Biographical Sketch

Scope and Content Note


Conditions of Access and Use

Administrative Information

Search Terms

Box and Folder Listing

Series A. Correspondence, 1893-1936

Series B. Personal, 1886-1937

A Finding Aid to the Richard J.H. Gottheil Papers. 1886-1982.

Manuscript Collection No. 127


Repository: The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives
Creator: Gottheil, Richard James Horatio, 1862-1936.
Title: Richard J.H. Gottheil Papers.
Dates: 1886-1982
Quantity: 0.8 linear feet (2 Hollinger boxes)
Abstract: Correspondence, articles, clippings, awards, and other items relating to the study of Judaism, Zionism, and other matters.
Collection Number: MS-127
Language: Collection material in English, German, French, Hebrew, and Yiddish.

Biographical Sketch

Richard James Horatio Gottheil was born in Manchester, England in 1862 to Rabbi Gustav and Rosalie Wollman Gottheil. In 1873, the family emigrated to New York City where Rabbi Gottheil ascended the pulpit at Temple Emanu-El. Richard Gottheil earned a Bachelor of Arts from Columbia University in 1881 and returned to Europe to study at the Universities of Berlin, Tübingen and Leipzig and received a Doctor of Philosophy from Leipzig in 1886. Gottheil later returned to the United States, earning his doctorate from Columbia University in 1929.

Gottheil was appointed chair of Semitic languages and rabbinical literature at Columbia University in 1887 after one year on the faculty as a lecturer. He was trained in Semitics, Judaica, Orientalism and Wissenschaft methodology. In 1897, Gottheil became the director of the Oriental department at the New York Public Library. He would retain both positions until his death.

He inherited from his father a strong commitment to Zionism at a time when it was not popular. He served as the president of the Federation of American Zionists from its inception in 1898 until 1904. Gottheil was vice-president of the Universal Zionist Society. He also served on various committees of the World Zionist Organizations and in 1910 took charge of the American School of Archeology in Jerusalem.

Gottheil was also a noted Syriac studies scholar. He served from 1902-1903 as president of the Society of Biblical Literature. He was a contributor to several encyclopedias and journals and was the editor of the Semitic Study Series (1901-1911) and Columbia University Oriental Series (1901-1936). Individual works include Zionism and The Belmont-Belmonte Family.

Gottheil died in New York City on 23 May 1936. One of his final official acts was to represent Columbia University at the 400th anniversary of the University of Granada, in Spain.

Gottheil married Emma R. Leon, a widow with two sons, in September 1891. They had no children.

Scope and Content Note

The RICHARD J. H. GOTTHEIL PAPERS consist of the papers of Richard Gottheil, an Orientalist and Semitic language professor. Gottheil was a strong supporter of the Zionist movement at a time when it was unpopular within the American Reform movement. He was in close contact with journalist Theodor Herzl about starting the movement in the United States, as is reflected in the correspondence series.

The correspondence series strongly reflects Gottheil’s Zionist activities. There is an early correspondence with Israel Zangwill, with whom Gottheil was to break in 1923 after Zangwill criticized the Zionist movement. There is also an extensive correspondence with Stephen S. Wise about his involvement in Zionist activities and Gottheil’s support in the creation of the Jewish Institute of Religion in New York City. The personal series includes a series of clippings, writings and material about birthday celebrations and Zionist activities.

The papers span the dates 1886-1937.


The papers are divided into two series:

A. Correspondence
B. Personal

Conditions of Access and Use

Terms of Access

The collection is open for use; no restrictions apply.

Terms of Reproduction and Use

Copyright restrictions may apply. Authorization to publish, quote, or reproduce, with exceptions for fair use, may be obtained through the American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati, Ohio. Please address queries to the Executive Director of the American Jewish Archives. For more information, see the American Jewish Archives copyright information webpage.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Footnotes and bibliographic references should refer to the Richard James Horatio Gottheil Papers and the American Jewish Archives. A suggestion for at least the first citation is as follows:

[Description], [Date], Box #, Folder #. MS-127. Richard James Horatio Gottheil Papers. American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati, Ohio.


The Richard J.H. Gottheil papers were donated to the American Jewish Archives by the Klau Library, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, New York, N.Y., in February and June 1979. All papers donated prior to August 2002 have been arranged and described in this inventory.

Processing Information

Processed by Kevin Proffitt.

Box and Folder Listing

Series A. Correspondence, 1893-1936
The Correspondence series consists of 1 1/2 Hollinger boxes. Correspondents include Zionist leaders such as Louis Brandeis, Theodor Herzl, Judah Magnes, and Stephen Wise. Where correspondents have five or more letters they have been filed in a separate folder. Span dates are 1893-1936.
Correspondence is arranged alphabetically with general correspondence followed by individuals. Within folders, correspondence is arranged chronologically.
Box Folder
1 1 A-K, General
1 2 L-Z, General
1 3 Actions Committee Vienna 1898-1903
1 4 Benjamin, ? 1902-1903
1 5 Brandeis, Louis Dembitz 1914-1919; 1934
1 6 Hadassah 1909-1931
1 7-8 Herzl, Theodor 1898-1903 (2 folders)
Correspondence is in English and German
1 9 Jusserand, ? 1915-1924, undated
1 10 Lipsky, Louis 1898-1922
1 11 Magnes, Judah L. 1915-1917
1 12 Moore, George F. 1889-1906; 1927
1 13 Reich, A.W. 1899-1903
1 14 Rice, Cecil S. 1915-1918
1 15 Straus, Oscar S. 1897-1910
1 16 Universite de Strausbourg 1917-1921, undated
Box Folder
2 1-4 Wise, Stephen S. 1901-1936, undated (4 folders)
2 5 Zangwill, Israel 1898-1917
Series B. Personal, 1886-1937
The Personal series consists of 1/2 Hollinger box. It contains a variety of materials such as writings for and about Gottheil, including obituaries and newsclippings. There is also Zionist memorabilia. Span dates are 1886-1937.
The series is arranged alphabetically by topic.
Box Folder
2 6 Clippings
2 7 Gottheil, Gustave . Re: biography 1936
2 8 Gottheil, Richard J.H. 60th birthday 1922
2 9 Gottheil, Richard J.H. 70th birthday 1932
2 10 Gottheil, Richard J.H. Writings 1893; 1933-1935
2 11 Obituaries 1936
2 12 Unidentified 1896-1934, undated
2 13 Writings by others 1931; 1937, undated
2 14 Zionist memorabilia undated
2 15 Personal miscellaneous 1886-1937, undated

Search Terms

The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the AJA's online catalog.

Persons and Families

Brandeis, Louis Dembitz -- 1856-1941
Ehrlich, Arnold Bogumil, -- 1848-1919
Einstein, Albert -- 1879-1955
Friedlaender, Israel -- 1876-1920
Gottheil, Richard James Horatio, -- 1862-1936
Herzl, Theodor -- 1860-1904
Jastrow, Morris, -- 1861-1921
Lipsky, Louis -- 1876-1963
Magnes, Judah Leon, -- 1877-1948
Marshall, Louis -- 1856-1929
Schiff, Jacob Henry -- 1847-1920
Straus, Oscar S. -- (Oscar Solomon), -- 1850-1926
Wise, Stephen Samuel -- 1874-1949
Zangwill, Israel -- 1864-1926


Columbia University (New York, N.Y.)


Jews -- New York (N.Y.)
Judaism -- Study and teaching -- New York (N.Y.)


Jewish college teachers -- New York (N.Y.)