member of his congregation to fall “for G-d and Country.” He called for the pews to be filled in order to honor this brave soldier’s memory. By dedicating the Slichot service to a fallen member of his congregation, Rabbi Bleich both incorporated the realities of WWII into his High Holiday agenda and made the Days of Awe more relevant to his community. (AJHS I-337, subgroup 1, series C, subseries 4, box 168, Folder 10. Click here for the finding aid.)

A final example comes from a statement by Frank Weil, the President of the National Jewish Welfare Board in September 1945. Echoing the message of Rabbi Bleich, Weil expresses the feeling of hope for the Jewish community that accompanies the downfall of the tyrannical regimes in Europe. He commits the NJWB to relief and rehabilitation of displaced survivors of the war and reconstruction of Jewish communities abroad. He calls for prayer on these High Holidays—for Jews in America and for soldiers in Europe and the Far East—to be focused on the historic task of world peace, put forth by the prophets and proclaimed as the goal of mankind. In his message, Weil reveals the contemporary interest of the American Jewish community in supporting the rebuilding and revitalization of the Jewish people in Europe. (AJHS I-337, subgroup 1, series C, subseries 4, box 168, Folder 11. Click here for the finding aid.)

Check back for children’s quizzes on the High Holidays, and a look into historic Jewish communities through Sukkot bulletins and sermons!

A Time to Reflectby Rachel Rudman, M.A., Reference Services Research Intern, Center for Jewish History
This post is part of the Holiday History Series. To view all posts in the series, click here.
Above image: Text on back of photograph: “Chaplain Joseph H. Freedman Hq, USAFIME, is shown blowing the ‘Shofar’ during the annual religious service in observance of Rosh-Hashana. Photo by Sgt. E.M. Henderson, S.C., Signal Corps Photo Division, USAFIME.” Circa 1942. c/o American Jewish Historical Society. 
Since the high holidays draw the highest number of Jews to synagogue during the Jewish year, it is an apt time for congregational leaders to speak and write on topics of interest or concern to their communities. Sermons and bulletins on Rosh Hashanah, for example, typically inspire reflection on the past year and describe hopes for the year ahead.
As I noted in my previous post, records from the National Jewish Welfare Board (NJWB)—housed in the American Jewish Historical Society collections here at the Center—allow us to see which world events were most relevant to Jews at specific time periods, as well as the thematic ways in which Jewish community leaders connected these events to the Jewish New Year.
The first example comes from a bulletin called “The Synagogue Light” by Rabbi Joseph Hager. On Rosh Hashanah 1941, in the midst of the Holocaust, he writes that as Jewish communities blow the ram’s horn, they should reflect on the innumerable losses in blood and treasure of the Jewish people in many parts of the world. He explains that over the past year Jews have been persecuted, their existence as a people has been threatened, and they have been made to experience the suffering of the dark ages. He expresses hope that on this Rosh Hashanah, prayer will hasten the coming of well-being for humanity, and that the new year will be one of deliverance and salvation for the Jewish people. (AJHS I-337, subgroup 1, series C, subseries 4, box 168, Folder 9. Click here for the finding aid.)
Another example comes in the form of a New Year message from Dr. Louis Finkelstein, President of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in 1945. He begins by saying that as the enemies of democracy in Europe and Asia have been defeated, and men begin to return to their regular lives, it is a fitting on Rosh Hashanah to reflect upon the events of the past six years. He writes that even while much is being done to repair the world after the physical destruction of WWII, that the most important goal moving forward is to lay the foundation of lasting peace among nations. He connects this call for cooperation among mankind to the Rosh Hashanah themes of renewed heart and spirit. He puts forth the hope that as Jews help to rebuild the world and repopulate the Jewish people, that they focus on the establishment of Israel as a shelter for those in need and the education of children about the importance of a life devoted to Jewish values. (AJHS I-337, subgroup 1, series C, subseries 4, box 168, Folder 10. Click here for the finding aid.)
A final example comes from the President’s Message in the Mizrachi Women’s Cultural Guide on Rosh Hashanah 1948. She says that this is the first Jewish New Year since the creation of Israel and thanks God for the great events of the past year. In asking for peace and security of the new country, the President notes the importance of determined and loyal Zionists in the essential building up of the land, including its schools, agriculture and army. She hopes, on Rosh Hashanah, for the continued privilege of contributing to the growth of the Jewish people and the new state of Israel. (AJHS I-337, subgroup 1, series C, subseries 4, box 168, Folder 11. Click here for the finding aid.)
Best wishes for a sweet new year, full of meaningful reflection on the past and hope for the future. Check back for a look into past Jewish communities through the lens of Yom Kippur sermons and bulletins.

A Time to Reflect
by Rachel Rudman, M.A., Reference Services Research Intern, Center for Jewish History

This post is part of the Holiday History Series. To view all posts in the series, click here.

Above image: Text on back of photograph: “Chaplain Joseph H. Freedman Hq, USAFIME, is shown blowing the ‘Shofar’ during the annual religious service in observance of Rosh-Hashana. Photo by Sgt. E.M. Henderson, S.C., Signal Corps Photo Division, USAFIME.” Circa 1942. c/o American Jewish Historical Society. 

Since the high holidays draw the highest number of Jews to synagogue during the Jewish year, it is an apt time for congregational leaders to speak and write on topics of interest or concern to their communities. Sermons and bulletins on Rosh Hashanah, for example, typically inspire reflection on the past year and describe hopes for the year ahead.

As I noted in my previous post, records from the National Jewish Welfare Board (NJWB)—housed in the American Jewish Historical Society collections here at the Center—allow us to see which world events were most relevant to Jews at specific time periods, as well as the thematic ways in which Jewish community leaders connected these events to the Jewish New Year.

The first example comes from a bulletin called “The Synagogue Light” by Rabbi Joseph Hager. On Rosh Hashanah 1941, in the midst of the Holocaust, he writes that as Jewish communities blow the ram’s horn, they should reflect on the innumerable losses in blood and treasure of the Jewish people in many parts of the world. He explains that over the past year Jews have been persecuted, their existence as a people has been threatened, and they have been made to experience the suffering of the dark ages. He expresses hope that on this Rosh Hashanah, prayer will hasten the coming of well-being for humanity, and that the new year will be one of deliverance and salvation for the Jewish people. (AJHS I-337, subgroup 1, series C, subseries 4, box 168, Folder 9. Click here for the finding aid.)

Another example comes in the form of a New Year message from Dr. Louis Finkelstein, President of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in 1945. He begins by saying that as the enemies of democracy in Europe and Asia have been defeated, and men begin to return to their regular lives, it is a fitting on Rosh Hashanah to reflect upon the events of the past six years. He writes that even while much is being done to repair the world after the physical destruction of WWII, that the most important goal moving forward is to lay the foundation of lasting peace among nations. He connects this call for cooperation among mankind to the Rosh Hashanah themes of renewed heart and spirit. He puts forth the hope that as Jews help to rebuild the world and repopulate the Jewish people, that they focus on the establishment of Israel as a shelter for those in need and the education of children about the importance of a life devoted to Jewish values. (AJHS I-337, subgroup 1, series C, subseries 4, box 168, Folder 10. Click here for the finding aid.)

A final example comes from the President’s Message in the Mizrachi Women’s Cultural Guide on Rosh Hashanah 1948. She says that this is the first Jewish New Year since the creation of Israel and thanks God for the great events of the past year. In asking for peace and security of the new country, the President notes the importance of determined and loyal Zionists in the essential building up of the land, including its schools, agriculture and army. She hopes, on Rosh Hashanah, for the continued privilege of contributing to the growth of the Jewish people and the new state of Israel. (AJHS I-337, subgroup 1, series C, subseries 4, box 168, Folder 11. Click here for the finding aid.)

Best wishes for a sweet new year, full of meaningful reflection on the past and hope for the future. Check back for a look into past Jewish communities through the lens of Yom Kippur sermons and bulletins.

Above image: The text on the back of the photograph reads, "Chaplain Nathan Landman, Air Force Jewish Chaplain for France, Spain, and Libya, examines the traditional Shofar (ram’s horn) and other High Holy Day religious equipment prior to taking off from Evreux-Fauville Air Base to Tripoli, Libya on the first leg of a 3,000 mile circuit in which he conducted eight services at five bases before returning to Evreux for Yom Kippur." from the collections of the American Jewish Historical Society.
Holiday History: Bulletins and Sermons from the NJWBby Rachel Rudman, M.A., Reference Services Research Intern, Center for Jewish History
Over the next couple of weeks, I will post a series of articles that explore bulletins and sermons on Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot from the records of the National Jewish Welfare Board (NJWB), housed in the American Jewish Historical Society collections at the Center for Jewish History. These announcements reflect the desire of community leaders to place the Jewish holidays in the context of issues concerning American Jewry at the time. They show which events were most relevant to Jewish communities at specific time periods, as well as American Jewry’s reaction to national and global struggles. 
For example, in the middle of WWII, the NJWB published an announcement titled, “G.I. High Holy Days, 1943.” This document describes the ways in which the organization enabled the observance of the holiest days of the Jewish year by American Jewish soldiers and sailors worldwide. Large supplies of religious materials—such as prayer shawls and books, shofars and skull caps—were made available at military establishments, and Jewish chaplains led thousands of high holiday services across the globe. This document reveals the concern that those in the military would not be able to observe the high holidays, as well as the action taken by the NJWB to ensure holiday observance by Jewish servicemen during WWII. (AJHS I-337, subgroup 1, series C, subseries 4, box 168, Folder 8. Click here for the finding aid.)        
Another example comes from a NJWB publication called, “The Jewish Holidays,” by Mordecai Soltes. Published in 1931 and revised in 1937 and 1943, the first three editions refer to Palestine and give short histories of Zionism, the Balfour Declaration and various Jewish organizations in the Yishuv (Jewish community in Palestine). The fourth edition, however, published in 1951, changes all wording from “Palestine” to “Israel” and shifts focus, reflecting new priorities in the young state. (AJHS I-337, subgroup 1, series C, subseries 4, box 168, Folder 10. Click here for the finding aid.)
For a glance into historical events through the eyes of Jewish communities during their holiest times, check back for posts specific to Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot. Also look for a post or two featuring children’s trivia questions about the holidays, and see how many you can answer!

Above image: The text on the back of the photograph reads, "Chaplain Nathan Landman, Air Force Jewish Chaplain for France, Spain, and Libya, examines the traditional Shofar (ram’s horn) and other High Holy Day religious equipment prior to taking off from Evreux-Fauville Air Base to Tripoli, Libya on the first leg of a 3,000 mile circuit in which he conducted eight services at five bases before returning to Evreux for Yom Kippur." from the collections of the American Jewish Historical Society.

Holiday History: Bulletins and Sermons from the NJWB
by Rachel Rudman, M.A., Reference Services Research Intern, Center for Jewish History

Over the next couple of weeks, I will post a series of articles that explore bulletins and sermons on Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot from the records of the National Jewish Welfare Board (NJWB), housed in the American Jewish Historical Society collections at the Center for Jewish History. These announcements reflect the desire of community leaders to place the Jewish holidays in the context of issues concerning American Jewry at the time. They show which events were most relevant to Jewish communities at specific time periods, as well as American Jewry’s reaction to national and global struggles.

For example, in the middle of WWII, the NJWB published an announcement titled, “G.I. High Holy Days, 1943.” This document describes the ways in which the organization enabled the observance of the holiest days of the Jewish year by American Jewish soldiers and sailors worldwide. Large supplies of religious materials—such as prayer shawls and books, shofars and skull caps—were made available at military establishments, and Jewish chaplains led thousands of high holiday services across the globe. This document reveals the concern that those in the military would not be able to observe the high holidays, as well as the action taken by the NJWB to ensure holiday observance by Jewish servicemen during WWII. (AJHS I-337, subgroup 1, series C, subseries 4, box 168, Folder 8. Click here for the finding aid.)        

Another example comes from a NJWB publication called, “The Jewish Holidays,” by Mordecai Soltes. Published in 1931 and revised in 1937 and 1943, the first three editions refer to Palestine and give short histories of Zionism, the Balfour Declaration and various Jewish organizations in the Yishuv (Jewish community in Palestine). The fourth edition, however, published in 1951, changes all wording from “Palestine” to “Israel” and shifts focus, reflecting new priorities in the young state. (AJHS I-337, subgroup 1, series C, subseries 4, box 168, Folder 10. Click here for the finding aid.)

For a glance into historical events through the eyes of Jewish communities during their holiest times, check back for posts specific to Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot. Also look for a post or two featuring children’s trivia questions about the holidays, and see how many you can answer!

In Honor of Veterans Day 2012
by David P. Rosenberg, M.P.A., Senior Reference Librarian - Collections, Center for Jewish History

The need to document those in our communities is a longstanding tradition in Judaism. Beginning in Biblical times there was the half-shekel annual accounting of all Jews where “the rich shall not pay more and the poor shall not pay less” (Exodus 30:15).

In the recent Center Symposium “History of Jewish Giving: Jews and Charity” Elisheva Baumgarten (Bar Ilan University-CAJS, University of Pennsylvania) discussed Memorbuch, tribute lists common with Central European Jews. The Leo Baeck institute has Memorbuchs that have been digitized and are available online—for example, the Memorbuch of the Jewish Community of Bretten.

Yizkor books are another example. “The YIVO Library holds more than 750 Yizker-bikher, or Memorial books to the hundreds of Jewish communities annihilated during the Holocaust by the Nazis and their collaborators, the largest collection in the United States. The word Yizkor in Hebrew and its Yiddish form, Yizker (literally: Remember) is the first word of a memorial prayer for the dead. These Memorial books were compiled by ad hoc committees of survivors, as a way to commemorate their families and friends who perished in the Holocaust.” (Source.) We also provide access to digitized Yizkor books, including those digitized by the New York Public Library.

One archival resource that is helpful for genealogists and scholars alike is the National Jewish Welfare Board, Bureau of War Records, held by the American Jewish Historical Society. (Call number I-52; finding aid here.) These records contain about 320,000 index cards and 85,000 individual service files for service members who fought in WWII. The National Jewish Welfare Board was founded in 1917 to provide support for soldiers in times of war. It was also a founding member of the United Service Organizations (USO).

In addition to these records there are detailed chaplains’ records: the National Jewish Welfare Board military chaplaincy records, I-249; finding aid here.  (See also these posts on the American Military Chaplain experience.)

The finding aid for the National Jewish Welfare Board - Bureau of War Records collection details the interesting contents.

Many people start with 320,000 index cards: Series VI: Card files – Bureau of War Records, master index cards, 1943-1947: “The BWR transcribed information on the master card forms using several encoding schema. In one encoding scheme, labeled the Master Card Symbols, the BWR cut the left corner of a card to indicate that a soldier is one of several members of the same family who died during the war; punched a hole in the card to indicated that a soldier is not Jewish; stamped the word “authenticated” in a box if the information is verified; stamped XX if the case is in abeyance; or left the box blank if the case is pending (see Box 273, card 1).”

There are also two other series of particular interest to me. Series IV: Individuals: Record files for casualties and awards, 1942-1947. These records that memorialize the service of 85,000 individuals consist of, in part, “individual files on Jewish men and women who earned awards, suffered casualties, or were party to newsworthy events in the war. Information about Jewish service personnel is presented on standardized forms printed by the Bureau of War Records.” (Finding aid.)

Series V: Special studies, 1943-1946 is also fascinating; it includes information on families with multiple sons in the service and commissioned officers and refugees serving in the armed forces.

These records were further examined and compiled into a book: American Jews in World War II: the story of 550,000 fighters for freedom by Isidor Kaufman in 1947. This work only includes individuals if they ware “definitely known to be Jewish, as a result of careful authentication by the Bureau of War Records of the National Jewish Welfare Board and local war records committees.”
 
One member of the armed services I became familiar with through these records is Lieutenant Ruchamkin. “On 13 November 1942, Lieutenant (junior grade) Ruchamkin was killed during action against Japanese forces off Savo Island, Solomon Islands. He was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for ” … extraordinary heroism as first lieutenant aboard the USS Cushing … While under vigorous bombardment by hostile naval units … Ruchamkin … efficiently directed the fighting of fires and the efforts to control damage. Leading his party to an area below decks to extinguish flames which were raging there, he never returned.” (Source.) He had a ship named after him, the USS Ruchamkin, it was eventually turned over to Columbia where she was commissioned as the Cordoba. The remaining structure is now being incorporated into a military museum, well inland, in Bogota, Columbia.

Veterans Day is also Armistice Day, the day World War I ended 94 years ago. Therefore, it is also appropriate to mention a few books held by the Leo Baeck Institute Library, including The German-Jewish soldiers of the First World War in history and memory by Tim Grady.  

The reference collection of the Lillian Goldman Reading Room contains two important Gedenkbuchs that list Jewish Soldiers who fought for Germany in World War I. One is illustrated with photos of soldiers. It was published by a local branch of the Reichsbundes Juedischer Frontsoldaten.

There is also a more comprehensive Reichsbundes Juedischer Frontsoldaten publication published in 1932, the year before Hitler became Chancellor of Germany in the reference collection. It lists the 85,000 German Jewish Soldiers who fought and the 12,000 who died for Germany during the Great War. It was part of the efforts of the Reichsbundes Juedischer Frontsoldaten to prove that Jews were not disloyal to the countries they lived in.

—————

First photo above: 1945. Visit to front….. Chaplain Morris M. Berman, recently awarded the Bronze Star Medal, extreme left, chats with the crew of a Marine tank near the front lines on Okinawa. His citation reads in part, “For meritorious achievement in connection with operations against the Japanese enemy while serving as Assistant Division Chaplain, with special reference to the needs of Jewish men, on Okinawa Shima, Ryukyu Islands, from 1 April 1945 to 21 June 1945. Under the most hazardous conditions of combat, Chaplain Berman kept personal contact with the men in all regiments and battalions of the Division as well as in a number of attached organizations. On numerous occasions he exposed himself to sniper and shell fire in order to reach and minister to his men, and was tireless in his efforts to comfort and cheer the wounded…..” An alumnus of Yale University, the Jewish Institute of Religion, and Columbia University, Chaplain Berman entered the Navy Chaplaincy in May 1943. His wife and son live at 5048 South Woodlawn Avenue, Chicago, Illinois. c/o American Jewish Historical Society.

Second photo above: May 1918. Fort George G. Meade (Md.) National Jewish Welfare Board Records collection. c/o American Jewish Historical Society.

Rosh Hashanah Resources
by David P. Rosenberg, M.P.A., Senior Reference Librarian - Collections, Center for Jewish History

In honor of the New Year I examined ten resources available at the Center (for the ten days of repentance) that reflect on the experience of the High Holidays in the military.

Memoirs

1)    Reflections on World War II: Chaplain Jacob Kraft’s Letters to Leah reprints Kraft’s letters to his congregants (in Congregation Beth Shalom in Wilmington Delaware) who he left, with their full support, for the military chaplaincy. The change between letters from during the war and those from after victory is dramatic and touching; they give a real taste of Rabbi Kraft’s sentiments at the time.

The 1944 letter speaks about military cooperation for the holiday, and the help of the Jewish Welfare Board. It quotes a statement from a GI who recently returned from overseas: “I never knew that there could be so much joy in walking along the street with my wife or playing with my boy. They mean far more to me now than when I was in the States.”

Rabbi Kraft concludes the touching but restrained letter with a poignant prayer: “There is good reason to believe that the year 5705 will usher in the year of Victory. May God grant that it be the victory of the unshackled human spirit over brute strength and brute evil. God bless you and all your dear ones with health and happiness. May the New Year bring freedom to all mankind and abiding peace on earth.”

His letter of Rosh Hashanah 5706 starts with the following: “These Rosh Hashanah greetings are being written immediately following V[ictory over]J[apan] day, and the traditional prayer is on all lips “Shehechiyanu, V’keemanu” (We thank Thee, O Lord, that we have lived to witness this day). We rejoice not only because of victory over a treacherous and unscrupulous foe, but also because this victory has saved countless human lives and put an end to the wasteful expenditure of natural and human resources.”

The concluding paragraph has marked differences from the year before: “May I extend to you the blessings of this Rosh Hashanah which is filled with such hopeful promise. May this promise be fulfilled. May God grant you and your dear loved ones strength, peace and abiding happiness.”

2)    The wartime memoirs of Rabbi Harold H. Gordon, Chaplain on Wings recounts a “serious altercation” he had with a commanding officer regarding getting soldiers leave for holiday services. It resulted in a “special investigating team” addressing the matter. He recounts that “Fortunately, we knew that there was more than one way of skinning a cat. We Jewish chaplains learned very early in our chaplaincy service that it was often more important to cultivate the friendship of a first sergeant or even a ‘buck’ sergeant than that of the C.O., because it was the sergeant who was responsible for carrying out the C.O.’s directives…”

3)    An American Rabbi in Korea, A Chaplain’s Journey in the Forgotten War recounts how Rabbi Rosen was transferred to Japan for surgery and was released in time for the holidays. “He conducted services in Kobe at the Jewish synagogue built by the Sassoon Family before World War II.” (see The Sassoon dynasty and The Sassoons, two books held by the American Sephardi Federation, for more information on the family of “merchants, philanthropists, and men of letters, originally from Baghdad” [Encyclopaedia Judaica 2nd Ed.])

Resources

4)    A Chapel Songbook, Sing and be Joyful from the Chaplain, U.S. Marine Corps, compiled by Captain Samuel Sobel, CHN, USN has music and words for “Ere space exists” and “Into the tomb of ages past”—two songs indicated in the table of contents as specific to the New Year.

5)    A Program and Resource Guide for Jewish lay leaders ministering to Jewish personnel in the Armed forces in the absence of a Jewish chaplain, outlines the holiday succinctly in one page. One section struck me: “If extreme necessity precludes the holding of full services, cut the services short, but on no account may you postpone the observance. Try to arrange for at least one festive meal, with candles and Kiddush to celebrate the day.” This work was printed by Armed Forces Chaplains Board with cooperation of the Commission on Jewish chaplaincy, National Jewish Welfare Board.

Archival collections

6)    The National Jewish Welfare Board was founded in “1917 to provide support for soldiers in times of war” (catalog entry). The collection, I-337, spans more than 1500 linear feet and has information on the holiday in various locations, including a subseries dedicated to holiday files. (Subgroup I: Governance, Series C: Central Records Center, Subseries 4: Holiday Files, 1905-1972 (bulk 1935-1960)) Finding aid here.

7)   There is also a collection of chaplaincy records: National Jewish Welfare Board military chaplaincy records, I-249. Finding aid here.

Reflections of the National Jewish Welfare Board efforts

8)    Despite the great work done by the National Jewish Welfare Board, supporting thousands of soldiers, some of their work was also ridiculed. Chaplain Livazer reflects on acquiring prayer books for the High Holidays in The Rabbi’s Blessing: “…and within a few days received a package of fifty Adler prayerbooks with English translation and two thousand machzorim from the Jewish Welfare Board, which were considered a joke even by the rabbis who had compiled them, so devoid were they of all content…”  (over twenty Machzorim from the partner collections have digitized and are available online)

9)    Rabbis in uniform has twenty pages dedicated to the high holiday services. In one section, Supply Chaplain Maurice Kleinberg recalls how he arranged for transport of Kosher food from the National Jewish Welfare Board. “I could see no reason why we could not have such delicacies as lox and cream cheese or salami. First, however, we had to get a special permit that would have the shipments of the Jewish Welfare Board a higher priority…Quartermaster notified us that we would have to be on hand for the unloading of our boxes; to prevent pilferage…we had to organize a 24-hour guard duty roster…men were happy to serve when they found out what the precious cargo contained…”

Nisson E. Shulman remembers how they had a shofar that would not blow; they received the shofar from the National Jewish Welfare Board. First “Sam, the tailor” suggested they pickle it in vinegar as he claimed they did in Europe when a shofar would not blow. This remedy did not work. Next he took the Shofar to the Naval Exchange garage:

“What’s your problem, Chaplain?”

“Well I’ll tell you. I have a stubborn Shofar and I would appreciate your blowing it out with your air pump.”

The Navy rises to any reasonable emergency. But this Shofar was unreasonable. Even after the air pump treatment, it would not blow. But the garage attendant recommended that I try the fire station since they had a much more powerful air compressor. Service time was nearing and I was open to all suggestions.

The first attempt with the fire station’s air gun blew the Shofar across the room. We picked it up tenderly and saw that, thank God, it was not damaged.

“Give me that Scotch Horn again, Rabbi,” urged the Fire Chief. We held it down together. We forced the air through. We shot a sweetening agent into it; we gave it a dose of perfume. I lifted it to my lips and, lo and behold, there came forth the blast of the Shofar. But the overpowering vinegar aroma was still very much there…

More current reflections on holiday observance

Just as Rabbis petitioned and became Chaplains in the Civil war (see this blog entry) and the Jewish Welfare Board helped support Jewish soldiers during the Great War, Rabbi Kraft enlisted to help support Jewish soldiers during WWII, and Rabbi Rosen served in Korea, there continue to be Jews in the military and clergy to serve them. People doing historical research frequently reference The Forward on microfilm, the YIVO archives also has Forward Association records, RG 685 as well as related collections such as Abraham Cahan’s collection RG 1139. Cahan was the Founder of the Jewish Daily Forward and its editor-in-chief from 1901 until his death in 1951.

10)    This article from the Forward (electronically available in the Center’s reading room, as are over 200 electronic resources) from last year preserves the more current holiday celebrations.

We here at the Center wish you a sweet new year and all the best in 5773. To conduct your own holiday-inspired search of the collections, click here.

The American Jewish chaplain experience: historical perspectives

by David P. Rosenberg, Senior Reference Librarian - Collections, Center for Jewish History

Many things come to the minds of Americans when they think of Abraham Lincoln: the story of the apple tree and the nickname “honest Abe,” the address at Gettysburg, the Emancipation Proclamation. One thing that may not immediately come to mind is the fight for religious freedom that Lincoln fought amidst the perils of war. Rabbi Benjamin Szold (1829-1902) said in his eulogy for Lincoln: “To us Jews Lincoln has a special meaning. In the course of history we found many father-lands. We never knew freedom. It was here in the United States that we found freedom. It was Lincoln, who was so devoted to freedom…” (from The presidents of the United States & the Jews / by David G. Dalin & Alfred J. Kolatch. p. 80

One of Lincoln’s most significant gestures was his revocation of General Ulysses S. Grant’s order No. 11, which expelled “The Jews, as a class” from the Treasury Department of Tennessee. (ibid p. 77) In addition to his support of Jews in the military—exemplified when he tapped Uriah P. Levy, who helped to abolish corporal punishment in the Navy, to the Courts-Martial board in Washington (ibid p. 75)—Lincoln encouraged Jews to serve as military chaplains. He first met with Rabbi Dr. Arnold Fischel 150 years ago yesterday. Click here to see “Rabbi-Chaplains of the Civil War” by Karen Abbott of the New York Times, which cites material from the American Jewish Historical Society collections here at the Center.

The Center for Jewish History houses a wealth of material on the American Jewish chaplain experience. Each of our five partners has material on the subject:


From the collections of the American Jewish Historical Society
Correspondence from Arnold Fischel to Henry I. Hart, December 13, 1861, Board of Delegates of American Israelites records,I-2, Box 2, Folder 5.


From the collections of Yeshiva University Museum,
Gift of Rabbi Abraham Avrech

Korean War Chaplain Rabbi Abraham Avrech’s dress uniform 1950s


From the collections of the American Sephardi Federation
Responsa in War Time 



From the collections of the Leo Baeck Institute

From doom to dawn; a Jewish chaplain’s story of displaced persons


Library of the YIVO institute for Jewish research
The fighting rabbis:  Jewish military chaplains and American history among other works. 

Learn more by searching the catalog at search.cjh.org or sending an inquiry: inquiries@cjh.org.

Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day

by David P. Rosenberg, Senior Reference Librarian - Collections, Center for Jewish History

Today marks seventy years since the attack on Pearl Harbor, the event that hurled America into the Second World War. 

According to the Encyclopedia Judaica, Jews’ service to the United States armed forces started with militia duty during the Colonial era. “A considerable number of Jews volunteered for the colonialist armies,” and the trend continued with the War of 1812, the Civil War—where Jews fought on both sides—the Great War, and World War II—where “over half a million U.S. Jews fought in the Allied armies, many of whom crossed the Canadian border early in the war to volunteer for the Canadian army before the United States entered the fighting.”

The Center has a wealth of information on the Jewish American experience in the armed services including Fighting for America: an account of Jewish men in the armed forces, from Pearl Harbor to the Italian campaign and Introducing—the Sky Blazers: the adventures of a special band of troops who entertained the Allied forces during World War II, which has a section on entertaining the troops at Pearl Harbor. 

Stay tuned for more information on the Jewish American military experience. 

Click here to read about “Jewish reactions to Pearl Harbor” on the JTA Archive blog.

For research/genealogy inquiries, please email inquiries@cjh.org.