Access and Provenance

Biographical Sketch

Scope and Content Note

Box and Folder Listing

Subject Tracings

A Finding Aid to the

William Rosenau Papers

Manuscript Collection No. 41

1889-1944. 5 Linear ft.


The WILLIAM ROSENAU PAPERS were donated to the American Jewish Archives by the Rosenau family in 1948.

Property rights have been assigned to the American Jewish Archives. All literary rights to materials authored by William Rosenau are held by the Rosenau 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 WILLIAM ROSENAU PAPERS are open to all users. The original manuscript collection is available in the reading room of the American Jewish Archives.


William Rosenau was born in Wolstein, Germany in 1865, the son of Rabbi Nathan and Johanna (Braun) Rosenau. The family came to the United States and settled in the Philadelphia area when William Rosenau was eleven.

Much of Rosenau's early education was acquired from his father. The atmosphere of a rabbinic home no doubt influenced Rosenau's decision to enter the rabbinate. He studied at the University of Cincinnati and received his A.B. in 1888. In 1889 he became a rabbi after graduating from the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati. In 1900 he received a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. In 1923 he received an honorary degree of Doctor of Hebrew law from the Hebrew Union College.

After graduation from the seminary, Rosenau served at Temple Israel in Omaha, Nebraska from 1889 to 1892. He then received a call from Baltimore to become rabbi at Congregation Oheb Shalom. He served as active rabbi in Baltimore until 1939, when he became rabbi emeritus. In 1942 he completed his fiftieth consecutive year as rabbi of the congregation. While at Congregation Oheb Shalom he succeeded in the introduction of English prayers and sermons (from the previous German), the abolishment of the compulsory wearing of hats during services, and the introduction of the Friday evening service. He also served on the faculty of Johns Hopkins University in the Department of Semitics (1902-1932).

Rosenau was involved in the activities of the general and Jewish communities of Baltimore. He was a member of the Baltimore School Board from 1900 to 1910 and served on the Maryland Society for the Study and Prevention of Tuberculosis. He was a member of a commission which made a study of state-aided colleges in Maryland, the Board of the Prisoners Aid Association and the Maryland Commission for the Higher Education of Negroes. He served on the board of the Associated Jewish Charities and was for a time its director. He was a secretary of the central Conference of American Rabbis and later served as president (1916-1918). He was a founder of the Jewish Welfare Board, a member of the Board of Jewish Education, the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, and the Board of Governors of the Hebrew Union College (1917-1943). He served for several years as chancellor of the Jewish Chautauqua Society.

In addition to numerous articles in periodicals, Rosenau also wrote the following: Hebraisms in the Authorized Version of the Bible (1901); Jewish Ceremonial Institutions and Customs (1903, 1925); Jewish Biblical Commentators (1904); The Seder Haggada (1905); Jewish Education (1912); Book of Consolation (1914); and The Rabbi in Action (1937). He contributed a number of articles to the Jewish Encyclopedia, and translated Esther for the Jewish Publication Society of America.

Dr. Rosenau was married twice. He married his first wife, Mabel Hellman, in 1893. They had two children, William H. and Marguerite (Mrs. Carl K. Kiefer). Mabel Rosenau died in 1923. Rosenau married Myra Krause in 1925. Rabbi William Rosenau died in December 1943.


The WILLIAM ROSENAU PAPERS (1889-1944) document many of the interests and activities in the career of the rabbi and scholar, William Rosenau. The collection consists of materials relating to his more than fifty years of service as rabbi of Congregation Oheb Shalom in Baltimore, Maryland and to his anti-Zionist position. Types of materials in the collection are correspondence with rabbis, congregations, and individuals in the Reform Jewish movement; sermons, addresses, confirmation services, reviews, prayers, editorials, newsclippings, and photographs. The Papers are divided into four series:

  • Subseries 1: General
  • Subseries 2: Commemorative
  • The CORRESPONDENCE series (1889-1944), Sub-Series 1. General, consists of one and one-half boxes. The correspondence is arranged alphabetically by name of the correspondent. Much of the material discusses books written by Rosenau, his involvement in Reform Judaism, and his interest in anti-Zionism. Access to some of the more important subjects and individuals may be made through the Box and Folder List and Subject Tracings at the end of the inventory.

    Sub-Series 2. Commemorative (1917; 1935; 1939) consists primarily of of letters and telegrams dealing with Rosenau's twentieth anniversary as rabbi of Congregation Oheb Shalom in Baltimore (1917), the fiftieth anniversary of his ordination as a rabbi (1939), and his seventieth birthday (1935). Some newsclippings and pamphlets are also included. The material in this series was originally bound in scrapbooks. The arrangement reflects the original order.

    The LITERARY PRODUCTIONS series (1892-1943) consists of six boxes of sermons, addresses, lectures, notes relating to sermons and addresses, abstracts of sermons and addresses, prayers, confirmation services, and book reviews, and editorials. Much of the material is in bound volumes. This causes the basic chronological arrangement to be broken and overlapped. Abstracts of the sermons and addresses follow the sermons and addresses while confirmation services, prayers, book reviews, and editorials are placed at the end of the series. Box 3 Folder 4 contains lists of sermon subjects and titles which may be helpful in locating a particular sermon or address.

    The NEWSCLIPPINGS series (1892-1939) consists of approximately two and one-half boxes of bound newsclippings. The series is arranged chronologically with an overlap in the chronology occurring because of the bound volumes. The newsclippings generally discuss Dr. Rosenau or document events in which he was involved. Because of the bound condition of the material, some sermons, addresses, or abstracts may be found in this series, too.

    The MISCELLANEOUS series (1914; 1943-1944) consists of a diary written by Dr. Rosenau in the summer of 1914, photographs of his activities, and obituary material.


    Box  Folder    Contents
    Note: The CORRESPONDENCE series consists of letters and telegrams as well as
    some supporting material such as pamphlets and newsclippings. The series has
    been subdivided into Sub-Series 1. General and Sub-Series 2. Commemorative.
    Sub-Series 1. General is arranged alphabetically and Sub-Series 2.
    Commemorative is arranged by activity.
    Sub-Series 1. General
    1    1         A, General
         2         Adler, Cyrus 1903; 1906; 1924; 1933; 1938; 1939
         3         Albright, William Foxwell 1931-1942 [scattered]
         4         American Council for Judaism 1942
         5         American Council for Judaism 1943-1944
         6         B, General
         7         Bamberger, Bernard J. 1942 Feb.-Sept.
         8         Berger, Elmer 1942-1943
         9         Berkowitz, Henry 1892-1921 [scattered]
         10        C, General
         11        D, General
         12        E, General
         13        Elbogen, Ismar 1931; 1942-1943
         14        F, General
         15        Friedenwald, Harry F. 1906-1934 [scattered]
         16        G, General
         17        Gamoran, Emanuel 1938-1943
         18        Gibbons, James 1912-1921
         19        Gittelsohn, Roland B. 1941 July
         20        H, General
         21        I,J, General
         22        K, General
         23        L, General
         24        Leiser, Isidor and Mathilde 1938-1943
         25        M, General
         26        N, General
         27        O, General
         28        P,Q, General
    2    1         R, General
         2         S, General
         3         Synagogue Council of America 1943
         4         T, General
         5         V, General
         6         W, General
         7         Weiner, Max 1938-1942
         8         Wolsey, Louis 1938-1942
         9         Y-Z, General
         10        Unidentified
    Sub-Series 2. Commemorative
         11        Twenty-Fifth Anniversary as rabbi of Congregation
                        Oheb Shalom in Baltimore, Maryland 1917
         12        Fiftieth Anniversary of his ordination as a rabbi
         13-14          Seventieth Birthday greetings 1935
    3    1-3       Seventieth Birthday greetings 1935
         4         Lists of sermon subjects and titles
         5         1892-1899      Sermons [bound]
    4    1         1900-1910      Sermons [bound]
         2         1911-1914      Sermons [bound]
         3         1889-1899      Sermons and Addresses
    5    1         1901-1902      Sermons and Addresses [bound]
         2         1903-1910      Sermons and Addresses
         3         1910-1911      Sermons and Addresses [bound]
         4         1911           Sermons and Addresses [bound]
         5         1911-1915      Sermons and Addresses
         6         1913-1914      Sermons and Addresses [bound]
         7         1915-1917      Sermons and Addresses [bound]
    6    1         1916-1920      Sermons and Addresses
         2         1921-1934      Sermons and Addresses
         3         1922-1923      Sermons and Addresses [bound]
         4         1929-1931      Sermons and Addresses [bound]
         5         1931-1931      Sermons and Addresses--
                                       Undelivered [bound]
         6         1932-1934      Sermons and Addresses [bound]
         7         1935-1943      Sermons and Addresses [bound]
         8         1935-1943      Sermons and Addresses
    7    1-2       Undated        Sermons and Addresses [bound]
         3-5          --               Notes [Some dated and undated material relating to the                                         							Sermons and Addresses]
         6         1923 Dec.-1926 April     Abstracts of Sermons and Addresses
         7         1926 April-Dec.          Abstracts
    8    1         1926 Dec.-1928 June Abstracts
         2         1928 Nov.-1929 June Abstracts
         3         1929 Oct.-1930 Oct. Abstracts
         4         1930 Oct.-1931      Abstracts
         5         1932                Abstracts
         6         1933-1934 May       Abstracts
         7         1934 June-1936      Abstracts
         8         1937-1939           Abstracts
    9    1         1940-1943           Abstracts
         2         1927-1938           Confirmation Services
         3            --                    Prayers
         4         1909-1940           Book Reviews
         5         1906-1942           Editorials
    10   1         1906-1942           Editorials
         2         1892-1908           Newsclippings [bound]
         3         1893-1897           Newsclippings [bound]
         4         1896-1897           Newsclippings [bound]
         5         1900-1906           Newsclippings [bound]
    11   1         1906-1910           Newsclippings [bound]
         2         1910-1911           Newsclippings [bound]
         3         1911-1917           Newsclippings [bound]
         4         1912-1913           Newsclippings [bound]
         5         1913-1914           Newsclippings [bound]
    12   1         1915-1922           Newsclippings [bound]
         2         1916-1931           Newsclippings [bound]
         3         1917-1924           Newsclippings [bound]
         4         1923-1930           Newsclippings [bound]
         5         1923-1935           Newsclippings [bound]
         6         1930-1939           Newsclippings [bound]
         7         1914 Summer              Diary
         8           -------           Photographs
         9         1934-1944           Obituary material


    Note: The following list of subjects is a selective index to the WILLIAM 
    ROSENAU PAPERS. It is selective in that it only attempts to draw attention
    to the more significant items in the collection. It does not attempt to list
    every subject or individual nor does it try to list all places that a listed
    subject or individual appears in the collection. When used in conjunction with
    the Box and Folder List, the Subject Tracings should help the researcher
    locate topics. References are to boxes and folder: e.g., 3/10 means Box 3,
    Folder 10.
    American Council for Judaism  1/8
    Anti-Semitism  2/1
    Anti-Zionism  1/4, 5, 8; 2/8
    Religion in the Public Schools, 1/6
    Religious Education 1/6, 17, 22
    Synagogue Activities  1/6
    Taft, William Howard  2/4
    Wise, Stephen S.  2/6
    Zionism  2/1