Access and Provenance

Biographical Sketch

Scope and Content Note

Box and Folder Listing


A Finding Aid to the

Israel Bettan Papers

Manuscript Collection No. 618

1907-1976. 2.8 Linear ft.


The Israel Bettan Papers were donated to the American Jewish Archives by the Estate of Ms. Anita E. Bettan, Cincinnati, Ohio, in May, 1992. Property rights to the materials are held by the American Jewish Archives. Literary rights have not been dedicated to the public. Literary rights to materials authored by Bettan are held by the Bettan heirs, 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 Israel Bettan Papers are open to all users. The original manuscript collection is available in the reading room of the American Jewish Archives.


Israel Bettan was born January 16, 1889, in Kovno, Lithuania. Young Bettan was educated in yeshivas in Lithuania until he immigrated to the United States with his parents in 1907. He studied at the University of Cincinnati, graduating in 1910 with a Bachelor of Arts degree. Bettan  was ordained Rabbi in 1912 from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati and received a Doctor of Divinity degree in 1915 from the same institution.

 After ordination, Bettan accepted the pulpit at Temple B'nai Israel (Virginia Street Temple), in Charleston, West Virginia, and ministered to the congregation from 1912 to 1922. During his stay in Charleston, Bettan expanded his interests to include local civic, philanthropic, and educational activities. He served as a founder of the local Rotary Club, chairman of the Charleston City Survey Committee (1915-1917), chairman of the city's Federated Charities (1916-1918), and member of the Child Welfare Committee of West Virginia (1921-1922).

After the United States entered World War I in 1917, Bettan voiced his support as a speaker at Liberty Bond rallies held in West Virginia. At the rallies he often spoke alongside Catholic and Protestant clergymen. In September, 1918, Bettan was appointed as a chaplain and First Lieutenant in the United States Army. He was assigned to the American Expeditionary Forces in France from October, 1918-July, 1919. In February 1919, Bettan attended a conference of Jewish chaplains in Paris, during which cooperation between Jewish chaplains and the Jewish Welfare Board was approved and the formation of the Jewish Veterans of America was proposed. In May and June of 1919, shortly before he received orders to return home, Bettan took a leave of absence to travel in Europe and Great Britain.

 In 1922 Bettan was invited to join the faculty of HUC as Professor of Homiletics and Midrash (rabbinic literature). He taught at HUC for 35 years, influencing an estimated 400 rabbis. He was to have retired in September, 1957, but died a month earlier. In a biographical sketch in the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion Bulletin (February, 1956), Bettan was described as follows:

"Dr. Bettan has been exploding verbal fireworks in HUC classrooms for 34 years as professor of homiletics. Sharp humor, blunt, home-spun admonitons and constant allusions to current and classical literature sparkle through the sessions in which he teaches student rabbis to extract the essentials from Jewish classics and impart their meaning to others."
In addition to his teaching activities, Bettan was active in the Cincinnati community, on the lecture circuit and in the Reform rabbinical community. Bettan was a member of Rockdale Avenue Temple, Isaac Mayer Wise Temple, the Order of B'nai B'rith, and the Cincinnati Club. He was often called to lecture or employ his unusual ability as a master of ceremonies throughout the United States, as well as in Canada. As an active member of the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) he served as member of several committees, notably the Committee on Responsa. Bettan was elected vice-president of the CCAR in 1955 and president in 1956. He was reelected as president in June, 1957, two months before his death.

 Bettan was also the author of several books and a number of articles and pamphlets. The majority of his writings were sermons, dealt with preaching or were commentaries on the Hebrew scriptures or on the sermons of other rabbis. His works included: Studies in Jewish Preaching (1939), a scholarly study of sermons from the 13th to 18th Centuries; sermons and a study of post-biblical Judaism published by the Tract Commission of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, and numerous sermons published as articles or pamphlets.

 Bettan received many honors for his service, including an honorary Doctor of Hebrew Letters degree from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, in 1957.

 On April 7, 1927, Bettan married Ida Goldstein of Cincinnati, Ohio. They had one daughter, Anita Esther Bettan (1928-1992). Israel Bettan died in Cincinnati, Ohio, on August 5, 1957.

The Israel Bettan Papers describe the career of Israel Bettan as rabbi, chaplain and Professor of Homiletics at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. The collection includes sermons, writings, correspondence, notes, diaries, military records, news articles, awards and personal items. The collection is divided into three series:

  • A. Writings, Sermons and Addresses
  • B. Correspondence
  • C. Personal Materials.
  • SERIES A. WRITINGS, SERMONS AND ADDRESSES consists of 4 hollinger boxes (1.6 ft.) of sermons, speeches, lectures, notes, writings and diaries. Series A is divided into 4 sub-series. Sub-series 1. General Writings, Sermons and Addresses consists of 2 hollinger boxes arranged in alphabetical order by folder title. Most titles reflect the topic of the sermons, articles or addresses in the folders. Some titles refer to where or when (a date, holiday or special occasion) the sermon or speech was given, such as Hanukkah, Mother's Day, or CCAR Presidential Address. The materials in Sub-series 1 span the years 1910-1957, and include some undated materials. Sub-series 2. UAHC Tract Commission Publications consists of 1/2 hollinger box of pamphlets and sermon collections published by the Tract Commission of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations. Bettan wrote or contributed sermons to the publications and was a member of the Tract Commission. The materials in Sub-series 2 span the years 1929-1939 and include undated materials. Sub-series 3. Class Lectures consists of 1/4 hollinger box of lecture notes for an HUC Homiletics class and other lectures concerning preaching and becoming a rabbi. The materials in Sub-series 3 span the years 1951-1952 and include undated materials. Sub-series 4. Miscellaneous Writings consists of 3/4 hollinger box of prayers; a list of Bettan's writings; book reviews; notes and diaries containing drafts of letters, sermons, writings, and notes. The materials in Sub-series 4 span the years 1942-1957 and include undated materials.

     SERIES B. CORRESPONDENCE consists of 1 hollinger box of correspondence and miscellaneous materials. Series B is divided into 2 sub-series. Sub-series 1. General Correspondence and Misc. consists of 1/2 hollinger box of correspondence and miscellaneous materials, including material pertaining to his rabbinate in Charleston, West Virginia, and his teaching career at HUC. The materials in sub-series 1 span the years 1916-1960, with the bulk dated 1946-1969. Sub-series 2. CCAR Correspondence and Misc. consists of 1/2 box of correspondence, minutes, reports and miscellaneous pertaining to Bettan's work with the CCAR, notably as a member of the Committee on Responsa and as President of the organization. The materials in sub-series 2 span the years 1916-1947, with the bulk dated 1956-1957.

     SERIES C. PERSONAL MATERIALS consists of 2 boxes Series C is divided into four sub-series. Sub-series 1. Biographical materials consists of 1/2 hollinger box of biographical sketches and news articles, obituaries, biographical materials concerning Anita E. Bettan (Israel Bettan's daughter) and other members of the Bettan family and honors received at the time of his retirement. The materials in Sub-series 1 span the years 1907-1976 and include undated materials. Sub-series 2. World War I Mementos consists of 1/2 hollinger box of military duty records from his career as a Chaplain in the U.S. Army during World War I, guidebooks and postcards from European cities and ephemera from the Chaplaincy and from his work for Liberty Loans. The materials in Sub-series 2 span the years 1916-1919 and include undated materials. Sub-series 3. Memorial Services and Condolences consists of 1 hollinger box of programs, correspondence, resolutions, list of condolences received, condolences and miscellaneous correspondence sent to his family. The materials in Sub-series 3 span the years 1957-1963 with the bulk dated 1957. Sub-series 4. Diplomas consists of two diplomas Bettan earned for rabbinical degrees from HUC in 1912 and 1915 and one diploma for an honorary doctorate received from HUC-JIR in 1957. The diplomas are not filed with the Israel Bettan Papers, but in the AJA Flat File (see Box/Folder listing for Cabinet/Drawer number).

     NON-PRINT MATERIALS received with the ISRAEL BETTAN papers were removed to the appropriate AJA audio-visual collections and filed under his name.

     For photographs see the Israel Bettan File in AJA Picture Collection. Subjects photographed on the black and white photographic prints include Israel Bettan (formal portraits, lecturing a class, with one or more men in group shots at CCAR or UAHC conferences. Additional pictures of Bettan may be found filed under CCAR (1914 Conference) and HUC (1911-1912 students and faculty) in the AJA Flat File. The photographs of Israel Bettan are dated approximately 1918-1957.

     For the audio recording of Bettan's funeral service see AJA Sound Recording Discs collection.


    Box  Folder    Contents
    1         SERIES A.  WRITINGS, SERMONS and ADDRESSES, 1910-1957
              Sub-series 1.  General Writings, Sermons and Addresses,  1910-1957 and n.d.
         1    Alumni Convocation (HUC), Address for [Our Threefold Loyalty], 1956
         2    American Judaism, The making of an, (HUC Opening Exercises), S 22, 1956
         3    Anniversary (of Rabbi Reichert) Address, [1946?]
         4    Assimilation and Conservation, n.d.
         5    Awakening the Dawn, a Founder's Day Sermon, 1938
         6    Bible...; and Bearing Upon the Shoulders, n.d.
         7    Building for Tomorrow, [sermon given at Washington Hebrew Congregation, Washington, D.C., N 14, 1954]
         8    Call to Reality; and Expensive Bargains (Rosh Hashanah/Yom Kippur), n.d.
         9    CCAR Presidential Address, 68th Convention, Je 24, 1957
         10   Confirmation Sermon, n.d.
         11   Conviction; and The Call to Repentance (Rosh Hashanah/Yom Kippur), n.d.
         12   Decoration Day, n.d.
         13   Denial, The Case Against, n.d.
         14   Discontent, Value of, N 12, 1913
         15   Dubno Maggid, 1950
         16   Early Reform in Contemporary Responsa, 1925
         17   Escaping from the Commonplace, n.d.
         18   Faith Sermons; and a letter to Dr. G. Paul Butler, n.d.
         19   Farewell Address upon Retirement from HUC-JIR, 1957
         20   Farewell Sermon and Address [Charleston, W. Va.], 1922
         21   Funeral Rites of Fraternal Orders, A Responsum on, n.d.
         22   Going Forward, Ap 16, 1911
         23   Hanukkah Sermons, n.d.
         24   Happiness Sermons, n.d.
         25   Has God Been Forsaken? A Symposium, Ja, 1947
         26   Healing of Humanity, n.d. [1940s]
         27   Hebrew Union College and Liberal Thought, 1946
         28   Ideal, The [Power of the], n.d.
         29   Immigrant, The, [ an address for the Charleston Woman's Club], n.d.
         30   Israel and the Synagogue, 1933
         31   Jewish Interpreter, Ap, 1923 
         32   Judaism Sermons, n.d.
         33   Judaism and the Ideals of Democracy Sermons, n.d.
         34   Liberty and Service; and Freedom through Discipline, n.d.
         35   Man's True Mission in Life, Ja 8, 1911
         36   Memorial Sermons, n.d.
         37   Mother's Day, 1913-1914 and n.d.
         38   New Year's/Yom Kippur Sermons, n.d.
         39   Past and Present in Religion, Ja 23, 1911
         40   Paths of Peace, The [New Year's], 1915
         41   Pathways to a Broader Life, [Congregation Shaare Emeth, St. Louis, S 5, 1956]
         42   Patriotic Addresses, n.d.
         43   Peace Sermons, n.d.
         44   Permanent and The Transient, The, n.d.
    2    1    Poetry class term papers, Ja-My, 1910
         2    Practical Religion, n.d.
         3    Prayer...[Sermons re:], Jl 24, 1911 and n.d.
         4    Preaching Techniques, Six Statements on (CCAR), 1951
         5    Progress,  Evolution  and miscellaneous Sermons, n.d.
         6    Promised Land - review of Mary Antin's book, n.d.
         7    Rabbi of Richmond, Je, 1945
         8    Rabbinic Judaism, n,d,
         9    Religion, N 18, 1911 and n.d.
         10   Repentance, n.d.
         11   Resolutions, n.d.
         12   Responsa: Bas Mitzvah has no place in Reform Jewish Practice, Je, 1954
         13   Revelation of the Depths of Life, Jl 10, 1911
         14   Review of Yahuda's Bachja, 1914
         15   Right to Differ and Be Different [Purim], n.d.
         16   Rock of the Past [and Merits of the Fathers - Rosh Hashanah], n.d.
         17   Rotary [Charleston, W.Va.], 1940 and n.d.
         18   Sacredness of Work, F 28, 1911
         19   Salvation by Organization (Charleston Community Bulletin, V1:1), n.d.
         20   Sanitary Survey of Charleston West Virginia (Chairman's Introduction), Ja, 1918
         21   Secret Springs,  n.d.
         22   Sermons of Ephraim Luntshitz [includes a review, 1933]
         23   Sermons of... [series of articles in The Hebrew Union College Annual], 1929-1938
         24   Service, n.d.
         25   Shofar, The Message of the, n.d.
         26   Sincerity, n.d.
         27   Social Question, n.d.
         28   Solitary Soul [Yom Kippur Morning], 1929
         29   Sources of Character [Yom Kippur], n.d.
         30   Sowing in Tears and Reaping in Joy [Rosh Hashanah], n.d.
         31   Spiritual Stagnation [or Motion and Growth], n.d.
         32   Success, 1915 and n.d.
         33   Succoth, n.d.
    3    1    Tendency of the Age and the Task of the Pulpit; CCAR Conference, 1926
         2    Thanksgiving Sermons, N 21, 1913 and n.d.
         3    Thesis, "Opposition of Orthodoxy to Early Reform...," 1914
         4    Things Worth While, n.d.
         5    Thought and Solitude, O 29, 1913 and n.d.
         6    Time, n.d.
         7    Truth Seeker, Ja 5, 1924
         8    Understanding Heart, n.d.
         9    Union Prayer Book: A Symposium (CCAR), 1930
         10   Unsettled Soul, n.d.
         11   Unveiling [Dedication of monuments], n.d.
         12   What is Religious Freedom?  1943
         13   What to do about Intermarriage? My, 1952
         14   Wisdom for the Heart [Memorial Meditation], n.d.
         15   World Crisis, n.d.
              Sub-series 2.  UAHC Tract Commission Publications (includes 
                   sermons by Israel Bettan), 1929-1939 and n.d.
         16   UAHC Tracts by Israel Bettan, n.d.
         17   A Set of Holiday Sermons, 1929
         18   Sabbath Sermons, 1937
         19   Sabbath Sermons, 1938
         20   Sabbath Sermons, 1939
    4         Sub-series 3.  Class Lectures, 1951-1952 and n.d.
         1    Classroom lecture notes - Homiletics I, n.d.
         2    Preaching, 1952 and n.d.
         3    Preparing for the Ministry, n.d.
         4    Midrash, n.d.
         5    Reform Practices, 1951 and n.d.
              Sub-series 4.  Miscellaneous Writings, 1942-1957 and n.d.
         6    Benedictions and Prayers, n.d.
         7    Published Items [List of Bettan's published works for 1914-1935], n.d.
         8    Reviews of Bettan's book, The Five Scrolls, 1951
         9    Notes, n.d.
         10   6 Diaries containing drafts of letters, sermons, writings and notes, 1942-1949
         11   5 Diaries containing drafts of letters, sermons, writings and notes, 1950-1952
         12   4 Diaries containing drafts of letters, sermons, writings and notes, 1953-1957
    5         SERIES B.  CORRESPONDENCE, 1916-1960
              Sub-series 1.  General Correspondence and Misc.,  1916-1960
         1    Charleston, W.Va. - Temple B'nai Israel (Virginia Street Temple), 1916-1960
         2    Charleston, W.Va. - General correspondence, programs and certificate, 1916-1921
         3    World War I - correspondence to and from France, 1919
         4    Hebrew Union College/Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion -                              correspondence and reports, 1945-1957
         5    Miscellaneous correspondence, 1926-1956
         6    Congratulatory messages and replies for retirement and honors received, 
         7    Professional correspondence received post-mortem, Jl-D, 1957
              Sub-series 2.  CCAR Correspondence and Misc., 1916-1957
         8    Miscellaneous Committees, 1916-1951
         9    Committee on Responsa, 1945-1956
         10   Executive Board Minutes, 1956
         11   Pre-conference reports and misc., Je, 1957
         12   Correspondence with rabbis (mostly re: CCAR), 1956
         13   Presidential correspondence and misc., 1956
         14   Werner, Eric - correspondence and sheet music, 1956-1957
         15   Congratulatory messages to other rabbis, 1957 and n.d.
    6    1    Correspondence with rabbis (mostly re: CCAR), 1957
         2    Presidential correspondence and misc., 1957
              SERIES C.  PERSONAL, 1907-1976
              Sub-series 1.  Biographical Materials, 1907-1976
         3    Biographical articles and misc., 1940-1976 and n.d. 
         4    Obituaries, 1957-1958
         5    Speaking engagements - programs, publicity and articles, 1917-1957
         6    High School and University records and mementos (for Israel and Anita Bettan),
         7    Bettan, Anita E. (Biographical materials), 1947-1969
         8    Bettan Family (Eddie Bettan's obituary, house on Forest Avenue), 1951, 1961
         9    Retirement honors - resolutions on retirement and honorary degree from HUC-JIR,
              Sub-series 2.  World War I Mementos, 1916-1919
         10   Chaplain Bettan's military records, O, 1918-Jl, 1919
         11   Roster of Company "H", Federal Training Camp, Plattsburg, N.Y., Jl-Ag, 1916
         12   Guidebooks, maps and postcards from cities in Europe and Great Britain, 
                   1918-1919 and n.d.
         13   Ephemera - Identification tags (dog tags), buttons, medals and pendants, 1916 
                   and n.d.
    7         Sub-series 3.  Memorial Services and Condolences re: death of Israel Bettan
                   and miscellaneous correspondence sent to his family, 1957-1963
              NOTE: See also Recording of Funeral Service, Ag 7, 1957 in AJA Sound
                   Recording Discs Collection.
         1    Memorial Services and Resolutions - correspondence and programs, 1957-1958
         2    CCAR Memorial Services, Resolutions and Memorial Volume - correspondence
                   and programs, 1957-1963
         3    Condolences, New Year's greetings, and misc. correspondence of Mrs. Bettan,
         4    List of condolences, telegrams and contributions, 1957
         5    Telegram condolences, Ag, 1957
         6    Condolences from Charleston, W.Va. and Portsmouth, Ohio, Ag-N, 1957
         7    Condolences, Ag, 1957
         8    Condolences, Ag-S, 1957
         9    Condolences, Ag, 1957-F, 1958
         10   Condolences, Ag, 1957-My, 1958
    Flat File -    Sub-series 4.  Diplomas, 1912-1957
    Cabinet 2,     Rabbinical degree from HUC, 1912
    Drawer 7  Doctor of Divinity degree from HUC, 1915
              Diploma for honorary degree from HUC-JIR, 1957

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