Guide to the Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun Collection
circa 1890-2019

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© Copyright 2011.  Yeshiva University
Yeshiva University Archives | Mendel Gottesman Library | 500 W. 185th St., New York, NY 10033 | Phone: (646) 592-4058 | Email: archives@yu.edu

Collection Overview

Creator: Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun (New York, N.Y.)
Title: Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun Collection
Inclusive Dates:approximately 1890s-2019
Bulk Dates:1940-1990
Size:126 Linear feet
Number of Boxes:118 record cartons, 8 manuscript boxes and 4 flat boxes
Abstract:The collection consists of the institutional records of Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun, a Modern Orthodox synagogue established in 1872 on Manhattan's Upper East Side.
Languages:Materials are primarily in English, with some items in Hebrew and Yiddish.
Call No: 2011.004

About This Guide

Finding aid initially encoded November, 2011

Revised to reflect processing of Meeting Minutes, Rabbis Files and Bulletins series, May 2014.

Revised to reflect processing remainder of series, December 2016.

Finding aid encoded in English.

Historical Note

Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun was founded in 1872 in the Yorkville section of Manhattan's Upper East Side. Despite being established during a period of decline in traditional Judaism, the synagogue adhered to Orthodox practice and custom, and soon expanded to include functions such as a Ladies Auxiliary and a Religious School. The congregation dedicated its first building in 1884. In 1902, construction was completed on the congregation's present building, which was damaged by a fire in 2011.

In 1905, Rabbi Moses Zevulun Margolies (also known as the RaMaZ), a renowned rabbinic scholar and communal leader in the United States who had been ordained by some of the foremost rabbis of Europe, became the senior rabbi and served until his death in 1936. Throughout, the synagogue also maintained an English-speaking associate rabbi, not only to engage its younger congregants and youth, but also to foster its establishment as an institution conversant with the language and culture of the modern day. During this period, the Sisterhood and the Men's Club, two groups that have contributed greatly to congregational life, were organized.

The appointment of Rabbi Margolies began what has become a long-term family affiliation with the congregation that exists until this day. Upon his death in 1936, he was succeeded by his grandson-in-law, Rabbi Joseph Lookstein, who had served as the Assistant Rabbi since 1923. Rabbi Lookstein's son Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, who is the congregation's current senior rabbi, had assisted his father beginning in 1958 until his passing in 1979.

Kehilath Jeshurun presently defines itself as a modern Orthodox synagogue which emphasizes both the "modern" and the "Orthodox" - deeply committed to religious tradition, and an integral participant in a modern, 21st century secular society. With over 3000 members, the congregation provides a broad range of services and activities. In addition, it is closely affiliated with Ramaz, the Modern Orthodox day school founded by Rabbi Joseph Lookstein in 1937 and named in honor of Rabbi Margolies. The synagogue's senior rabbi has also served as the head of the school, and has greatly influenced its religious and educational philosophy.

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of the institutional records of Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun. The Office of the Rabbi series, which contains extensive files of Rabbis Joseph and Haskel Lookstein, and the Administrative Office series, which contains files documenting synagogue operations and activities, are the most comprehensive. While there is a small amount of material from the early years of the synagogue, the majority of these records are dated from the 1930s through the 1990s. In addition, the collection contains over a century's worth of meeting minutes of the Board of Trustees and other governing bodies, nearly a full run of the synagogue's bulletin as well as various other printed materials, and some photographs and videos from various synagogue events.

Arrangement

The collection is arranged into nine series:

Series A: Rabbis' Files, 1900-2000
Series B: Synagogue Governance, 1903-2019
Series C: Administrative Records, 1896-1990
Series D: Photographs, 1940s-1990s, undated
Series E: Audio/Video, 1984-2002, undated
Series F: Printed Materials, 1920-2019
Series G: Financial Ledgers, 1949-1977
Series H: Artifacts, 1964-1972, 2016, undated
Series I: Deceased/Resigned Member Files, 1940s-2010 (restricted)

Index Terms

This collection has been indexed under the following terms:

Persons:
Belkin, Samuel
Etra, Max
Levy, Samuel, 1876-1953
Lookstein, Gertrude
Lookstein, Haskel
Lookstein, Joseph Hyman, 1902-
Margolies, Moses Zevulun
Organizations:
American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee
B'nai Brith Hillel Foundations
Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany
Gustav Wurzwreiler Foundation
Harry and Jane Fischel Foundation
Hebrew Teachers Training School for Girls
Herman Goldman Foundation Inc.
Mizrachi-Hapoel Hamizrachi
National Jewish Welfare Board. Commission on Jewish Chaplaincy
National Jewish Welfare Board. Lecture Bureau.
New York Association for New Americans
New York Board of Rabbis
Park East Kashruth Board
Rabbinical Council of America
Ramaz School (New York, N.Y.)
Synagogue Council of America
Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America
United Jewish Appeal
United Jewish Appeal--Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York
Universiṭat Bar-Ilan
Yeshiva University
Subjects:
Jewish day schools -- New York (State) -- New York
Jewish educators -- Israel
Jewish educators -- United States
Jews -- New York (State) -- New York
Jews--Persecutions--Soviet Union
Kosher food industry -- New York (State) -- New York
Military chaplains -- United States
Orthodox Judaism -- New York (State) -- New York
Rabbis -- New York (State) -- New York
Religious Zionism
Synagogues -- New York (State) -- New York
Document Types:
Administrative records
Books
Correspondence
Ephemera
Financial records
Minutes
Newsletters
Periodicals
Photographs
Sermons
Sound recordings
Speeches
Video recordings

Provenance

Immediate Source of Acquisition note

The collection was donated to Yeshiva University Archives by Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun in 2011.

Processing Note

Processing Note

The collection had previously been maintained by volunteers of the synagogue, who preserved the materials in archival quality folders and record cartons, and created the basis for what emerged as the two major series of the collection, the Rabbis' Files and the Administrative Records series.

Initial processing of portions of the collection was done in 2014. Meeting minutes and synagogue bulletins were brought together and arranged, and the records of Rabbis Joseph and Haskel Lookstein in the Rabbis' Files series were processed. The remainder of the collection was processed in 2016.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is available to researchers deemed to be qualified by the Archivist. A small portion of the material is restricted for privacy.

Conditions Governing Use

Restrictions may apply concerning the use, photoduplication, or publication of materials in this collection. Please contact the Curator of Special Collections for information regarding Yeshiva University's reproduction policies and fees.

Alternative Form Available

The majority of minutes and a portion of the Rabbi Joseph H. Lookstein Records series is available on microfilm. Users may be requested to view microfilm instead of handling original materials.

Digital versions of synagogue bulletins through July 1994 can be viewed here.

Detailed Description of the Collection

Series A: Rabbis' Files, 1900-2000. 61.25 Linear feet, 47 record cartons and 1 slim manuscript box

Scope and Contents: The series consists of records of Rabbi Joseph H. Lookstein and his son Rabbi Haskel Lookstein. Also included is a small set of folders from Rabbi Moses Zevulun Margolies, who preceded the Looksteins as the synagogue's senior Rabbi.

Staff at Kehilath Jeshurun had maintained each rabbi's files as a single sequence ordered chronologically. Archivists sifted through this material, refining each sequence's original order and identifying logical subcategories of files. Nonetheless, a great deal of material remains largely unsorted in the boxes that comprise the General Correspondence set offiles. These correspondence files remain as they were when the Archives received them, arranged chronologically and (broadly) alphabetically, as described below in the General Correspondence section of each subseries. As a result, researchers should be prepared to discover a great deal of material in the General Correspondence files that pertains to topics addressed in the Subject Files.

Arrangement: Arranged into three subseries:
Subseries 1: Rabbi Joseph H. Lookstein Records, 1910-1997
Subseries 2: Rabbi Haskel Lookstein Records, 1948-2000
Subseries 3: Rabbi Moses Zevulun Margolies Records, 1900-1936
Subseries 1: Rabbi Joseph H. Lookstein Records, 1910, 1928-1979, 1997. 47 Linear feet, 47 cartons
Arrangement: This subseries is arranged into the following sections:
I: Personal and Biographical Materials, 1910, 1928-1979, 1997
II: Sermons, Addresses, and Written Publications, 1937-1977
III: Subject Files, 1921-1979
IV: General Correspondence, 1946-1979
Biographical Note: Joseph Lookstein was born in the shtetl of Shumyatich, in Mogilev, Belarus, and migrated to the U.S. with his family in 1910. As a youth, he attended the Rabbi Jacob Joseph School and then the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary at Yeshiva University. He apprenticed for several years with Rabbi M.Z. Margolies at Kehilath Jeshurun, and received his ordination as a Rabbi in 1926. Later that same year, Rabbi Lookstein became Margolies' grandson-in-law when he married the elder rabbi's granddaughter, Gertrude Schlang. Upon the death of Rabbi Margolies in 1936, Rabbi Lookstein assumed the position of Senior Rabbi of Kehilath Jeshurun-a position he held until his death in 1979.

In addition to being the spiritual leader of Kehilath Jeshurun, Lookstein was also a lifelong educator. After earning a BA in Literature from City College (1928), he went on to pursue graduate work in the Sociology at Columbia University, earning an MA in that subject in 1929, and an M.Phil. in 1931. For many years, he taught courses in Homilectics, Practical Rabbinics, and Sociology at Yeshiva University. In 1928, he worked with the Mizrachi Organization to create the Hebrew Teachers Training School for Girls (which was later absorbed into Stern College for Women). In 1937, he founded the Ramaz School (naming it after the euphonic nickname of his grandfather-in-law). Lookstein actively oversaw the administration and day-to-day operations of Ramaz throughout his life, involving himself in the details of the school's physical plant and financial matters, in staffing and enrollment, and in pupil discipline, among other affairs. He also helped promote the school and the ideas about Jewish education that it put into action, speaking publically and publishing essays about the Ramaz method of education and related topics. Starting in 1958, he was affiliated with Israel's Bar-Ilan University, where he filled several positions, and served-for more than a decade-as Chancellor.

Rabbi Lookstein also participated in, and led, a wide range of Jewish communal organizations and efforts over the course of his life. He labored on behalf of Zionism (both before and after the establishment of the State of Israel), and on behalf of Jewish Holocaust survivors and refugees. During World War II, he served as a member of the Commission on Jewish Chaplaincy, counseling Jewish servicemen, recruiting Jewish chaplains, and lobbying the US military to make Kosher food and other special provisions available to Jewish personnel. After the war ended, he traveled to Europe annually (for several years) to meet with Jewish military personnel and to visit Displaced Persons camps. He was actively involved in the Rabbinical Council of America, the Union of Orthodox Rabbis, the National Jewish Welfare Board, B'nai Brith/Hillel, the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies, the Joint Distribution Committee, and many other institutions.

Lookstein had two children-Nathalie Lookstein Schacter, who earned a PhD in Sociology from Columbia University, and Haskel Lookstein, a Rabbi who worked alongside-and ultimately succeeded-his father at Kehilath Jeshurun.

Scope and Contents: The subseries consists of material from the office of Rabbi Joseph Hyman Lookstein (1902-1979), a Russian-born American Rabbi who served for five decades as the spiritual leader of Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun on New York's Upper East Side, and was a pioneer in the Modern Orthodox movement. It contains materials dating from Lookstein's early years as Rabbi through his death in 1979. (It also includes a small number of files from after Lookstein's death-condolence notes and memorial tributes for him and his wife, who died in 1997.) The vast majority of the material in the subseries is correspondence-both incoming (that is, addressed to Lookstein) or outgoing (written by Lookstein to a range of recipients). The subseries also contains several boxes of his writings (essays, pamphlets, speeches, sermons), material related to his work as a student and a teacher, personal and biographical materials, several file folders of photographs, and administrative documents relating to Kehilath Jeshurun and Ramaz, as well as to other institutions with which he was involved.

The subseries is valuable to researchers studying a range of topics related to American Jewish life in the 20th century, and Modern Orthodox philosophy and practice. Materials contained herein shed light on the development of the ideas and practices central to the Modern Orthodox movement-including the ways in which its adherents balanced their commitment to Jewish practice and community with their commitment to participating in mainstream American society; the challenges that confronted its constituent institutions; and the debates that rippled through its populations. The collection also contains material pertinent to the subject of Jewish communal life in the aftermath of World War II. Researchers will find, among the subseries' subject files, thick folders containing Lookstein's correspondence with, and work on behalf, the Joint Distribution Committee, the United Jewish Appeal, the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies, and other important groups. There is also a great deal of material documenting the day-to-day administration of Kehilath Jeshurun and Ramaz, records documenting the near-constant fundraising he did on behalf of these and other institutions, and information about Lookstein's approach to both rabbinical education and how to write an effective sermon. (On this last topic, he drew inspiration from a wide range of sources, including the work of Protestant pastor Harry Emerson Fosdick.) Other highlights of the collection include Lookstein's eye-witness accounts of visiting (and delivering sermons before) Holocaust survivors at Displaced Persons camps in Europe after the war, observations written during and after his journeys among Latin American Jewish communities in the 1940s, his course and lecture notes, and his published and unpublished writings.

The subseries consists of administrative files, correspondence, photographs, syllabi and course notes, essays, sermons, pamphlets, travel journals, clippings, and miscellaneous ephemera.

Section I: Personal and Biographical Materials, 1910, 1928-1979, 1997. 6 Linear feet, 6 cartons and 1 artifact box
Scope and Contents: This section contains a range of material relating to the personal life of Rabbi Joseph Lookstein. In Lookstein's life, it was sometimes hard to separate the personal from the professional-his travels, for instance, often joined his work as a Jewish communal leader to his personal life. Throughout this entire section, then, researchers will find information about personal matters mixed in with information about professional ones, and vice versa. That said, this section contains material that stands apart from the rest, and seems better labeled "personal" than professional. It includes files relating to Lookstein's graduate studies, his many trips abroad, and members of his extended family (including his wife and children, and Rabbi Margolies), as well as personal correspondence, letters he received congratulating him on his 50th wedding anniversary and consoling him on the death of several relatives, biographical essays, resumes, newspaper clippings, and material that was generated about the Rabbi after his and his wife's death-obituaries, memorial tributes, and material relating to the volume of essays, published posthumously, in his honor. This section also contains several files which house most, but not all, of the photographs contained in this subseries-depicting Lookstein at many public functions, and in the presence of other rabbis or dignitaries, among others. (There are a handful of additional photos scattered across the subseries, in files connected to their origins and content.)

A special note about the box containing "Travel-related files": A great many of these files concern the numerous trips that Lookstein took, both during and after World War II, as part of his work with Jewish military chaplains and displaced Holocaust refugees. He traveled to Camp Lejeune and other army camps in North Carolina in 1945; that same year, he traveled to South America on behalf of the Joint Distribution Committee. He also traveled to Europe annually for the first several years after the war-visiting D.P camps and military installments, and working on behalf of Jewish refugees across the continent. This box contains a wide range of materials related to these journeys-correspondence related to trip preparation, correspondence written while he was abroad, travel diaries, and post-trip writings. Researchers should be aware that material related to these trips also appears in other locations across this subseries-for instance, in the box containing Lookstein's publications, and in the subject files (especially under the headings of the Joint Distribution Committee, the National Jewish Welfare Board, and Military Chaplains). In later years, he also traveled to Europe, and other locations, for pleasure; several files contained here document these trips, as well.

Arrangement: This section is arranged by topic and chronologically within.
BoxDescription
ACondolence letters upon death of Rabbi Joseph Lookstein, 1979
BCondolence Letters upon death of Gertrude Lookstein, 1997
CMemorial tributes; Biographical materials, 1940-1984
DPersonal Files, 1910, 1928-1973
EPersonal Files, 1973-1979
EPhotographs, 1957-1970, 1978
FTravel-related files, 1945-1978
Section II: Sermons, Addresses, and Written Publications, 1937-1977. 3 Linear feet, 3 cartons
Scope and Contents: This section contains a wide range of Lookstein's writings-including public addresses he composed for the radio; talks he delivered before students, members of various Jewish organizations, conference attendees, and others; sermons; published essays and booklets; unpublished manuscripts; and press clippings and correspondence relating to all of the above. Mostly, these were written in English, but these files contain a smattering of Yiddish and Hebrew-language writings as well. Of special interest are the files containing Lookstein's autobiographical writings, and his essays on Jewish education, Ramaz, funding for parochial schools in the US, his experiences visiting Displaced Persons camps in post-World War II Europe, and Israel, among other topics. Among these writings are: a 175+ -page typescript entitled Judaism and the Contemporary Crisis (1971); several drafts of an autobiographical manuscript, parts of which were published in the booklet Two Psalms of Praise (1974); a pamphlet published by the Bloch Publishing Company containing several of his "wartime sermons," entitled Sources of Courage (1943); an array of essays on Jewish education ( The Ramaz Plan in Jewish Education, undated; The Jewish All-Day School, undated.; The Modern American Yeshivah, 1945; Goals of Jewish Education, 1960; and The Youth As Citizen, 1960); a typescript containing reflections on his travels in post-World War II Europe entitled Ashes of the Holocaust; several historical accounts of Kehilath Jeshurun (including one called "To Kehilath Jeshurun with Love," 1974[?]); and many others. This section also contains a comprehensive (though most likely not exhaustive) run of the sermons that the Rabbi delivered across the decades-from the pulpit as well as over the radio-and several prayers written for special occasions. In some cases, folders contain various versions or drafts of these writings. These boxes also contain research notes compiled by the Rabbi in the course of writing, and publications by other authors on subjects in which he was interested.
Arrangement: Arranged by mode of address and chronologically within.
BoxDescription
GSermons and public talks, undated-1968
HSermons and public talks, 1968-1979
IPublications, manuscripts, and research materials/notes, undated, 1937-1977
Section III: Subject Files, 1921-1979. 16 Linear feet, 16 cartons
Scope and Contents: This section contains files relating to the organizations, institutions, people, and topics that were most important in Rabbi Lookstein's life, and to his administration of Kehilath Jeshurun and Ramaz. It also contains information about a range of Jewish communal, educational, and religious organizations, including the Joint Distribution Committee and the Wurzweiler Foundation, Bar-Ilan University, Yeshiva University, and Lookstein's correspondence with his son Haskel when the two were colleagues at Kehilath Jeshurun. A great deal of this material is correspondence. The largest groups are those relating to Kehilath Jeshurun and Ramaz, which contain correspondence about the day-to-day operations of the synagogue and the school, and memos relating to the institutions' finances, facilities, and staffing issues. The Kehilath Jeshurun files also document everything from the trials and tribulations of ensuring a minyan (quorum) in the winter months (Lookstein developed a system of "Jewry Duty" in an attempt to solve this problem) to memoranda about paying the gas bill, planning special holiday services, and raising necessary funds. This section also contains two boxes of files relating to the Annual Synagogue Appeal. This material is similar to records contained in other places in the Kehilath Jeshurun collection, especially in the synagogue's administrative files.

This section also contains files documenting many years of local Kashruth supervision, which, for several years, was administered for Kehilath Jeshurun by rabbinic assistant (a relative, presumably) named Arthur Lookstein. Also of note is the collection of Yeshiva University files, which feature correspondence, syllabi, lecture notes, and exams for the three main courses Lookstein taught, Practical Rabbinics, Homiletics, and Sociology 32.

As mentioned in the Scope and Contents Note for the series, researchers interested in named subjects should be aware that they will most likely find additional material related to many of these topics within the General Correspondence section as well.

Arrangement: Arranged by name of topic, person, or organization, and then chronologically within.
BoxDescription
JA-Bar Ilan, 1956-1962
KBar Ilan, 1962-1973
LBar Ilan, 1973-1979
MB'nai Brith - Federation of Jewish Philanthropies
NFeldman, Leon-Kashruth supervision
OKehilath Jeshurun Annual Synagogue Appeal Files, 1944-1959
PKehilath Jeshurun Annual Synagogue Appeal Files, 1960-1971
QKehilath Jeshurun general synagogue business, 1921-1958
RKehilath Jeshurun general synagogue business, 1958-1965
SKehilath Jeshurun general synagogue business, 1966-1977
TLookstein, Rabbi Haskel-New York Association for New Americans
UNew York Board of Jewish Ministers-Ramaz (1942-1958)
VRamaz (1959-1974)-Sax, Jules
WSynagogue Council of America-Wurzweiler Foundation (1954-1967)
XWurzweiler Foundation (1968-1979)-Yeshiva University (1942-1962)
YYeshiva University (1963-1969)-Zoning
Section IV: General Correspondence, 1946-1979. 22 Linear feet, 22 cartons
Scope and Contents: These files contain Lookstein's general correspondence-both incoming and outgoing. The section also contains a "Diary" or folder full of "invitations and appointments" for nearly every year documented. Overall, these letters reflect Lookstein's devotion to hard work and attention to detail, as well as his expressiveness, the breadth of his beliefs and commitments, and his dedication to caring for members of his community, his family, and his friends.
Arrangement: Chronologically and then alphabetically within. Alphabetized folders contain letters written by-or to-a correspondent whose last name (or the organization to which s/he belonged) began with that letter. This alphabetization is imprecise, and sometimes unpredictable. Researchers will find, for instance, letters addressed to Harry J. Silver in the same folder as those written to representatives from Congregation Shaare Hatikvah.
BoxDescription
ZCorrespondence, 1945-1947
AACorrespondence, 1948-1950
BBCorrespondence, 1950-1952
CCCorrespondence, 1952-1954
DDCorrespondence, 1954-1956
EECorrespondence, 1956-1958
FFCorrespondence, 1958-1959
GGCorrespondence, 1960
HHCorrespondence, 1961
IICorrespondence, 1962-1963
JJCorrespondence, 1963-1964
KKCorrespondence, 1964-1965
LLCorrespondence, 1966
MMCorrespondence, 1967
NNCorrespondence, 1968
OOCorrespondence, 1968-1969
PPCorrespondence, 1969-1970
QQCorrespondence, 1971
RRCorrespondence, 1972-1973
SSCorrespondence, 1974-1975
TTCorrespondence, 1975-1976
UUCorrespondence, 1977-1979
Subseries 2: Rabbi Haskel Lookstein Records, 1948-2000. 14 Linear feet, 14 cartons
Arrangement: This subseries is arranged into the following sections:
I: Personal and Biographical Materials, 1966-1982
II: Sermons, Addresses, and Written Publications, 1953-1988
III: Subject Files, 1948-2000
IV: General Correspondence, 1950-1990
Biographical Note: Haskel Lookstein was born into, and spent his life surrounded by, the Kehilath Jeshurun community. Descended from two of the synagogue's most important leaders-his great-grandfather was Rabbi M.Z. Margolies and his father was Rabbi Joseph Lookstein-Rabbi Haskel Lookstein spent his life helping to shape the synagogue and its satellites. After graduating from the Ramaz School in 1949 (he was in the school's first graduating class), Lookstein earned a B.A. from Columbia University. He went on to enroll at Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary at Yeshiva University (where he studied with Rabbi Avigdor Cyperstein, Samuel Sar, Rabbi Joseph Weiss, and, most influentially, Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik), receiving ordination as a Rabbi in 1958, and earning a Ph.D. in Jewish History in 1979.

Like his father and great-grandfather, Lookstein spent most of his professional life as the spiritual leader of Kehilath Jeshurun. He joined Kehilath Jeshurun as an Assistant Rabbi in 1958, and became Senior Rabbi upon his father's death in 1979. At Kehilath Jeshurun he used his talents to develop the synagogue's social and cultural programming, working closely with young members, and creating an array of new clubs-notably the Young Marrieds group. Meanwhile, he worked on a diversity of other educational and communal projects. His work as a teacher began during his early years as a student at Yeshiva University; while a rabbinical student, he worked part-time at Ramaz teaching Bar Mitzvah and other courses. He continued to teach at and help administer Ramaz over the subsequent years. He was appointed Assistant Principal in 1967, and became Principal in 1971. In addition to all of this, he worked actively, for several decades, on behalf of Soviet Jewry, among other causes.

Lookstein is the author of many publications, including Were We Our Brothers Keepers? The Public Response of American Jews to the Holocaust 1938-1944 (Hartmore House, 1985; republished by Random House, 1988).

He married his wife Audrey Katz Lookstein in 1959; they have four children.

References: Rafael Medoff, Rav Chesed: The Life and Times of Rabbi Haskel Lookstein (KTAV Publishing, 2008)

Scope and Contents: The subseries consists of material from the office of Rabbi Haskel Lookstein (1932- ) a third-generation Rabbi who has served for several decades as the spiritual leader of Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun and Principal of the Ramaz school. Although not complete, these records include an array of material from 1948 through 2000-general correspondence, subject files, personal and biographical materials, photographs, newspaper clippings, and publications. The subseries also contains copies of his pulpit sermons, published reviews of his book Were We Our Brothers' Keepers?, and administrative documents relating to Kehilath Jeshurun, Ramaz, and other institutions with which he was involved.

The subseries is valuable to researchers studying a range of topics related to American Jewish life in the 20th century, Jewish education, and Modern Orthodox philosophy and practice. Researchers will find, among the series' subject files, material documenting the day-to-day administration of Kehilath Jeshurun and Ramaz, as well as Lookstein's correspondence with Ramaz faculty and alumni, Kehilath Jeshurun congregants, and members of the United Jewish Appeal, the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies, and other important institutions. Other highlights of the subseries include files documenting Lookstein's work on behalf of Soviet Jewry and Israel, and his efforts to organize cultural events and clubs at KJ-including his work with the Young Marrieds group. The subseries also contains a personal letter written to Lookstein by retired President Harry Truman, correspondence with Elie Wiesel, and letters to and from several other notable individuals.

The materials consist of administrative files, correspondence, course notes, essays, memoranda, sermons, photographs, and clippings.

Section I: Personal and Biographical Materials, 1966-1982. .75 Linear feet, .5 carton VV
Scope and Contents: This section contains a handful of files-letters of congratulations (for completing his Ph.D., being appointed principal of Ramaz, and on the birth and weddings of his children), as well as material related to his early job search, travel-related material (related mostly to trips to Israel in 1971-2 and 1980), photographs, clippings, published profiles, and miscellaneous other correspondence.
Arrangement: Arranged by topic and chronologically within.
Section II: Sermons, Addresses, and Written Publications, 1953-1988. 0.75 Linear feet, .5 carton VV
Scope and Contents: This section includes typescript drafts of sermons, lectures, and published and unpublished essays-including essays bearing the titles "A Talmudic Postscript to Attica and Mr. Agnew," "Tefillin and God's Kinship," and "On Being Grateful." It also features two files containing reviews, from 1985-1986, of Lookstein's book Were We Our Brothers' Keepers? The Public Response of American Jews to the Holocaust 1938-1944.
Arrangement: Arranged by mode of address and chronologically within.
Section III: Subject Files, 1948-2000. 6 Linear feet, 6 cartons
Scope and Contents: This section contains files relating to Kehilath Jeshurun, Ramaz, and other organizations, people, and topics important to Rabbi Lookstein's work. Among these are files documenting Lookstein's work with Yeshiva University's Community Service Division, files relating to Lookstein's work on behalf of Soviet Jewry (1969-1983) and increasing US military aid to Israel, as well as with the Rabbinic Cabinet of the United Jewish Appeal. The set of Kehilath Jeshurun administrative files include transcripts of sermons given by visiting rabbis, correspondence related to the activities of the Young Marrieds Club, correspondence about local Kashruth supervision, and other materials. The section containing Ramaz-related files feature copies of Lookstein's correspondence with school staff (including Rabbi Joshua Bakst, Lillian Jacobs, Arthur Silverman, and Ruth Ritterbrand, among others), budget and scholarship material, faculty evaluations, letters of recommendation, correspondence with alumni, and materials gathered as part of curriculum development work (in the areas of art, Judaic studies, social studies, and sex education, among others). Researchers interested in named subjects should be aware that they will most likely find additional material related to many of these subjects within the "General Correspondence" subseries as well.
Arrangement: Arranged by name of topic, person, and organization, and then chronologically within. In some cases, files contain material related to both Ramaz and Kehilath Jeshurun (when, for instance, there were problems with the facilities they shared); folders of this kind have been filed according to which institution was most central to the issues discussed.
BoxDescription
WWAbrams-Kehilath Jeshurun (1950-1966, undated)
XXKehilath Jeshurun, 1967-1977
YYKehilath Jeshurun (1980-2000s)-Ramaz (1948-1968, undated)
ZZRamaz, 1966-1977
AAARamaz, 1970-1982
BBBRamaz (1982-1990)-Yeshiva University
Section IV: General Correspondence, 1950-1990. 7 Linear feet, 7 cartons
Scope and Contents: This section contains Lookstein's general correspondence-both incoming and outgoing.
Arrangement: Arranged chronologically and then alphabetically within. Alphabetized folders contain letters written by-or to-a correspondent whose last name (or the organization to which s/he belonged) began with that letter. This alphabetization is imprecise, and sometimes unpredictable. Researchers will find, for instance, letters addressed to Lewis Meltzer in the same folder as those written to Yeshiva Samson Raphael Hirsch on behalf of Pearl Moskowitz.
BoxDescription
CCCCorrespondence, 1958-1967
DDDCorrespondence, 1967-1969
EEECorrespondence, 1969-1971
FFFCorrespondence, 1972-1974
GGGCorrespondence, 1975-1977
HHHCorrespondence, 1978-1987
IIICorrespondence, 1987-1990
Subseries C: Rabbi Moses Zevulun Margolies Records, 1900-1936. .25 Linear feet, 1 slim manuscript box JJJ
Scope and Contents: The subseries consists of correspondence (mostly incoming) to Rabbi Margolies, as well as some personal documents, several photographs, and a scrapbook of clippings of coverage of his death. There is also a folder regarding the settlement of his estate.

Series B: Synagogue Governance, 1903-2019. 5.75 Linear feet, 5 record cartons and 2 manuscript boxes

Scope and Contents: Consists of various versions of the synagogue's bylaws and constitution, meeting minutes of several groups governing aspects of the synagogue's functions, and packets of materials distributed at the synagogue's annual membership meeting.
Subseries 1: Meeting Minutes, 1903-2019. 3.75 Linear feet, 3 record cartons and 2 manuscript boxes
Arrangement: Arranged chronologically by meeting type.
Scope and Contents: The series consists of minutes from meetings of the synagogue's Board of Trustees and Annual Membership (1903-2019), Executive Committee (1969-1987), Men's Club (1939-1974), and Sisterhood (1945-1956 and 1971-1999). Most minutes are contained in bound volumes.
BoxDescription
1Trustees and Annual Membership, 1903-1960
2Trustees and Annual Membership, 1961-1979
(some gaps, see Box 3)
3Trustees and Annual Membership, 1975-2019
(Some gaps, see Box 2)
3Executive Committee, 1969-1987
4Men's Club, 1939-1974
5Sisterhood, 1945-1999
(No minutes for 1957-1970)
Subseries 2: Constitution/By Laws, 1903-1990. .5 Linear feet, .5 record carton 6
Scope and Contents: Consists of original and amended versions of synagogue's founding documents.
Subseries 3: Annual Meeting materials, 1968-2015. 1.5 Linear feet, 1.5 record cartons 6-7
Scope and Contents: Consists of files of standard materials for each annual meeting beginning 1968. Files for earlier years are in General Administrative subseries.

Series C: Administrative Records, 1896-1990. 35 Linear feet, 35 record cartons

Scope and Contents: This series contains records of the synagogue's administrative office regarding its operations and activities.

Staff at Kehilath Jeshurun had maintained these materials in loose chronological and alpabetical order. Archivists sifted through these records, refining the arrangement and creating logical chronological groupings. Not every file was checked for accuracy, except when there was clear reason to believe something had been mislabeled or misfiled. Folder titles were edited for clarity and to provide greater consistency as appropriate, though there may be materials in some folders that do not relate directly to the topic alluded to by the title. Folders in a grouping labeled "General," "Correspondence," and simply letters (i.e. H, E&F, K, etc.) were brought together and filed together under the letter G, as many are labeled General and all include general correspondence. Sisterhood and Men's club files, and records relating to the synagogue's cemetery sections, are preserved in separate subseries as they were maintained by the synagogue.

Arrangement: Consists of four subseries:
Subseries 1: General Administrative Records, 1896-1990
Subseries 2: Cemetery Records, 1896-1985
Subseries 3: Men's Club Records, 1947-1987
Subseries 4: Sisterhood Records, 1943-1979
Subseries 1: General Administrative Records, 1896-1990. 30 Linear feet, 30 record cartons
Scope and Contents: This subseries consists of materials from the Kehilath Jeshurun administrative office regarding the activities and operations of the synagogue. The majority of the materials originated in the offices of the synagogue's president and executive director. They document the administrative functions of the synagogue, including files about membership, the synagogue's annual meeting and annual synagogue appeal (also known as ASA), board of trustees and board of ushers meetings, fundraising, building maintenance and renovations, and personnel. The personnel files include records of the congregation's searches for new cantors in the 1950s and 1960s, for a new ritual director in the 1950s and for various maintenance and office positions. Among the major fundraising initiatives documented in this subseries are the annual yearbook produced by KJ in the 1940s-early 1960s, building drives and major drives in honor of anniversaries of the congregation (particularly the 90th anniversary). The 1946 yearbook, which marked the Diamond Jubilee of the synagogue, is particularly well-documented. There are some records for yearbooks in the early 1960s which do not appear in the collection in their published form. This series also includes a great deal of correspondence between the rabbi, the executive director, the president, congregants and associates and employees.

Also included in this subseries is material regarding many ritual and religious functions of the synagogue. These include special services for American holidays such as Thanksgiving, Mother's Day and Father's Day, and preparation for Jewish holidays, including High Holiday services and activities, sales of seats and other honors, Simchat Torah honors, Sukkot meals in the synagogue's sukkah, Passover and Shavuoth preparations, Chanukah and Purim parties and celebrations of Israeli independence. Bar mitzvah preparation and marriage applications are also included, as well as an annual Book of Remembrance for Yizkor (memorial) services.

The educational and social programming in KJ is also well-documented in this subseries. This includes material about an afternoon religious school, known from 1958 through the mid 1970s as Park East Religious School, and in the 1940s-1958 and mid-1970s and on as KJ Religious school, as well as some information about Ramaz Day School. Youth groups, such as the Father-Son Minyan, teenage programs, young adult programs, collegiate seminars, shabbatons and dances, Shabbat morning groups and junior congregation are also well-represented in this series, particularly from the mid-1950s and on. The teenage group becomes increasingly active in the late 1960s and for a time is known as Shachar. Adult education, including formal classes and the Am HaSefer book club of the 1960s is also included in this subseries. Materials about Kehilath Jeshurun's charitable activities and interactions with the wider Jewish world are also included in this subseries. Most significant is the Benevolent Fund, which donated money under the auspices of KJ to yeshivot, needy individuals and Jewish organizations. KJ's donations to UJA through an annual appeal and annual fundraising for Yeshiva University in the 1940s through the early 1960s are also documented in this series. Additionally, the suberies includes records about students from Ramaz and KJ's afternoon religious school who received scholarships to Camp Deal, now known as Camp Dora Golding. One box consists of records documenting the synagogue/school's physical expansion in the mid-1960s.

This subseries is valuable to researchers seeking information about Modern Orthodox synagogue life in the 20th century. Much of the material highlights the congregation's attempts to blend religion and "Americanism" as much as possible, while remaining committed to Orthodoxy. Synagogue practice and function are well documented, as is the increasing role of synagogue as social hub and KJ's determined efforts to keep youth steeped in American culture connected to Jewish life and ritual. The years 1946-1971 comprise the bulk of the subseries, with just a few materials from earlier years and significant gaps in materials from 1972 and on.

Arrangement: Folders in this series have been arranged into chronological groupings (e.g. 1958-1961, 1966-1968), and then alphabetically within each grouping. They are not discrete and thus there is some overlap from one group to the next. Additionally, folders that cover a range of years are generally filed with the group for the earliest date in the range.
BoxDescription
8Historical, 1896-1945
Contains earliest synagogue records. Also contains some historical accounts of the congregation's early years. Several files of speeches at various communal events by Samuel Levy, a former synagogue president and communal leader, are also included, as they were preserved as part of the historical materials from the synagogue's early period.
9A-D, 1939-1947
10E-Y, 1939-1947
11A-N, 1948-1951
12O-Y, 1948-1951
13A-B, 1952-1954
14C-R, 1952-1954
15R-Y, 1952-1954
15A-B, 1955-1957
16C-T, 1955-1957
17T-Y, 1955-1957
17A-B, 1958-1961
18B-H, 1958-1961
19H-U, 1958-1961
20Y, 1958-1961
20A-K, 1961-1962
21L-Y, 1961-1962
22A-B, 1963-1965
23B-C, 1963-1965
24C-M, 1963-1965
25M-Y, 1963-1965
26A-B, 1966-1968
27B-D, 1966-1968
28D-P, 1966-1968
29P-Y, 1966-1968
30A-B, 1969-1971
31B-I, 1969-1971
32J-S, 1969-1971
33S-Y, 1969-1971
33B-C, 1972
34C-Y, 1972
34A-B, 1973
35C-Y, 1973
35A-R, 1974
36S-Y, 1974
36A-Y, 1975-1980
37A-T, 1981-
Subseries 2: Cemetery Records, 1896-1985, Bulk: 1930-1975. 1 Linear foot, 1 record carton 38
Scope and Contents: Consists of records from three cemeteries in which the synagogue has sections - Union Fields, Mt. Carmel (New York) and Beth El (New Jersey). Contains deeds, permits, correspondence with cemeteries and with members, and lists of plotholders.
Subseries 3: Men's Club Records, 1947-1987, Bulk: 1947-1975. 3 Linear feet, 3 record cartons
Scope and Contents: Consists of records of the synagogue's Men's Club, which were preserved separately from the general administrative records, and includes materials about membership, correspondence and event planning. Events that are particularly well-documented include the Sunday Supper Lecture series, the Father-Son Minyan (also known as the Young People's Minyan) and Theater Club outings. Records of some community events organized by the Men's Club, such as Chanukah and other holiday parties are usually found within the general administrative records. No records exist for 1976-1984.

Men's Club meeting minutes can be found in the Synagogue Governance series, and issues of the group's publication Men's Club News can be found in the Printed Materials series.

Arrangement: Arranged chronologically.
BoxDescription
39Men's Club, 1947-1954
40Men's Club, 1955-1960
41Men's Club, 1961-1975, 1985-1987
Subseries 4: Sisterhood Records, 1943, 1949-1964, 1970-1979. 1 Linear foot, 1 record carton 42
Arrangement: Arranged chronologically.
Scope and Contents: Consists of records of the synagogue's Sisterhood, which were preserved separately from the general administrative records and includes membership lists, expenses, event planning files and correspondence with the main synagogue office. Records of some community events organized by the Sisterhood, such as Chanukah and other holiday parties are usually found within the general administrative records. No records exist for 1965-1969.

Sisterhood meeting minutes can be found in the Synagogue Governance series.

Series D: Photographs, 1940s-1990s, with gaps. 2 Linear feet, 2 record cartons 43-44

Scope and Contents: The series consists primarily of photographs of congregational events. The cornerstone laying, centennial, annual meetings, Thanksgiving services, Sisterhood and Men's Club events, adult education, and activities of the Ramaz school and [Park East] Religious School are represented, though most are a sampling rather than a complete chronological run. There are also publicity portraits of guest speakers, photos of the synagogue and school buildings, and printer's proofs for the 1952 yearbook. Slides are included in a few of the folders. Finally, there is a folder of historic highlights from the synagogue's history that was created for a video presentation shown at the 1992 annual meeting (and which may have been re-used in 2004 for an exhibit on 350 years of Jewry in America).
Arrangement: Arranged alphabetically (by name of event or subject name.)

Series E: Audio/Video, 1984-2002, undated. 1.5 Linear feet, 1 manuscript box and 1 record carton. Boxes 45-46

Scope and Contents: The series consists primarily of audio and video recordings of KJ events. Formats include VHS, Sony Betamax, reel to reel tape, audio cassette, and CD.

Audio recordings consist of a Holocaust memorial service (1984), a Kristalnacht Commemoration (1988), an undated interview with Gertrude Lookstein, and a recording entitled How to Daven as a Ba'al Tefilah Throughout the Year by Rabbi Haskel Lookstein (undated)

Video recordings include the Joseph Lookstein Memorial Lectures (1988, 1989) and 10th Yarhzheit Lecture (1989), annual meetings or special presentations at the annual meeting (1991, 1994, 1997), Purim Seudah Schpiel (1999), an undated Holocaust memorial service, a memorial service for Glenn Winuk, an off duty volunteer fireman who perished assisting at the World Trade Center on 9/11 (2002), and New York's Cardinal O'Connor's visit to the synagogue (undated, 2 tapes)

The videos for some of KJ's anniversary year presentations appear to include master/unedited recordings as well as finished versions. There may also be some duplicates.

Arrangement: Betamax cassettes are in Box 45. All other formats are in Box 46.

Series F: Printed Materials, 1920-2019. 8.75 Linear feet, 5 record cartons, 3 manuscript boxes and 2 flat boxes

Scope and Contents: Consists of a variety of types of printed materials created by the synagogue or on its behalf.
Arrangement: Arranged into the following five subseries based on type of printed item:
Subseries 1: Synagogue Bulletins
Subseries 2: Yearbooks
Subseries 3: Leaflets
Subseries 4: Journals and Tribute Volumes
Subseries 5: Scrapbook
Subseries 1: Synagogue Bulletins 1925-2019. 3 Linear feet, 3 record cartons 49-51
Scope and Contents: Consists of bound volumes of the synagogue bulletin from 1925 through 2019. Digital versions of the bulletin through July 1994 can be viewed here.

There is also one folder of Men's Club bulletins from 1945-1946.

Arrangement: Arranged chronologically.
Subseries 2: Yearbooks 1943-1960. 1 Linear foot, 2 manuscript boxes 52-53
Scope and Contents: Consists of printed volumes containing highlights of the synagogue's activities during the course of the year, as well as photographs from events and advertisements. Yearbooks seem to have been published only during the 1940s through 1960.
Arrangement: Arranged chronologically.
Subseries 3: Leaflets 1984-2008, with gaps. 2 Linear feet, 2 record cartons 54-55
Scope and Contents: The subseries is comprised of various types of leaflets mailed to synagogue members or distributed during Sabbath services and consists of Israel news updates, weekly announcements, and flyers for synagogue activities. One group of leaflets titled "Shabbat Handouts" (1999-2008) appears to be supporting material for the rabbi's sermons and speeches, relating either to the weekly Torah reading or events impacting the Jewish and broader communities.
Arrangement: Arranged by category and then chronologically within.
Subseries 4: Journals and Tribute Volumes 1920-2008, with gaps. 2 Linear feet, 1 manuscript box and 1 flat box. Boxes 56-57
Scope and Contents: Consists of synagogue dinner-dance journals (1937-38, 1941), tribute volumes for Rabbi Joseph Lookstein (1974) and Rabbi Haskel Lookstein (2002), a biography of Rabbi Haskel Lookstein by Rafael Medoff entitled Rav Chesed (2008), and an illuminated 'Book of Life' (1920) with donors' names and dates of death inscribed for the purpose of reciting memorial prayers. (Only the first few pages of it are filled in). A folder containing printed ephemera relating to the tribute volume for Rabbi Haskel Lookstein is also included.
Subseries 5: Scrapbook 1955-1982. .75 Linear feet, 1 flat box 58
Scope and Contents: Consists of a scrapbook with newspaper clippings of weekly advertisements announcing the synagogue's Sabbath services and sermon topic.

Series G: Financial Ledgers, 1949-1951, 1957-1963, 1969-1977. 2 Linear feet, 1 flat box and 1 manuscript box. Boxes 47-48

Scope and Contents: Consists of several accounting ledgers for various synagogue activities. Includes one ledger of the Park East School (1958-1963), a Sisterhood cash ledger (1957-1961), two ledgers of the Supplementary Building Fund (1949-1951), and a general ledger (1969-1976). Also contains 3 ledgers of the Centennial Fund (1973-1977) that record receipts, disbursements and purchases.

The ledgers in this series are clearly only a small amount of the full financial materials generated by the synagogue, but may be all that were preserved. Some additional financial information may be found in the General Administrative subseries of the Administrative Records series (Series C).

Series H: Artifacts, 1964, 1967, 1972, 2016, undated. 1.75 Linear feet, flat boxes 57, 59

Scope and Contents: The series consists of two plaques presented to Mr. and Mrs. Jules (Julius) M. Sax for their contributions to the congregation's building expansion (1964) and its Centennial fund (1972), and a medallion commemorating the synagogue's new facilities (1967). Also includes architectural awards and accompanying documentation (2016) won by the firm FXFOWLE for its restoration of the synagogue's sanctuary after the fire in 2011. There is also a set of photo-images that appear to have been made by machine-pressing lines onto thick cardboard, two small letterpress plates, and one metal (positive) engraving of a photograph of Rabbi Joseph Lookstein.

Series I: Deceased/Resigned Member files, approximately 1940s-2010. 9 Linear feet, 9 record cartons 60-68

Scope and Contents: Consists of files of former members of the synagogue who are either deceased or chose to resign their memberships. It includes membership applications, information regarding donations and other financial obligations, and correspondence with them or internal memos regarding them.
Conditions Governing Access: Files are closed as they generally contain financial and other private information.