Monday, February 22, 2010

Isaac Davidson Hebrew School

Question: I would like information about one of Baltimore's early Hebrew schools - the Isaac Davidson Hebrew School. When did it open and who was it named for?

Answer: According to the work Jewish Baltimore : A Family Album by Gilbert Sandler [Baltimore : The Johns Hopkins University Press in association with the Jewish Museum of Maryland, 2000], the Isaac Davidson Hebrew School opened on October 4, 1925 (Sandler, p.134). The school was located on Shirley Avenue between Park Heights Avenue and Reisterstown Road (ibid., p.130). The Isaac Davidson Hebrew School was named for a German-born businessman who was interested in assisting Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. Davidson immigrated to the United States in 1869 and started a furniture business in Baltimore in 1884. Mr. Davidson died the same year that the Hebrew school opened but there are no records that state why his name was chosen for the school (ibid., p.135-136). There is much more information relating to the Isaac Davidson Hebrew School and the history of the Jews in Baltimore in Sandler's book.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Question: My elderly neighbor tells me his grandfather was an actor in the Yiddish theatre around the turn of the previous century. He'd like to find out if anything was written about his grandfather's career.

Answer: We suggest he check the Leksikon Fun Yidishn Teater [Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre], compiled and edited by Zalmen Zylbercwaig (1931-1969). It's 6 volumes attempt to provide biographical entries on actors, singers, writers and all those involved in the Yiddish theatre, in all geographic areas. The entries range from one paragraph to many pages in length. Many entries include a bibliography listing newspaper and magazine articles. The Lexikon is in Yiddish.

The New York Public Library has compiled a Cumulative Index of names [in Yiddish] to all the Lexikon's volumes. Here is a more complete description of this reference work. has compiled two name indexes, transliterated into the Roman alphabet, of Zylbercwaig's works: this is a name index to vol. 5 of his Leksikon, and this is a name index to his Album of the Yiddish Theatre (1937)

There is no comprehensive Yiddish theater biographical dictionary written in English. However, English readers interested in the Yiddish theater may enjoy the following resources:

Vagabond Stars: A World History of Yiddish Theater by Nahma Sandrow (1977)
Yiddish Theatre: New Approaches edited by Joel Berkowitz (2003)
Jewish Theatre: A Global View edited by Edna Nahshon (2009)

An article about the Yiddish theater from the Encyclopedia Judaica is available via

All About Jewish Theatre provides research materials, as well as current news in the world of Jewish performing arts.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Political and Social Action in the Conservative Movement

Question: Multiple researchers recently requested documentation of the Conservative movement’s political and social action on national and international public issues from the 1930’s to the 1960’s. Their interest concerned not only rabbinic action, but also activities of the lay leadership.

Answer: Most well-known is Dr. Abraham Heschel’s public support of the civil rights movement demonstrated by his marching arm-in-arm with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Selma Alabama in 1965. In March 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered an address at the Rabbinical Assembly convention, which is transcribed along with the associated discussion in the 1968 Proceedings of the Rabbincal Assembly. Heschel eulogized King at his funeral in April 1968, and then Coretta Scott King delivered an address at a memorial service for Heschel in 1972. More information about Heschel's and King's relationship is available at: A Journey Among Leaders.

A wealth of information has been published in the "Resolutions" and "Committee Reports" sections of the Proceedings of: the Rabbinical Assembly, the United Synagogue and the Women’s League of Conservative Judaism.


In the Proceedings of the Rabbinical Assembly, published annually almost each year since 1927, a sampling of the public affairs issues included are: civil rights, nuclear proliferation, conscientious objectors, unions and labor issues. An index to 1927-2000 Proceedings provides limited access to public affairs issues. For example, the following list of entries concerns civil rights; but please note that there is relevant content in the Proceedings that this Index will not retrieve--for example, the Resolutions entries for the earlier volumes do not specify the political issues covered.

King, Coretta Scott. “Black-Jewish Relations,” 49 (1987): 57–60.
King, Jr., Martin Luther. “Address and Discussion,” delivered at the 1968 convention. Also published in Conservative
, Vol. 22, 3, Spring 1968.
Ofseyer, Jordan S. “In Memory of Martin Luther King, Jr.,” 49 (1987): 61–65.
Shapiro, Alexander M. “The Future of Black-Jewish Relations,” 47 (1985): 15–20.
Young, Andrew. “The Future of Black-Jewish Relations,” 47 (1985): 3–11.
“Discussion: The Future of Black-Jewish Relations,” Andrew Young, 47 (1985): 11–14.

Conservative Judaisim (the journal published by the Rabbinical Assembly from 1945 to the present) includes a number of relevant articles; for example:
"The Rabbi's Involvement in Social Issues" by Rabbi Sidney Shanken (Spring/Summer 1963) p. 49
"To Birmingham and Back" by Rabbi Andre Ungar (Fall 1963) p. 1
"The Jew and the Negro: The Jew of the South in the Conflict on Segregation" by W. S. Malev (Fall 1958), p. 35; letters and replies were published in this issue and subsequent issues.

An index to articles in Conservative Judaism, 1945-2000 is available via The Internet.

Recent political and social activity by the Rabbinical Assembly is documented at their website


The following publications about and by the Women's League include much material about the League's social action activities:

Women's League Outlook (a magazine) was published 1930-1970. For example, the December 1951 issue has a full page detailing activities of the Social Action committee, including a message sent to Truman and top congressional leaders about civil rights, civil liberties and the United Nations. In addition, this issue includes highlights from the national Women's League Social Action Conference held in 1951.

Proceedings of the Biennial Convention (of the Women's League) includes a great detail of social action content, including speeches, committee reports and resolutions. For example, the 1950-52 resolutions concern civil liberties, immigration, federal aid to education, religion in the public schools, the Senate Cloture Rule, Point IV Program (foreign policy), the United Nations, genocide, disarmament, Israel and Germany. The JTS Library has volumes from 1950- 1977.

Our library holds three histories of the Women's League: They Dared To Dream (1967), The Sixth Decade (1978), and 75 Years of Vision and Voluntarism (1992). All of them include social action content.

Current social and political activity of the Women's League is documented on their website


United Synagogue has its own social action group, and also a Joint Comission on Social Action with the Rabbinical Assembly. Some social action content is in A History of the United Synagogue of America 1913-1963 by Abraham Karp (1964)

The Proceedings of the Biennial Conventions of United Synagogue of America (volumes from 1950-1977) include reports of the social action committes, and social action resolutions. Some of the topics covered are: personal freedom and the McCarren Act, world peace, civil liberties and civil rights, immigration, integration in the schools, nuclear testing, the genocide convention, the war against poverty, and Vietnam.

United Synagogue Review, a magazine published by United Synagogue aimed at all synagogue members, included articles on the following topics in the 1950's-1960's: civil disobedience, prejudice, Vietnam, civil rights, and the American tax system.

Recent political and social activity by the United Synagogue is documented at their website.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Hebrew rhyming dictionaries?

Question: I am searching for a Hebrew language rhyming dictionary. Can you be of assistance?

Answer: You might try ha-Milon ha-Shalem la-Haruze Lashon by Aryeh Uri'el (Giv'atayim : Oranit, 1997) or Haruzim le-khol et : ha-milon ha-Ivri la-harizah (note the word “et” in the title is spelled “ayin tet” as opposed to “ayin tav”)by Etan Avne'on (Israel : Etav, 2001). If you search for a word in the Rav Milim online dictionary of the Hebrew language, there is a tab entitled “harizah” that allows you to see all the words that rhyme with your chosen word. The Rav Milim dictionary is available as a subscription online resource through the library’s website.