Louis M. Levitsky (1897-1975), Papers.

  • Dates: 1920s-1975
  • Size: 3.2 linear ft.
  • Number of Boxes: 8
  • Languages:
    • English
    • Hebrew
    • German
    • Yiddish
  • Location: Special Collections Reading Room, Jewish Theological Seminary Library.
  • Restrictions: Reproduction of fragile items is not permitted; consult the archivist about literary rights. Please use the photocopies provided if the originals are fragile. Photocopies have been filed in place of the originals; originals are kept in the back of folders.
  • Gift Of: Congregation Oheb Shalom, South Orange, NJ ; Barbara Levitsky Mende, 1988 ; Ruth Shapiro, December, 1994
  • Related Collections: The JTS library has a separate, larger, collection of Louis Levitsky papers. See also: Records of Congregation Oheb Shalom, Alexander Shapiro Papers, and Records of Temple Israel, Wilkes-Barre, PA, 1925-1981, all in the Ratner Center.

JJB, rev. JM, 9/20/91; addition, MS, rev. JM, 10/31/95

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.


Louis Levitsky's papers came to the Ratner Center from three sources over a period of approximately seven years. The bulk came from Congregation Oheb Shalom and from Rabbi Levitsky's daughter, Barbara Mende, in 1988 and, possibly, earlier. An additional, smaller group of Levitsky papers was found in the papers of Rabbi Levitsky's successor at Oheb Shalom, Rabbi Alexander Shapiro. The Shapiro papers were donated to the Ratner Center by Rabbi Shapiro's widow, Ruth Shapiro in 1994. The Levitsky papers found in the Shapiro papers were removed and added here.

Another much larger group of Levitsky's papers is in the library's archives. The library's rough listing of this group indicates that there are eighteen boxes of papers dating from 1930 to 1975. These consist of correspondence, lectures, sermons, sermon and lecture notes, teaching material, and some miscellaneous pictures, clippings, and copies of the Oheb Shalom Review.

Biographical Note

Rabbi Louis Moses Levitsky (1897-1975) was born in Russia, emigrated to Canada with his family as a child and was raised in Montreal. He came to the United States in 1916, earning a BA at the City College of New York in 1920 and ordination from The Jewish Theological Seminary in 1923. From The Jewish Theological Seminary he also received an MHL in 1929, a DHL in 1933, and an honorary Doctor of Divinity in 1942.

From 1921 to 1923, while still a student, Levitsky directed the B'nai Jeshurun Jewish Center in New York. He went on to spend the rest of his career at two synagogues: Temple Israel, Wilkes- Barre, Pennsylvania, 1923-1940, and Oheb Shalom Congregation, South Orange, New Jersey, 1940- 1973. At these synagogues Rabbi Levitsky established a reputation as a leader in the field of adult Jewish education.

Outside the pulpit, Rabbi Levitsky was active as a writer, university lecturer, officer of organizations of the Conservative movement, labor mediator, and a member and officer of Jewish communal organizations at the local and national levels. He was a military chaplain during World War Two.

Of note among these many activities was Rabbi Levitsky's work as a director and instructor at The Jewish Theological Seminary's School of Jewish Studies and Women's Institute; member of the National War Labor Board Panel of Mediators, 1941-1946; president of the Rabbinical Assembly, 1942-1944; member of the executive committee of the United Synagogue; chairman of the board of governors of the National Academy of Adult Jewish Studies, 1961-1963; member of the board of trustees of The Jewish Theological Seminary, 1943-1949.

Levitsky was the author of two books: Story of an Awakened Community (1934) and A Jew Looks at America (1939).

Collection Description

This collection of Rabbi Levitsky's papers is somewhat fragmentary - be sure to see the more complete collection in the library's archives. Included here are: biographical statements and resumes; a few photographs (there are additional photographs of Rabbi Levitsky in the Ratner Center's photograph collection); correspondence, 1938-1972; sermons, talks, lectures, speeches, and Rabbi Levitsky's column, "What's On My Mind" in the form of manuscripts, typescripts, notes, drafts, and published versions; a group of writings by others presumably gathered for reference purposes; subject files of printed material gathered for the same reason; educational materials; reports, minutes, and printed material from institutions Rabbi Levitsky was associated with; and some odd printed material.

The correspondence, 1938-1972, which is particularly fragmentary, documents personal, rabbinical and other professional, and communal matters. One letter to Levitsky from Mordecai Kaplan, April 13, 1958 (box 1, folder 4) contains a proposal that Levitsky write a syllabus to be used with Kaplan's Judaism as a Civilization.

Rabbi Levitsky travelled extensively, visiting Jewish communities in China, Japan, Manchuria, Malaya, India, the Phillipines, South America, Europe, Israel, Egypt, Canada, and Mexico. Of note are his sermons about his travels in India, China, Japan, and other Asian countries.

Box List

Box  Folder(s)  Description 
  I. Personal Papers, 1938-1972, n.d.
1 1 Biographical statements, resume, photographs
 2-9 Correspondence, 1938-1972
  II. Writings, 1939-1975; n.d.
      Talks and sermons:
 10     A Bowl of Rice and the Bible
    Catholicism and Western Civilization
    A Clergyman Looks at an Engineer (delivered at the 75th anniversary of the Newark College of Engineering)
    The Dignity of Man (Temple Israel, January 8, 1940)
    A Durbar in Rajputana: The Maharaja Meets His People (the same as: A Page From the Arabian Nights, below)
    An Experiment in Jewish-Christian Relationships (about the Institute on Religion at Temple Israel, Wilkes-Barre, PA)
    A Family Reunion
    The Heroism of Repentance (Yom Kippur)
    How Sensitive Are You to Sin?
    The Human Potential (Rosh Hashanah)
    To Mend Our Fences (Selihos sermon)
 11     Integration (College of Engineering, March 27, 1962)
    An Invitation From the Pope (Oheb Shalom, Newark, NJ, December 30, 1949)
    In the Footprints of a Wandering People (Jews of the East)
    A Jew Among the Japanese
    Let's Come Down to Earth
    New History is Old Stuff (Newark Rotary Club talk, February 27, 1962, on historical roots of the fear of communism)
    Our Common Heritage (Institute on Religion, Temple Israel, Wilkes-Barre, January 23, 1939)
2 1     A Page From the Arabian Nights (the same as: A Durbar in Rajputana: The Maharaja Meets His People, above)
    Pan (Calcutta)
    President's Message, Rabbinical Assembly
    Rabbinical Assembly Convention, 43d, [1943], address
    Religious Training in the Home
    Remember Us For Life (Rosh Hashanah)
    A Report and Suggestion ("annual report on the 'State of the Jewish People'")
    Secularism and Religion in Jewish Education
    "The Service of the Heart," (a guide to the prayerbook by Evelyn Garfiel)
    Sin is Immaturity (High Holidays)
    Spiritual Leadership in the Post War World
    Toward a Happy New Year
    Travelling for Pleasure (stories from Levitsky's trip to the Orient)
 2     Until Swaraj Shall Come (on Mahatma Ghandi)
    A Visit with the Jews in China
    A Vision of the Future (poem - picture of the perfect Jewish community)
    The World We Create (morality of the current international situation)
      Untitled Talks and Sermons (by topic):
    Democratic nature of Jewish learning
    Dedication of Institute on Religion at Temple Israel, Wilkes-Barre, PA, January 23, 1939
    Rosh Hashanah Sermon
    Synagogue dedication?, June 17, 1962
    Acceptance of honor at The Jewish Theological Seminary, June 4, 1963
    Jews of the Far East
      Fragmentary Talks and Sermons:
    Travel Notes
    Jewish version of judgment day
      Lecture series:
 3     "A Bird's Eye View of Jewish History," Oheb Shalom, Newark, NJ
 4     "Judaism as a Civilization," Temple Israel, Wilkes-Barre, PA
      "What's On My Mind" (column):
 5-6     Photocopies, 1959-1968; n.d.
 7-8     Originals, 1959-1968; n.d.
 9     Four selected sermons; bound centennial volume, 1950-1960; "Why I am an American," Liberty Magazine, 1939
3 1     Speeches, 1963-1975
 2     Handwritten sermons and notes, n.d.
 3     Notes, 1953, n.d.
  III. Writings by Others, ca. 1935-1963
 4-6 A-W (alphabetical by title)
 7 Odd pages
  IV. Subject Files ca. 1920s-1960s
4 1-6 Clippings, ca. 1940-1963
 7 Halakha and responsa
 8-10 Historical Christian-Jewish Relationships
5 1 Jewish communal affairs
 2 Jewish thinkers
 3 Jews and Judaism
 4 Mishnah Yomit, Nechamah Leibowitz study guides
 5 The Prophets and the Problems of Life, Sidney A. Weston; clippings, notes
 6 Rabbinic and Biblical selections/outlines of study
 7 Readings, rituals, and services
 8 Sermons of others
  V. Educational Materials, 1933-1975
6 1 Religious School materials, periodicals, 1933-1936, 1975
 2 Consecration service, 1971
 3 Confirmation class tests and papers, 1954
 4 Adult program curriculae, JEA and religious school notices and correspondence, 1935-1963
 5 Teaching materials, university and adult, 1950-1958
 6 University student papers and tests, 1954
 7-8 Institute on Religion lecture series, 1939
 9-10 Lecture series [?] 1952-1953
 11 Outlines of talks and classes, n.d.
  VI. Institutional Materials, 1938-1968
7 1 Jewish Theological Seminary notices, reports, minutes, 1954
 2 United Synagogue notices, reports, minutes, 1955-1957, n.d.
 3 Various notices, reports, minutes, 1952-1961, 1968
 4 "The Digest," Wilkes-Barre Jewish Community Center, 1963
 5 Temple Israel Synagogue Bulletin, Wilkes-Barre, 1963-1964
 6 Invitations and programs, 1938-1959, 1965
 8 Publishing announcements, various forms, booklets, maps, 1948-1977, n.d.
  VII. Miscellaneous Printed Material, 1943-1968
7 9 Jewish periodicals
8 1 Issues of "Preaching Today," 1944; "USO News," 1954, 1963-1964; "Voice of the US First Army," 1963; others