Access and Provenance 

Biographical Sketch

Scope and Content Note

Box and Folder Listing


A Finding Aid to the

David Polish Papers

Manuscript Collection No. 631

1928-1995. 1.6 Linear ft.



The David Polish Papers were donated to the Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives by David Polish from 1990-1995. A final installment of papers was donated to the Marcus Center by Polish's widow, Aviva Polish, in 1999. All materials received prior to June 1999 have been arranged and described in this inventory.

Property rights are assigned to the Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives. All literary rights to materials authored by David Polish are held by the Polish heirs. Literary rights to materials authored by others are held by the individual author or his/her heirs. Questions concerning rights should be directed to the Executive Director of the Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives.

The David Polish Papers are open to all users. The original manuscript collection is available in the reading room of the Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives.


David Polish was born in Cleveland in 1910. He graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 1931 and was ordained as a rabbi at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati in 1934.

Rabbi Polish was president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis -- the organizational arm of the Reform rabbinate in the U.S. -- from 1971-1973. He helped plan the organization's first meeting in Jerusalem in 1970 and, under his leadership, the CCAR became a member of the World Jewish Organization.

Polish was a congregational rabbi who spent most of his career in the Chicago area. After a stint as director of the Hillel Foundation at Cornell University and serving five years at a congregation in Waterbury, Connecticut, Polish came to Chicago in 1947. He was founding rabbi of Beth Emet The Free Synagogue in Evanston and served as its rabbi from 1950 until his retirement in 1980.

Polish was a prolific author and a devoted Zionist. He was a leader in the American Reform movement and received numerous honors and awards during his lifetime.

Polish was married to Aviva Friedland for 57 years. They had two children: Judith Shenker and Daniel.

David Polish died in Evanston, Illinois on April 16, 1995 at the age of 85.


The Polish Papers contain materials pertaining to Rabbi Polish's career as rabbi, scholar, author, and teacher. The collection contains correspondence, sermons, writings, and miscellaneous items. The collection is divided almost equally into two series:

  • SERIES A. CORRESPONDENCE consists primarily of a large file of letters and other materials compiled in chronological order by Rabbi Polish from March 1992 until his death in 1995. This file is maintained here as it was created by Rabbi Polish and contains information on Polish's work, interests and activities during the last years of his life.

    Also included in this series are files from earlier in Polish's life. These include materials on Temple Mizpah of Chicago and Beth Emet The Free Synagogue in Evanston, Illinois; files from Polish's student years at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati; files, including a diary, of trips to Palestine in 1936 and Israel in 1959; and correspondence files with Abba Hillel Silver and Stephen S. Wise.

    SERIES B. SERMONS AND WRITINGS consists of sermons and other writings (including some fiction and plays) compiled alphabetically by title. These span the years from approximately the 1940s until Polish's death in 1995. The series also contains one file of college sermons written while Polish was a student at Hebrew Union College in the early 1930s together with a file of lectures delivered in Israel in March and April 1970.


    Box  File Contents
    1    1    March - July 1992
         2    August - November 1992
         3    January - May 1993
         4    June - December 1993
         5    January - June 1994
    2    1    July - September 1994
         2    October - December 1994
         3    1995
         4    Beth Emet The Free Synagogue 1962-1974
         5    Hebrew Union College [Graduation] 1934
         6    Hebrew Union College [Literary Society] 1930-1931
         7    Israel trip 1959
         8    Palestine trip [Diary] 1936
         9    Palestine trip [Correspondence] 1936
         10   Silver, Abba Hillel 1928
    3    1    Temple Mizpah (Chicago) 1948-1974
         2    Wise, Stephen S. 1935-1948
         3    College sermons 1933, n.d.
         4    Talks in Israel March-April 1970
         5    A-F
         6    G-P
    4    1    R-W
         2    Untitled sermons and writings

    Copyright © 1999 Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives