Access and Provenance

Biographical Sketch

Scope and Content Note

Box and Folder Listing

Subject Tracings


A Finding Aid to the

Aaron Family Papers

Manuscript Collection No. 621

1880-1990. 2.4 Linear ft.


The AARON FAMILY PAPERS were donated to the American Jewish Archives by Frances Hess, the daughter of Marcus Lester Aaron, in 1996. Property rights are assigned to the American Jewish Archives. Literary rights to materials 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 AARON FAMILY PAPERS are open to all users and available in the reading room of the American Jewish Archives


Louis Israel Aaron (1840-1919)
Louis I. Aaron was born in Moschin, Province Posen, Prussia, Germany, on October 18, 1840. He came to the United States in 1857, living first in New York, then Atlanta, Georgia, and finally settling in Pittsburgh in 1861.

Louis Aaron was engaged in the grain and malting business in Pittsburgh until 1897 when he became president of the Homer Laughlin China Company. He served as president of that company until 1910 when he became an active director until his death in 1919. He and his associates established the town of Newell, West Virginia, which became one of the important pottery centers of the country. In addition to his business activities, Aaron was a leader in local and regional Jewish communal organizations as well as serving as Trustee of Congregation Rodef Shalom in Pittsburgh. Some of the organizations he was affiliated with were the Hebrew Benevolent Society of Pittsburgh, Federation of Jewish Philanthropies, Jewish Free Loan Society, National Farm School, Gusky Orphanage and Home, and the Hebrew Institute of Pittsburgh.

In 1866, he married Mina Lippman. The Aarons had two sons, Marcus (1869-1954) and Charles I. Aaron. Louis Aaron died on December 31, 1919.

Marcus Aaron (1869-1954)
Marcus Aaron was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, December 14, 1869, son of Louis Israel Aaron and Mina (Lippman) Aaron.

Aaron was a lifelong resident of Pittsburgh. He was educated in the public schools and attended the preparatory department of the University of Pittsburgh. An illness affecting his eyesight caused him to withdraw before graduating, and although he never returned to study, he was deeply interested in education throughout his life.

Marcus Aaron entered the grain and malting business with his father, but in 1897, joined the elder Aaron in the Homer Laughlin China Company. Aaron succeeded his father as President of the company in 1910, serving in that capacity until 1940 when he became Chairman of the Board until his death in 1954.

In 1911, Aaron was appointed a member of the Board of Public Education of the School District of Pittsburgh. Through successive reappointments, he served as a member of the Board for 36 years. He became Vice-President of the Board in 1920, and President from 1922 until 1942. Throughout his tenure on the Board, he was a leader in the cause of public education, seeking wider public support for schools and fighting for professional integrity and autonomy of teachers as well as honestly and efficiency in school administration. As President of the Pittsburgh Board of Public Education, Aaron also served as a Trustee of the Carnegie Institute and of the Carnegie Library and the Carnegie Institute of Technology.

Marcus Aaron taught in the Religious School of Rodef Shalom Congregation in Pittsburgh, and served on the Board of Directors of the Congregation for 56 years. He was Vice-President from 1910-1930, President from 1930-1941, and Honorary President until he died in 1954. Aaron was a member of the Board of Governors of Hebrew Union College from 1917-1930. He served also on the Executive Board of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, and as a Trustee of the Jewish Publication Society of America.

In 1898, Marcus Aaron married Stella (Hamburger) Aaron. They had two children, Marcus Lester Aaron (1900-1994) and Fannie Hamburger Aaron (Mrs Louis Kossuth Friedman). He died in Pittsburgh, June 21, 1954.

Marcus Lester Aaron (1900-1994)
Born in Pittsburgh in 1900, the son of Marcus and Stella (Hamburger) Aaron, Marcus Lester Aaron was educated at Princeton University and Harvard Law School. Following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, Aaron was involved with the Homer Laughlin China Company for more than 65 years while devoting a lifetime of service to Rodef Shalom.

Aaron was elected to the Board of Trustees of Rodef Shalom in 1943. In 1946 he was elected vice-president and also served as chair of the Worship Committee. In 1953, he was elected Temple president, serving in that capacity until 1972 when he retired and was named a trustee for life. During his years of tenure, Aaron was a driving force behind the construction of new buildings and major improvements to the Temple, and under his leadership, membership of Rodef Shalom also vastly expanded.

Aaron was active in the leadership of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, serving on UAHC's Committee on Revision of the Prayer Book and on the Board of Managers for the Department of Synagogue and School Extension. Throughout the 1930's, he served as the UAHC's representative to the World Union for Progressive Judaism's International Youth Committee and was a member of the World Union's governing body. Aaron also served on the Board of Governors of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.

Marcus Lester Aaron died in Pittsburgh on April, 1994.


The AARON FAMILY PAPERS (1880-1990) consist of the papers of Marcus Lester Aaron (1900-1994), his father, Marcus Aaron (1869-1954), and his grandfather, Louis I. Aaron (1840-1919). All were active in the leadership of Congregation Rodef Shalom in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and in Jewish communal organizations. The collection consists of correspondence, addresses, nearprint and congregational records as well as materials reflecting their activities in the following Jewish organizations: Union of American Hebrew Congregations, National Federation of Temple Brotherhoods, World Union for Progressive Judaism, Development Fund for American Judaism, and the National Farm School. The collection is divided into 5 series as follows:

  • Subseries 1: Marcus Aaron (1869-1954)
    Subseries 2: Marcus Lester Aaron (1900-1994)
  • Subseries 1: Louis I. Aaron (1840-1919)
    Subseries 2: Marcus Aaron (1869-1954)
    Subseries 3: Marcus Lester Aaron (1900-1994)
  • Subseries 1 of Series A consists of the correspondence of Marcus Aaron (1869-1954). It covers Aaron's tenure as President of Congregation Rodef Shalom as well as his activities in various Jewish organizations including the Library Committee of Hebrew Union College. There is also a file of letters dealing with the anti-Semitic practices in hotels in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey (1899-1905). Of special significance in the subseries is correspondence with Aaron's close friend, Rabbi Samuel H. Goldenson who was the rabbi at Congregation Rodef Shalom from 1918 until moving on to Temple Emanu-El in New York City in 1934. The correspondence in Subseries 2 is that of Marcus Lester Aaron (1900-1994) and consists of letters dealing with his involvements at Congregation Rodef Shalom, his philanthropic activities and his interest in education. Correspondence in Series A is arranged chronologically. Span dates for Subseries 1 are 1899-1953, and for Subseries 2 are 1953-1990.

    Series B, Organizational Materials, reflects the activities of the Aaron family in several Jewish organizations: the National Federation of Temple Brotherhoods, Union of American Hebrew Congregations, World Union for Progressive Judaism, and the Development Fund for American Judaism. Of special interest are the files of Louis I. Aaron (1840-1919) documenting his work on the National Auxiliary Board of the National Farm School, an institution near Philadelphia that trained young Jewish men for agricultural pursuits. Included in the National Farm School material is correspondence about the activities of the school, its fundraising endeavors, and minutes of board meetings (1899-1918). Span dates for entire series are 1899-1961.

    Series C consists of materials relating to the Aarons' involvement with Congregations Rodef Shalom in Pittsburgh and Emanu-El in New York City. Both Marcus Lester Aaron (1900-1994) and his father served as president of Congregation Rodef Shalom. The elder Aaron was connected to Temple Emanu-El because of his close relationship with Samuel Goldenson who served as rabbi there from 1934-1947. Included in this series is correspondence, committee reports, scattered Board of Trustees minutes, nearprint, temple bulletins, sermons, newspaper clippings, and obituaries and tributes upon the death of Rabbi Goldenson in 1962. Span dates for Series C are 1900-1984.

    Series D, Addresses, includes speeches and talks given by Louis I. Aaron (1840-1919), Marcus Lester Aaron (1869-1954), and Marcus Aaron (1900-1994). Topics covered revolve primarily around Judaism and education. Span dates for the series are 1880-1975.

    Miscellaneous materials in Series E consist of newspaper clippings, biographical materials, a memorial booklet for Marcus Aaron (1954), and a commemoration of Marcus Aaron's 70th birthday in 1970. Span dates for the series are 1880-1970.


    Box  File Contents
         Subseries 1: Marcus Aaron (1869-1953)
    1    1    General correspondence                            1899-1922
         2    General correspondence                            1927-1953
         3    re: Anti-Semitic policies of hotels               1899-1905
         Subseries 2: Marcus Lester Aaron  (1900-1994)
         4    General correspondence                            1953-1963
         5    General correspondence                            1964-1967
         6    General correspondence                            1968-1990
              National Farm School
    2    1          correspondence                              1899-1918
         2          minutes and membership records              1906-1918
         3    Jewish Agricultural and Industrial Aid society    1907-1911
         4    National Federation of Temple Brotherhoods        1924-1928
              Union of American Hebrew Congregations
         5          Prayerbook revision                         1930-1934
         6          correspondence                              1928-1937
         7          convention, St. Louis, Missouri             1925
         8          convention, Cleveland, Ohio                 1927
              World Union for Progressive Judaism
    2    9     National Committee on Youth Education            1932-1938
         10    correspondence and reports                       1937-1938
         11   Development Fund for American Judaism             1960-1961
    3    1    Congregation Rodef Shalom - reports               1900-1905
         2    Issue of Jewish Criterion re: dedication of
                   new temple for Congregation Rodef Shalom     1901
         3    Marcus L. Aaron correspondence as President of 
                   Congregation Rodef Shalom                    1952-1964
         4    Marcus L. Aaron correspondence as President of 
                    Congregation Rodef  Shalom                  1965-1969
         5    Rodef Shalom Board of Trustees minutes [scattered]1941-1966
         6    Capital fund reports Rodef Shalom                 1961-1964
         7    In memoriam booklet with resolution for Phillip
                    Hamburger by Congregation Rodef Shalom      1921
         8    Sermons by Samuel Goldenson, Solomon Freehof,
                   and Dudley Weinberg                          1938-1966
         9    Congregation Rodef Shalom Centennial              1954-1956
         10   Rabbi Solomon Freehof                             1933-1966 
         11   UAHC resolution on rabbinic placement             1963
         12   Letters of  recommendation for Rabbi Walter Jacob 1966
    4    1    Correspondence re: appointment of Rabbi Walter
                   Jacob                                        1966
         2    Misc committee and financial reports - Rodef
                   Shalom Congregation                          1922-1965
         3    Rodef Shalom Temple Bulletins [scattered]         1927-1983
         4    History of Rodef Shalom                           1954-1984
         5    Departure of Rabbi Samuel Goldenson               1933-1934
              Temple Emanu-El (New York) Bulletins
         6         1924-1934
         7         1937-1940
    5    1         1941-1944
         2         1945-1954
         3    Nearprint - Rabbi Samuel Goldenson & Temple
                   Emanu-El (New York)                          1937-1963
         4    Rabbi Samuel Goldenson - obits and tributes       1962
         5    Rabbi Samuel Goldenson - newspaper clippings      1933-1962
    Subseries 1:   Louis I. Aaron (1840-1919)
    6    1    "Religious Education" and "The Young Men's
                  Hebrew Association"                           Ca. 1880
    Subseries 2:   Marcus Aaron (1869-1953)
    6    2    "What a Layman can do for Judaism"                1921
         3    Addresses before Union of American Hebrew
                   Congregations                                ca. 1920's
         4    Addresses as President and Vice-President of
                   Rodef Shalom Congregation                    1911-1939
    Subseries 3:   Marcus Lester Aaron (1900-1994)
    6    5    Addresses                                         1925-1975
         5    Newspaper clippings                               1922-1944
         6    Biographical materials                            1880-1922
         7    In Memoriam - Marcus Aaron (1869-1954)            1954
         8    70th Birthday celebration - Marcus Lester Aaron          1970

    Note: This list represents a selective guide to the significant subjects and correspondents dealt with in the AARON FAMILY PAPERS. References are to boxes and folders, i.e. 1/7 = Box 1, Folder 7. This list must be used in conjunction with the Box and Folder List in the inventory.

    Agriculture, Jewish 2/1-3
    Anti-Semitism   1/3
    Development Fund for American Judaism 2/11
    Education, Jewish   2/1-3, 6/1-4
    Emanu-El Temple (New York)   4/6-7, 5/1-5
    Freehof, Solomon   3/8, 3/10, 4/3
    Goldenson, Samuel H.  1/1-2, 3/8, 4/5-7, 6/1-5
    Hebrew Union College   1/2
    Jacobs, Walter   3/12, 4/1
    Lipman, Abraham   6/7
    National Farm School    2/1-3
    National Federation of Temple Brotherhoods   2/4
    Rodef Shalom Congregation (Pittsburgh)   1/1-6, 3/1-12, 4/1-5, 6/3-4
    Union of American Hebrew Congregations    2/5-8, 3/11
    World Union for Progressive Judaism   2/9-10