Access and Provenance

Biographical Sketch

Scope and Content Note


Box and Folder Listing


A Finding Aid to the

Edward E. Klein Papers

Manuscript Collection No. 702

1937-1985. 2.4 Linear ft.


The Edward E. Klein Papers were donated to the American Jewish Archives by Ruth Klein in July, 2002. 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 Klein are held by the Klein 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 Edward E. Klein Papers are open to all users. The original manuscript collection is available in the reading room of the American Jewish Archives.


Rabbi Edward E. Klein was born in Newark, New Jersey on May 25th, 1913. He attended Newark schools and graduated from South Side High School. Klein attended New York University graduating magna cum laude in 1934 with honors in philosophy. After graduate work at Columbia University and the Union Theological Seminary, Klein received rabbinical training at the Jewish Institute of Religion in New York City and was ordained there in 1940.

During Klein’s senior year at the Jewish Institute of Religion, he was Director of Youth Activities at Rabbi Stephen Wise’s Free Synagogue. This began his long service to this congregation, only interrupted once when he moved to Berkeley, California in 1941 to direct the B’nai B’rith Hillel Foundation at the University of California and teach Jewish Literature at the Starr King School for the Ministry. Klein returned to the Free Synagogue in 1943.

In 1943, Rabbi Wise selected Klein to be the congregation’s assistant rabbi, and in 1949, Klein succeeded Wise as senior rabbi, a position that he held until his retirement in 1981. Following in Wise’s footsteps, Klein continued to lead the Free Synagogue as a congregation committed to social justice activism.

Rabbi Klein belonged to many organizations that advocated for civil rights, peace, labor, urban redevelopment, and environmental justice. He was one of the first U.S. religious leaders to protest American involvement in the Vietnam War. In the 1950's, he opposed the nuclear arms race and McCarthyism. Rabbi Klein was an early supporter of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., inviting him to speak at the Free Synagogue, and when Dr. King was imprisoned in Montgomery, Alabama, Klein served on the committee for his defense. In 1973 Klein welcomed Sally Priesand, the first woman to be ordained as a rabbi, to be assistant, then associate rabbi of the Free Synagogue.

Rabbi Klein served many progressive causes as illustrated by his membership in Planned Parenthood, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the National Conference of Christians and Jews, the Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy, the Democratic National Council’s Committee on Civil Rights, the American Foundation on Nonviolence, and the Council of Spanish Organizations.

Klein was active in the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the American Jewish Congress, and the New York Board of Rabbis. He was a member of the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism, representing the joint body of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and the Central Conference of American Rabbis.

Klein served the city of New York in various roles including the Emergency Committee on Slum Prevention and the League of West Side Organizations. He helped to establish the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and served on the Mayor’s Committee on Housing, the Council for a Fair Immigration and Citizenship Policy, Fair Housing Practices Panel, and the Commission on Higher Education.

In 1940, Klein married Ruth Anne Strauss of New York City, graduate of Smith College and social worker. They had two children, Stephen, who went on to become a rabbi himself, and a daughter, Barbara. Rabbi Edward Klein died in July of 1985, survived by his wife, son and daughter


Collection contains sermons, notes, lectures, programs, correspondence, clippings, and pamphlets relating to Klein’s professional career as a pulpit rabbi in New York City’s Free Synagogue as well as his extensive activities in movements for peace and justice both locally and nationally.

Of special note among the sermons is his installation sermon as assistant rabbi of the Free Synagogue in 1943. The correspondence series reflects Klein’s formative years before ordination and includes letters to and from his mentor, Rabbi Stephen Wise, with whom he had a warm relationship. The correspondence also reflects Klein’s involvement with the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and the National Conference of Christians and Jews. The scrapbook materials show Klein’s involvement with various organizations and indicate his wide-ranging interest in local, national and international current events as well as his activities in movements for social change during the turbulent 50's, 60's, and early 70's.

Other collections of Rabbi Edward Klein’s papers are held at the Rabbi Edward Klein Memorial Library of the Free Synagogue of New York City. These papers date from 1920 to 1981. Finding aids of these collections may be found in the Edward Klein Nearprint Biography Collection of the American Jewish Archives. There are also portions of Rabbi Edward Klein’s papers at the American Jewish Historical Society in New York. These papers are dated from 1914 - 1985.

Related AJA materals


The papers are divided into four (4) series:


SERIES A. consists of four boxes of sermons and lectures dating from 1941 until 1982. Following Klein’s original order, the first portion of sermons are arranged into books and organized by subject, then chronologically. These sermon books date from 1944 to 1971 and are prefaced by a “Table of Contents” that serve as an index.Some of the sermons had been in books but were disassembled. These sermons are integrated into the rest of the sermons which are arranged chronologically. Undated sermons are arranged alphabetically by title. A file of Klein’s lectures, dating from 1960-1965, follow his sermons. Klein’s ordination thesis, “The Crisis of Contemporary Religion” (1940) is included at the end of this series.

SERIES B. consists of two folders of correspondence to and from Klein, dating from 1937 to 1965. Within the folders, materials are arranged chronologically. Correspondence is largely from the years 1942 and 1943.

SERIES C. consists of two folders of nearprint materials that Klein collected over his career. Materials consist of booklets, programs, articles, invitations, publications, as well as materials on the library of the Free Synagogue that was created to memorialize Rabbi Klein.

SERIES D. consists of seven folders of newspaper clippings from scrapbooks that Klein collected to document events and organizations that he was involved in and that interested him. Also, there are several clippings that cover events of local, national, and international concern and interest. Materials are arranged chronologically and the span dates are 1943 to 1986.


	Box	Folder			Contents


	1	1			Table of Contents: Index to Books of Sermons.
		2			Sermons: Book II: "Palestine and Israel", 1944 - 1970.
		3			Sermons: Book II: "Jews and Judaism", 1943 - 1970.
		4			Sermons: Book IV: "The American Scene", 1944 - 1971.
		5			Sermons: Book IV: "New York City", 1946 - 1964.
		6			Sermons: Book IV: "International Scene", 1943 - 1962.
		7			Sermons: Book VII: "Miscellaneous", 1948 - 1969.

	2	1			Sermons: Book VII: "Special Events", 1940 - 1983.  
		2			Sermons: Book IX: "Psychiatry", 1946 - 1960.
		3			Sermons: Book IX: " Book and Play Reviews", 1943 - 1968.
		4			Sermons: 1941.
		5			Sermons: 1942.
		6			Sermons: 1943.
		7			Sermons: 1944.
		8			Sermons: 1945.
		9			Sermons: 1946.
		10			Sermons: 1947.
		11			Sermons: 1948.
		12			Sermons: 1949.
		13			Sermons: 1950.

	3	1			Sermons: 1951.
		2			Sermons: 1952.
		3			Sermons: 1953.
		4			Sermons: 1954.
		5			Sermons: 1955.
		6			Sermons: 1956.
		7			Sermons: 1957.
		8			Sermons: 1958.
		9			Sermons: 1959.
		10			Sermons: 1960.   
		11			Sermons: 1961.

	4	1			Sermons: 1962.
		2			Sermons: 1963.
		3			Sermons: 1964.
		4			Sermons: 1965.
		5			Sermons: 1966.
		6			Sermons: 1967.
		7			Sermons: 1968.
		8			Sermons: 1969.
		9			Sermons: 1970.
		10			Sermons: 1971.
		11			Sermons: 1972.
		12			Sermons: 1973.
		13			Sermons: 1974.
		14			Sermons: 1975.
		15			Sermons: 1976.
		16			Sermons: 1977.
		17			Sermons: 1978.
		18			Sermons: 1979.
		19			Sermons: 1980.

	5	1			Sermons: 1981.
		2			Sermons: 1982.
		3			Sermons: Undated, A - D.
		4			Sermons: Undated, E - H.
		5			Sermons: Undated, I - L.
		6			Sermons: Undated: M - P.
		7			Sermons: Undated: R - W.
		8			Sermons: Undated, Untitled.
		9			Lectures: 1960 - 1965.
		10			"The Crisis of Contemporary Religion": Ordination Thesis, 1940.

		11			Correspondence: 1937 - 1942 and undated. 
		12			Correspondence: 1943 - 1965.


	6	1			Nearprint, 1940's - 1980's.   

		2			Scrapbook Materials, 1943 - 1949.
		3			Scrapbook Materials, 1950 - 1954.
		4			Scrapbook Materials, 1955 - 1959.
		5			Scrapbook Materials, 1960 - 1968.
		6			Scrapbook Materials, 1970 - 1979.    
		7			Scrapbook Materials, 1981 - 1986.
		8			Scrapbook Materials, undated.                                                   


Copyright © 2003 The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives