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Rabbi Albert I. Gordon Papers

 Collection
Identifier: P-86

Scope and Content Note

The Rabbi Albert I. Gordon Papers contains course notes, biographical information, photographs, correspondence, research notes and articles, copies of published articles and pamphlets, a doctoral thesis, and research and book reviews. Also included is an autographed program of Golda Meir at the Statler Hotel, condolence letters sent to Dorothy Gordon, typescripts of radio lectures and plays, and various ephemera, newsletters and documents from Gordon's synagogues, most notably Temple Emanuel. Of particular interest are his radio scripts, which address a variety of Jewish topics, but also highlight some of the misconceptions and concerns about Judaism at the time- both religious and cultural. The transcripts of interviews with converts are also illuminating as they capture the role of religion in people's lives during a very different era.

Dates

  • undated, 1915-1971

Creator

Language of Materials

The collection is in English.

Access Restrictions

This collection is open for researcher use. Please contact us to request access or to make an appointment to view this collection at jhcreference@nehgs.org.

Use Restrictions

There may be some restrictions on the use of this collection. For more information contact jhcreference@nehgs.org.

Biographical Note

Rabbi Albert I. Gordon was born on May 11, 1903 to Hyman S. and Martha (Rosenzweig) Gordon in Cleveland, Ohio. While a student at the University of Pennsylvania, Gordon decided to become a Rabbi and transferred to New York University, where he received his Bachelor of Arts in 1927. In 1929, he was ordained from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America with his Masters in Hebrew Literature. In 1948, he earned his Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Minnesota. In 1964, he received an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Divinity from the Jewish Theological Seminary, an honor he shared that year with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

His first rabbinate was at Temple Israel of Washington Heights in New York City (1929-1930). Following his resignation, Rabbi Gordon and his wife moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he was installed as Rabbi of Adath Jeshurun. During his sixteen year tenure, Gordon developed several programs and initiatives, including the synagogue newsletter, The Clarion, the Friday night Bat Mitzvah, Saturday Junior Congregation, a lecture series about American thinkers and writers, Boy and Girl Scout troops, and a Cub Pack. Under his guidance, the religious school was reorganized, and a nursery school and library were founded. Rabbi Gordon also hired the first professional cantor at Adath Jeshurun, Solomon Winter.

Also while in Minneapolis, Rabbi Gordon served as a labor arbitrator for 23 different industries and was a member of the National War Labor Board. He participated in the Minneapolis Round Table of the National Council of Christians and Jews and for three years, presided over the Minneapolis Federation for Jewish Service. Rabbi Gordon was also known for his radio addresses on Judaism and Jewish life, most of which could be heard on WCCO in Minneapolis during the 1930s and 1940s. The typescripts of these addresses also feature one or two questions submitted by listeners, with answers prepared by Rabbi Gordon.

In 1946, Rabbi Gordon left Adath Jeshurun after being appointed Executive Director of the United Synagogue of America (now the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism) by Dr. Louis Finkelstein. The Gordon family moved to New York so Gordon could assume his post on November 1st of that year. While Executive Director, Gordon established the United Synagogue's Department of Music and hired his former colleague from Temple Israel, Hazzan David Putterman, as Director. In addition to the Department of Music, Gordon established a Book Service to help disseminate information to synagogues, schools and homes. As with his previous work at Adath Jeshurun, Gordon focused on the importance of Jewish education and modernized the Conservative synagogue school with the help of Dr. Abraham E. Millgram as Director of Education. He also published several pamphlets meant to provide basic information and instruction for Jews unfamiliar or uncomfortable with religious practices. These included "Ceremony for Reception of a New Member in the Synagogue," "Grace after Meals for Public Functions," "How to Celebrate Passover at Home," "How to Celebrate Chanukah at Home," "How to Celebrate Purim at Home," "Bride and Groom," and "In Time of Sorrow."

Following his resignation from the United Synagogue of America in 1950, the Gordons moved to Newton, Massachusetts, where Rabbi Gordon was installed at Temple Emanuel on Ward Street. Rabbi Gordon soon established himself in the Boston area. In addition to serving as President of the New England Region of the Rabbinical Assembly (1950), he also lectured on Judaism at Andover-Newton Theological Seminary, and from 1960-1961 served as President of the Massachusetts Board of Rabbis.

At Temple Emanuel, Gordon implemented new programming and strengthened that which was already in place. In the first few years at the Temple, a massive building campaign was conducted to fund a new, modern structure that would fit the needs of Emanuel's growing community. This included, in particular, classroom space, as Gordon once again focused on the importance of Jewish education for both children and adults (the religious school at Temple Emanuel is now named for him.) In addition to establishing a stronger educational curriculum for children, Rabbi Gordon also instituted the School of Jewish Studies for adults, which was a resounding success at the Temple. Rabbi Gordon served Temple Emanuel and the greater Boston community for nineteen years.

As a sociologist and prolific writer, Rabbi Gordon also authored numerous articles on the subject pertaining to Jewish life in America, including conversion, interfaith marriage, and Jewish college students; as well as brochures and pamphlets on celebrating Jewish holidays, marriage, and grief. He is most known for his books, Jews in Transition (1949), Jews in Suburbia (1959), Intermarriage (1966) and The Nature of Conversion (1967). For these books, Rabbi Gordon conducted research using interviews, surveys and previously written articles, many of which are included in this collection. He was also a contributing editor of "American Jewish World" and wrote articles for "Jewish Social Studies" and "Reconstructionist."

Gordon married Dorothy Davis of Chicago, Illinois on November 28, 1929. They had two children, Judith (married name: Wharton) and David. After retiring from Temple Emanuel in 1968 due to illness, Rabbi Gordon passed away on November 5th of that year. He was 65.

References

  1. Materials from the collection.
  2. Orkin, Etta Fay. "Adath Jeshurun Congregation: 1884ยท1995." About Us: History. Adath Jeshurun Congregation, 2008. Web. 29 Dec. 2010. (http://www.adathjeshurun.org/Adath%20About%20Us%20History.html).
  3. Schneiderman, Harry, and I.J. Carmin Karpman, eds. Who's Who in World Jewry: a Biographical Dictionary of Outstanding Jews; New York, NY: David McKay, 1965.

Chronology

May 11, 1903
Albert I. Gordon born in Cleveland, Ohio.
1927
Graduates from New York University.
1927
Publishes "Debate Manual."
1929
Graduates from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.
1929-1930
Enters rabbinate at Temple Israel of Washington Heights, New York, where David Putterman serves as Hazzan.
November 28, 1929
Marries Dorothy Davis of Chicago, Illinois.
1930-1946
Rabbi at Adath Jeshurun in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
1934-1946
Serves as a labor arbitrator for the state of Minnesota.
1939
Earns M.A. at the University of Minnesota.
1943-1947
Member, National War Labor Board.
1946-1950
Appointed Executive Director of the United Synagogue of America by Dr. Louis Finkelstein. He began the appointment on November 1, 1946 and was formally installed on January 19, 1947.
1946-1947
Authors a booklet series, "How to Celebrate the Jewish Holy Days."
1947
Created a Department of Music at the United Synagogue of America and appoints Hazzan David Putterman as Director.
1948
Earns Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Minnesota.
1948
Publishes "In Times of Sorrow" and "Bride and Groom: A Manual for Marriage."
1949
Panel member, Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services.
1949
Publishes Jews in Transition.
1950
Becomes Rabbi of Temple Emanuel in Newton, Massachusetts.
1950
Serves as President of the New England Region of the Rabbinical Assembly and member of the Prayer Book Committee.
1952
Lecturer in Judaism at Andover Newton Theological School, Newton, Massachusetts.
1959
Publishes Jews in Suburbia.
1960-1961
Serves as President of the Massachusetts Board of Rabbis.
1964
Earns an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Divinity from the Jewish Theological Seminary.
1966
Publishes Intermarriage.
1967
Publishes The Nature of Conversion.
November 5, 1968
Dies at age 65.

Extent

9 linear foot (18 manuscript boxes)

Abstract

Albert I. Gordon was a Rabbi, author, and sociologist. Rabbi of Temple Israel of Washington Heights, New York (1929-1930), Adath Jeshurun in Minneapolis, Minnesota (1930-1946) and Temple Emanuel in Newton, Massachusetts (1949-1968), Rabbi Gordon also served as Executive Director of the United Synagogue of America (1946-1949) and wrote numerous articles and pamphlets, as well as the books Jews in Transition, Jews in Suburbia, Intermarriage, and The Nature of Conversion. Gordon also hosted a radio program in Minneapolis on WCCO for many years. This collection contains typescripts of Gordon's radio addresses; research, notes and interviews for his books, various sermons and speeches; correspondence, photographs, and materials from his synagogues.

Physical Location

Located in Boston, Mass.

Acquisition Information

Donated by Dorothy Gordon in 1970, with additional donations in 1971, 1975, and 1983.

Processing Information

Processed by Stephanie Call, 2011
Title
Guide to the Rabbi Albert I. Gordon Papers, P-86
Author
Processed by Stephanie Call
Date
2011

Repository Details

Part of the Wyner Family Jewish Heritage Center at New England Historic Genealogical Society Repository

Contact:
99-101 Newbury Street
Boston MA 02116 United States
617-226-1245