Access and Provenance

Biographical Sketch

Scope and Content Note

Box and Folder Listing


A Finding Aid to the

Louis Wolsey Papers

Manuscript Collection No. 15

1866-1948. 2.4 Linear ft.


The LOUIS WOLSEY PAPERS were given to the American Jewish Archives by Rabbi
Wolsey in three segments during the years 1947-1952.

Property rights have been assigned to the American Jewish Archives. All 
literary rights to materials authored by Rabbi Wolsey are held by the 
Wolsey heirs. Literary rights to materials authored by others are held by the 
individual author or his/her heirs. Questions concerning rights should 
be addressed to the Director of the American Jewish Archives.

The LOUIS WOLSEY PAPERS are open to all users. The original manuscript 
collection is available in the reading room of the American Jewish 
 Louis Wolsey was born in Midland, Michigan on January 8,
1877. He was educated at public schools in Clare (Michigan),
Chicago, and Cincinnati, graduating in 1895 from Cincinnati's
Hughes High School. Wolsey then entered Hebrew Union College
where, in conjunction with the University of Cincinnati, he
studied for his bachelor's degree while training for the
rabbinate. In 1899, Wolsey received a Bachelor of Arts degree
from the University of Cincinnati and, in that same year,
received ordination from Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise.

Upon ordination, Wolsey became rabbi at Congregation B'nai
Israel in Little Rock, Arkansas. He remained there eight years,
during which time he served as Chaplain General of the Arkansas
State Guard, was a member of the Little Rock Board of Education
(1906-1907), and co-founded Little Rock's Carnegie Library.

In 1907, Wolsey went to Cleveland, Ohio to serve as rabbi at
Congregation Ansche Chesed (Euclid Avenue Temple). In Cleveland,
Wolsey directed the building of a new synagogue for his
congregation, served as a member of the Cleveland Charter
Commission (1920) and was president of the Cleveland Society of
Sociology (1922-1923). During this time, Wolsey also served one
term as president of the HUC Alumni Association (1913-1914).

Although Wolsey was awarded a life contract at Congregation
Ansche Chesed, he was released from it in 1925 so that he could
serve as rabbi of Congregation Rodeph Shalom in Philadelphia,
Pennsylvania. Wolsey functioned as senior rabbi at Congregation
Rodeph Shalom from 1925 through 1947, when he became Rabbi
Emeritus. He remained in this position until his death in 1953.
As rabbi of Congregation Rodeph Shalom, Wolsey directed the
building of a new synagogue in 1927, served as a member of the
Executive Board of the Philadelphia Federation of Jewish
Charities and chaired the Philadelphia Vice and Criem Commission.

After 1925, Wolsey became actively identified with many national 
Jewish organizations and movements. He was a member of the Executive 
Board of the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), CCAR 
president from 1925 through 1927 and chairman of the CCAR Committee
on the Union Hymnal which, under his supervision, published a new 
edition of the Hymnal in 1946. Wolsey was chancellor of the Jewish
Chautauqua Society (1925-1938), a charter member of the World
Union for Progressive Judaism (1926) and a member of the HUC
Board of Governors. He served on the Executive Board of the Union
of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC) and was chairman of the
UAHC Commission on Jewish Education (1925). Wolsey was also an
active Republican: in 1940, he was on the Republican Party's
National Program Committee and several times he acted as Jewish
chaplain at Republican conventions. In 1939, Wolsey received an
honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from HUC in recognition of his
post graduate work at the University of Chicago, Western Reserve
University (Cleveland) and the University of Pennsylvania.

In February 1942, at its annual convention in Cincinnati,
the CCAR passed a pro-Zionist resolution favoring the
establishment of a Jewish army in Palestine. Wolsey, who was
committed to Reform principles of Judaism which saw Judaism as a
universal relition and not a nationality, was adamantly opposed
to "political Zionism" and outraged at this CCAR resolution. Soon
after the convention, he, along with sixteen other Reform rabbis,
addressed letters to CCAR members concerning the formation of a
"non Zionist" association. The non-Zionists met in Atlantic City,
New Jersey June 1 and 2 and created a Statement of Principles,
which was released to the press in August 1942. On December 7, at
another meeting of non-Zionist Jews, the American Council for
Judaism (ACJ) was founded with a Constitution and Articles of
Incorporation. By the end of that year, a national headquarters
for the Council was established in Philadelphia with Elmer Berger
as its Executive Director. The ACJ also established a Lecture
Bureau as well as hiring Sidney Wallach, a public relations
expert. Finally, the ACJ began publication of The Information
Bulletin as a means of presenting its point of view.

Through 1943, Wolsey continued his active and intense
involvement with the ACJ. As one of the people instrumental in
the foundings of the Council, he was regarded among its spiritual
leaders. In 1943, he was elected vice-president of the ACJ and
helped form the Cincinnati and San Francisco branches of the
Council. In December 1943, he advocated that the ACJ establish
its own College for Reform Judaism since the established schools
"had been sabotaged [by the Zionists]."

Beginning in the fall of 1944, however, Wolsey began to
experience a sense of alienation from the anti-Zionist movement.
He felt that Berger and Wallach ran the ACJ in an "undemocratic
fashion" and that they overemphasized ACJ's anti-Zionist aspects
rather than its Reform principles. As a result, Wolsey resigned
as vice-president in December 1945 and thereafter became totally
inactive in the ACJ.

In 1948, upon the creation of the State of Israel, Wolsey
formally withdrew as a member of the American Council for
Judaism. In a statement released to the press, he called for the
dissolution of the Council and pleaded for an effort to heal all
wounds in order to strengthen Israel by creating a united
spiritual front of American Jews. Wolsey's recognition fo the
realities of the situation and his willingness to state his
changed position in public won him much acclaim.

Rabbi Louis Wolsey died March 4, 1953 in Philadelphia.
Wolsey had married Florence Helen Weiner in Cleveland and they
had had two sons, Jonathan L. and Allon. In February 1941, Mrs.
Wolsey and Jonathan L. Wolsey died. In 1943, Wolsey married Mrs.
Helen Frank Myers. Upon his death in 1953, he was survived by his
second wife and his remaining son Allon. Rabbi Wolsey is also survived
by two grandchildren from his son Allon: Daniel Allon Wolsey and Frances 
Wolsey Kiradjian. 
The LOUIS WOLSEY PAPERS, (1866-1948), contain correspondence, minutes, 
addresses, ACJ records, newsclippings and nearprint which reflect Wolsey's
rabbinic career and activities, especially his involvement in the founding and
organizing of the American Council for Judaism. Although the collection spans
the period from 1866 through 1948, the vast majority of the material is from 
1942 through 1948. The collection is divided into two series: 

               A. CORRESPONDENCE
               B. NEARPRINT.

SERIES A. CORRESPONDENCE, 1866-1948, consists of 4 boxes of correspondence 
arranged alphabetically by name of the correspondent. The material prior to 
1942 is sparse. It consists of a few historical items concerning Philadelphia's 
Congregation Rodeph Shalom (dating back to 1866) and correspondence (1923-1941), 
which reflect Wolsey's rabbinic career and activities and show his early aversion 
to Zionism. The material after 1941 deals almost exclusively with the American 
Council for Judaism. Through 1943, Wolsey, as one of the founders and spiritual 
leaders of the ACJ, was kept informed of all Council developments. Thus the
files in this series contain many copies of the correspondence of ACJ leaders 
such as William Rosenau, Abe Shusterman, Morris Lazaron and Elmer Berger. The 
American Council for Judaism materials, 1942-1946, consists of minutes, membership
lists, form letters, reports, and financial records. Although there is complete 
coverage of the June 1-2, 1942 Atlantic City meeting along with some other meetings, the
records, in general, are scarce, especially the ACJ financial material.

SERIES B. NEARPRINT, 1925-1948, consists of two boxes. This series consists of two
folders and 5 loose-leaf scrapbooks of pamphlets, articles, Bulletins and newsclippings
concerning Zionism and/or the American Council for Judaism. Since the Zionist 
Organization of America and the ACJ each felt that they represented the "silent 
majority" of American Jews, membership recruitment and publicity were an important
part of both of their campaigns. Copies of many of the newspaper advertisements and the
various propaganda-oriented publications are found in this subseries. Wolsey compiled 
"Tables of Contents" for each scrapbook and these are found at the beginning of this section.
Most of scrapbook number 2 is missing. The scrapbooks and "Tables of Contents" have 
all been microfilmed for preseravation purposes.

Note: Before processing, Series A. of the LOUIS WOLSEY PAPERS was microfilmed 
(Microfilm Numbers 2145-2147).
Box  Folder    Contents


1      1       A-B, General
       2       American Council for Judaism (ACJ) Mr-My 1942
       3-4     ACJ [Je 1-2, 1942 meeting of Non-Zionist rabbis in
                    Atlantic City, N.J.]
       5       ACJ Je-D 1942
       6       ACJ 1943-1948
       7       ACJ n.d.
       8       ACJ [Financial Records] 1942-1943
       9       Berger, Elmer 1942

2      1       Berger, Elmer 1943
       2       Berger, Elmer 1944-1946
       3       C-E, General
       4       Calisch, Edward N. 1922-1923; 1942-1944
       5       F, General
       6       Fineshriber, William H. 1942-1944; 1946
       7       Foster, Solomon 1942-1943
       8       Franklin, Leo M. 1942-1944; 1948
       9       Frisch, Ephraim 1942-1943
       10      G, General

3      1       Goldenson, Samuel H. 1942-1945
       2       H-K, General
       3       Heller, James G. 1942-1943; 1946
       4       Holtzberg, Abraham 1942-1945
       5       L-O, General
       6       Landman, Isaac 1924; 1942-1943; 1946
       7       Lazaron, Morris S. 1942
       8       Lazaron, Morris S. 1943-1945, n.d.
       9       Marcuson, Isaac E. 1942-1944
       10      Moregenstern, Julian 1924; 1942-1943
       11      P-R, General

4      1       Philipson, David 1926; 1942-1945
       2       Reichert, Irving F. 1942-1946
       3       Rosenau, William 1942-1943
       4       Rosenblum, William F. 1942-1943; 1948
       5       Rosenwald, Lessing J. 1943-1948
       6       S, General
       7       Schachtel, Hyman J. 1942-1947
       8       Shusterman, Abraham 1942-1948
       9       T-V, General
       10      Union of American Hebrew Congregations - Committee
                    on Social Justice [minutes] c.a. 1925
       11      W-Z, General
       12      Wise, Jonah B. 1942-1943
       13      Unidentified 1866-1899; 1941-1948, n.d.


5      1       1928-1948
       2       Not dated.
       3       Scrapbooks, * "Tables of Contents"
       4-8     Scrapbook Number 1
       9       Scrapbook Number 2
       10      Scrapbook Number 3

6      1-3     Scrapbook Number 3
       4-8     Scrapbook Number 4
       9       Scrapbook Number 5

*Microfilm Number 1647