Concise Dictionary of American Jewish Biography
The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives is pleased to make available, the two-volume work, The Concise Dictionary of American Jewish Biography, edited by Jacob Rader Marcus and Judith M. Daniels (Brooklyn, NY: Carlson Publishing, Inc., 1994).
- Researchers can use this online version of The Concise Dictionary in two ways: browsing by letter (see below) or by downloading it in its entirety.
- All downloads are in PDF format. Entries are arranged alphabetically by last name.
- Researchers may want to consult the Abbreviations and Bibliography. sections in order to more fully comprehend the citations within each entry.
PLEASE NOTE: The Concise Dictionary is being posted as-is from its printing in 1994; staff of the AJA cannot edit this printed source or make additions at this time.
If you have any questions about using The Concise Dictionary, please contact the AJA.
Below, please see the full text of the prefatory material to The Concise Dictionary.
This Concise Dictionary consists of almost 24,000 brief biographies of American Jews. It is by far the largest such biographical dictionary ever undertaken. All of these individuals are notable in that their names were taken from standard sources for American Jewish biography. These sources are listed in the bibliography. Additional information (and additional names) came from such sources as Who Was Who in America and Notable American Women.
It should be emphasized that the names and the information included here come from the printed sources in the bibliography. We did not use our judgment as to which individuals to include or exclude and the information included is only the information available in the sources. When the sources disagree with each other on such things as dates, the conflicting information is included. Each entry concludes with a listing of every source we used for that entry. Thus, the reader can always go back to the original to check our information.
Many individuals were included in more than one of our sources and we have combined their biographical information here. However, there were some instances where we could not be certain about single or dual identity. In these cases, we have entered both citations with a cross-reference.
The reader will note that many women are identified only by their husband's name. For this, we apologize, but when this occurs it is the only name information available, even in such publications as The New York Times.
Several of our most commonly cited sources use the word "communal" to designate activity within the Jewish community [as in communal ldr]. A civic ldr is one who is active within the general community. We have followed this distinction here.
We had originally intended to include in The Concise Dictionary only those individuals who were deceased and we established a cutoff date of the end of 1985. We found, however, that we had accumulated hundreds upon hundreds (probably thousands) of biographies for people for whom we did not have obituaries. Many of these individuals had probably died by the end of 1985, but we had no systematic way of determining who they were. Rather than drop all these names, we decided we would include the information we had from our sources. So, the reader should note-if there is no death date given in a biography this signifies that we did not find an obituary for this person in our sources. We could, of course, have' added some death dates from our own personal knowledge or from the popular press (Leonard Bernstein, for example), but we decided this inconsistency would be too confusing for the reader.
Similarly, our sources often did not indicate where and/or when an individual was born. In that case, the designation b.* was used.
Below are two examples of entries from the Dictionary, which should help familiarize the reader with our format.
Aaron, A Howard; b. Buffalo, Feb 28 1892.
LLB U Buffalo. • Lawyer, Buffalo; active Legal
Aid Com, Jewish Fedn for Social Service;
author in field. • See: WWIAJ, 1926, 1928,
From this biography of a fairly obscure individual, you can see that his date of death is not in any of our sources. So, (a) he is still alive and over 100 years old; (b) he died after 1985; or (c) he was not considered prominent enough at his death to receive an obituary in our sources. We have used our own standard list of abbreviations in The Concise Dictionary and they are listed on page xvii [n.b. Please click here for a list of abbreviations]. The reader will note that all of the information in the entry was taken from the three issues of Who's Who in American Jewry published in 1926, 1928, and 1938.
Adler, Cyrus; b. Van, Buren, AR, Sep 13
1863; d. Apr 7 1940.
BA Central High School (Philadelphia), BA,
MA, U PA, PhD Johns Hopkins. • Natl
Communal ldr, Orientalist, coll pres, author;
pres Dropsie, United Synagogue of Am, JTS,
Am Jewish Com, professional soc; faculty
Johns Hopkins; assocd Smithsonian; fdr Jewish
Publication Soc, Am Jewish Historical Soc;
editor AJYB; representative Versailles Peace
Conf; non-Zionist co-chr Jewish Agency. •
See: JE; UJE; EJ; AJYB, 6(1904-1905):54-55,
24:113, 42:23-144, 476; Eisenstadt, 9; WWIAJ,
1926, 1928, 1938; BEOAJ]; PAJHS, 37:451-
154; WWWIA, 1; DAB, 2; Detroit Jewish News,
June 7 1968; NYTimes, Apr 8 1940, 1:3.
Cyrus Adler has one of the longest entries. It gives his exact dates of birth and death, the complete history of his education, and the most important of his accomplishments. He appears in numerous sources. All of the abbreviations in the entry appear in our list of abbreviations. The last citation is to his obituary in The New York Times.
Jacob Rader Marcus
Judith M. Daniels
After the Holocaust, America automatically assumed cultural hegemony in World Jewry. To meet the challenge of cultural and spiritual leadership the American Jewish Archives was established in 1947 on the campus of the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati by the present writer. I set out to collect documents and data throwing light on the Jews of the Western Hemisphere; the United States communities were emphasized. By the 1990s the Archives had collected about 8,000,000 pages of material. In order to further the study of American Jewish history, a semiannual magazine was published beginning in 1948; it carried selected lists of accessions. In the years 1971-1978 the Archives published a five-volume Manuscript Catalog of the American Jewish Archives; a microfiche edition of new accessions was issued in 1991. As aids to researchers, detailed indexes-in card catalog form-were prepared of a number of the country's most important Jewish periodicals. In 1984 Jewish Newspapers and Periodicals on Microfilm was published by the American Jewish Periodical Center, Cincinnati. In 1950 and 1960 censuses of seventeenth-and eighteenth-century American Jewry were prepared.
There is no question that most of the Jews portrayed in America's standard biographical reference works are indeed notables as are those depicted in the several fine Jewish multivolumed encyclopedias; nevertheless their criteria for notability are often mixed. Relatively few women are included, "for women were given little recognition prior to the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920. Even in their obituaries in The New York Times women are often denoted by only their husbands' names; women like Mrs. Maurice Rothschild (d. 1922) remain nameless; enfranchisement would ultimately make a difference.
In the decades before and after the turn of the nineteenth century, American Jews were eager to boast of their important persons. Although most were immigrants, many of these newcomers had more than earned their welcome here. An artist who received an award was singled out; pioneers in all regions were lauded; veterans who had fought in national wars were, after decades, paraded. Even if an individual had little or no Jewish affiliation--a marginal Jew--he was proudly claimed if he had enjoyed a degree of prominence. Almost any rabbi or cantor, even a small-town minister, was deemed a personality. Indeed, when the Jewish Publication Society started to list notables, they began with rabbis and cantors (American Jewish Year Book, 1903-1904).
In planning The Concise Dictionary of American Jewish Biography, we were eager to include the personalities who graced the towns and cities in all parts of the United States; we did not limit ourselves to metropolitan centers. (It is interesting to note that the editors of Volume 39 of the American Jewish Year Book deemed a sexton worthy of an obituary, brief as it was; the man had served a Milwaukee congregation for thirty years; many persons are listed simply as "communal workers.")
In this Concise Dictionary the effort was made to include only dead Jews; for a variety of reasons there are many exceptions. When a Jewish Who's Who of living American personages was published in 1938-1939, it was assumed that they would be dead by the 1990's. However, a number of them listed in that volume survived into the 1990's; all are included here; hence the reward of those who have survived; they can enjoy reading what the editors said of them in their antemortem portrayals.
Individuals who had but one Jewish parent are also deemed Jews as are converts to other faiths. Dr. Karl Landsteiner, a Nobel laureate in the area of physiology and medicine, appears here. He was a convert to Christianity, but a born Jew. Certainly not grateful for inclusion in an Earlier Jewish work, he sued the publisher, unsuccessfully. We have also included many persons as Jews solely on the basis of their "Jewish" names; undoubtedly we have made errors. European Jews, refugees, who stayed in the States but a few years before returning to Europe or Asia are also chronicled; they were American, if only for the time being. Jews who affiliated with various religious cults were always looked upon as Jews. Notable criminals have also found a haven in this dictionary. If the Dictionary of American Biography can shelter Jesse James, the Jews can do no less than provide an asylum for Arnold Rothstein, gambler and bookmaker, who was fatally wounded in a poker game in 1928. The criteria for acceptance in this lexicographical work are ethnic origin, notability, notoriety, and inclusion in one of our Jewish sources.
There is every reason to believe that on the basis of our sources it has been possible to assemble a relatively inclusive corpus of American Jewry's notables. On the whole, the eighty-seven volumes of the American Jewish Year Book were most productive. Some Jews of repute asked to submit biographical data refused to do so. This is interesting; it is equally interesting to note that social workers were, on the whole, not deemed notables. Rabbis and cantors were. When Lee K Frankel, once an instructor at the University of Pennsylvania, told his friend the Rev. Dr. Kaufmann Kohler of New York that he was going into social work, the rabbi told him, rather sharply, that responsible successful men did not work for the charities. Frankel succeeded in becoming one of the country's most distinguished social workers.
Caveats. The editors of Who's Who in America believe that the data submitted by the biographees are accurate, that people are meticulous when filling out their questionnaires. It is our opinion that some of the Jewish biographies are not without embellishment: people get younger; they gain degrees. In addition, some sources are generally less reliable than others; thus the many-paged list of "Notable American Jews" in the American Jewish Year Book, volume 24, is error-ridden. We assumed, however, that most life stories are accurate as given. The biographies in this Concise Dictionary are limited to the information printed in the selected reference works in our bibliography; when the sources disagree, as they often do, particularly about dates, we include the variants. We had neither the staff nor the funds to undertake additional independent research. Some of the biographies, especially those excerpted from the many volumes ofWho Was Who in America may, inadvertently, have included Gentiles. It is our hope that their Gentile, Christian, descendants will not be indignant that their ancestors were numbered among a people that included Moses, King David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, the Maccabees, Jesus, Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, and Albert Einstein. It is worthy of note too, that many, if not most, of the Jews in Who Was Who in America do not go out of their way to identify themselves as one of the Chosen People. In general, the Jewish biographical works tend to ignore Orthodox East European rabbis; since some were fine talmudists, this is regrettable. The writing style employed in this Concise Dictionary is telegraphic, elliptical; we were eager to save space so as to include as many biographies as possible in the compass of one handy publication. But we did not skimp when it came to citing our sources for every individual's biography. Because they are relatively numerous, they will enable researchers to secure additional information. No attempt was made to interpret the data; the facts must speak for themselves. The actual death date is not always given; it may not be known; the date of the obituary in the papers may not be the date of death. In most instances, however, we have sought to determine when the biographee died; we have turned to The New York Times, making good use of its two published obituary index volumes.
In copying a biography we have usually accepted the given spelling of the hometown, though the spellings in the original were often phonetic, and we did not transliterate Hebrew terms in accord with modern usage. We have allowed the biographees to spell as their minds and education prompted. If some bios are brief--in many cases not more than a line or two--we are merely copying the source, the only one available.
We have labored for over a decade to produce this Concise Dictionary because it is our belief that it will save students many hours of research. Statisticians studying American Jewish life and culture will find that thousands of biographies will provide them with a more than adequate sampling for their studies. The data in these volumes are rich in the areas of economics, politics, the professions, cultural anthropology, onomastics (names), feminism, immigration, and genealogy. Comparisons can be made between first-generation newcomers and natives, all Jews of course. One can trace the history of the Jewish urban middle class since the seventeenth century; a comparative study of immigrant achievers according to their country of origin is well within the realm of possibility; a comparative study of the American Jewish middle class, men and women, according to the geographical areas where they lived and prospered could be undertaken. This study also would throw light on what they did for their communities. The biographies include the education, training, and honorary degrees received by the men and the women portrayed. We believe, too, that there are enough biographies of women to unearth some of the lost history of American Jewry's women. Though somewhat limited, the data may be extensive enough to determine the contributions of the Central European refugees who fled in the 1930's and settled in this country. "What did they do for the America that provided them with a haven?
This Concise Dictionary was actually begun in 1950 when Earl Grollman, a student at the Hebrew Union College, published a paper on America's seventeenthÂcentury Jews. This was followed by a larger work by Dr. Joseph Rosenbloom in 1960. That, in turn, was followed by a master's thesis by David Zielonka in 1962. During the 1980's, graduate students of the seminary and the nearby university worked continuously on the project; the scholarship funds were generously supplied by the Hebrew Union College. I forbear to mention all their names--although Nina Mjagkij, Sigurd Adickes, and Ann Millin were among them--lest I inadvertently forget some of them. Aaron Levine, a retired executive of the Federated Department Stores and now co-director of the Institute for Learning in Retirement at the University of Cincinnati, undertook the arduous task of excerpting the data on all the Jewish biographees in the eight volumes of Who Was Who in America (this of course included all Jews identified in the many volumes of the standard Who's Who in America). At all times, the staffs of the American Jewish Archives and the Hebrew Union College Library were only too eager to be of assistance.
Finally, we received a matching grant from Jack Skirball and his wife Audrey Marx Skirball Kenis. We are deeply grateful for their largesse and their vision. It was this gift that made it possible for us to continue on even a larger scale. Melanie A. Miller did the computer work magnificently, organizing and typing the biographies. Judith M. Daniels, Lecturer in History at the University of Cincinnati, came aboard in the 1980's and took over the task of chief of staff. Without her this work would not exist. I prepared the data for hundreds of biographies and checked every final entry in this work.
Jacob Rader Marcus
American Jewish Archives
Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati