Date: September 24, 1995
Table of Contents:
A Note on Folder Headings
Individual folders are identified in the following way on the left side of each folder: Name of Collection, box #/folder#, as in Ben Zion Bokser Papers, 4/22. Please use this format in citations and when referring to files for any other reason.
Rabbi Ephraim Bennett was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1917. His father headed a Hebrew school, which Bennett attended before entering public school. After graduating high school early, Bennett attended the Cleveland Yeshiva for one year. Afterwards, he studied for a year in the chemistry department at Johns Hopkins and then completed his undergraduate study at Yeshiva University in New York. Bennett received his rabbinical training at The Jewish Theological Seminary of America, which he graduated "with distinction." He was ordained in 1942.
Rabbi Bennett's first pulpit was at Temple Beth El, in Portland, Maine. During Bennett's tenure there (in the late 1940s and early 1950s), Beth El became Maine's first Conservative synagogue. Bennett served at the Kesher Zion Synagogue in Reading, Pennsylvania from 1955 to 1962, and then at Temple Beth El in Swampscott, Massachusetts until 1982. Bennett served as president of the Massachusetts Board of Rabbis and was involved with the North Shore Inter- Faith Clergy group.
In 1984, Bennett and his wife Helen retired to Netanya, Israel, where he gave talks at B'nai B'rith and other local organizations, and served as substitute rabbi at Netanya's Conservative synagogue. Rabbi Bennett died in 1993, in New York City. He was survived by his wife, two daughters, and a son.
This small collection consists mostly of Rabbi Ephraim Bennett's writings. These are in the form of manuscripts, typescripts, and notecards, with the latter constituting the greatest part of the collection.
In addition to Bennett's writings, the collection also includes bound volumes of the Kesher Zion Bulletin, 1955-1962, and the Temple Beth El News (Swampscott), 1977-1983; clippings and correspondence relating to the death of Bennett's brother, Emanuel in 1964; class notes and printed lectures from courses taken at The Jewish Theological Seminary, 1939-1942; and materials relating to a controversial radio broadcast given by evangelist Harold Ockenga, 1978.
Rabbi Bennett's sermons on notecards, ca. 1955-1991, are written out in complete form, and concern topics ranging from the significance of the Jewish holidays, to personal spiritual and ethical questions, to international politics. A recurrent theme in the sermons is the general spiritual anxiety caused by the cold war. A few of the sermons contain appended materials such as clippings or correspondence; these were placed in folders in the same box with the notecards.
These notecard sermons have been ordered in two ways, numerically and alphabetically. Bennett numbered approximately half of the sermons. The highest number is 673, and there are about 100 sermons present in this collection. Those with numbers are in numerical order here; the rest are in alphabetical order by topic. Also included is Bennett's indexing system, which cross- references his sermons by number and topic.
In addition to sermons, the notecards also contain many talks and lectures, 1948-1985, given at organizations like the Rotary Club, the Over Fifty Club, sisterhoods, and various schools and Jewish organizations. Many talks were given on American holidays such as Thanksgiving, United Nations Day, Armistice Day, and Veterans Day. Others are on the subject of Judaism, and are meant to provide a basic understanding of the religion and culture to a non-Jewish audience. Also included are a number of lectures on Jewish books, delivered during Jewish book month.
Also written on notecards are rough drafts of approximately thirty book reviews. Titles include Paternak's Dr. Zhivago, Herman Wouk's This is My God, Philip Roth's Letting Go, and The Kinsey Report, as well as books by Crane Brinton, A. J. Heschel, and Arthur Koestler. Also included is a series of reviews of articles in the journal Jewish Education.
The notecards also contain eulogies, 1957-1963, invocations and benedictions, and miscellaneous anecdotes. Anecdotes contain amusing quotes, stories, and jokes, including approximately thirty cards of quotes taken from the book Lincoln Talks, by Emanuel Hertz.
Manuscripts are foldered separately from the notecards, and contain significantly less material. Here, Bennett's writings include sermons, prayers, talks, eulogies, and book reviews - largely duplicating the types of writings found in the notecards.
Some items of particular note are: notecards with sermons titled "The Non-Jew Looks at the Jew" and "On an Article in Look Magazine," both of which concern the portrayal of Jews in the American media in the mid to late 1950s. Researchers may also find interesting sermon #624, "The Place of Women in the Synagogue," as well as "The Scarsdale Case," which deals with the 1961 barring of a man whose father was Jewish from a society dance at a Westchester country club. Among the manuscripts, Rabbi Bennett's 1969 Rosh Hashanah sermon on the spiritual significance of Woodstock may also be of interest.