Access and Provenance

Biographical Sketch

Scope and Content Note

Box and Folder Listing


A Finding Aid to the

Morris N. Kertzer Papers

Manuscript Collection No. 709

1936-1983 5.8 Linear ft.


The Rabbi Morris N. Kertzer Papers were donated in 2003 by Ruth K. Seidman, daughter of Rabbi Morris Kertzer.

Ruth K. Seidman, by act of donating the Rabbi Morris N. Kertzer Papers to the American Jewish Archives, assigned property rights to the American Jewish Archives. All literary rights to materials authored by individuals are held by those individuals. Questions concerning rights should be addressed to the Director of the American Jewish Archives.

The Rabbi Morris N. Kertzer Papers are open to all users. The original manuscript collection is available in the reading room of the American Jewish Archives.


Rabbi Morris Kertzer was born on October 18, 1910 in Cochrane, Ontario. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Toronto and his master’s degree from the University of Illinois. He then studied under Mordecai Kaplan at the Jewish Theological Seminary where he earned a doctorate in Hebrew literature and he was ordained in 1934. Rabbi Kertzer would eventually separate from the Jewish Conservative movement to join the Reform Rabbinate.

Kertzer served congregations in Illinois, Alabama, and Iowa before joining the army to serve as a Jewish Chaplain in World War II. During World War II Rabbi Kertzer was the only Jewish Chaplain at the Anzio beachhead, earning a bronze star for his services there. He entered Rome shortly after the liberation and spoke at the liberation ceremonies. He also served in Africa as well as Southern and Central France before returning home in 1945.

Rabbi Kertzer was active in Jewish-Christian relations, earning the International University of Rome’s Pro Deo Medal for promoting understanding between Catholics and Jews. He traveled internationally lecturing in Italy, Rumania, Japan, Turkey, India, Thailand and Israel. Rabbi Kertzer authored several books including With an “H” on my Dog Tag; his memoirs as military chaplain in World War II, What is a Jew?; (which went into more than 30 printings), Today’s American Jew, Tell me Rabbi, and The Art of Being a Jew. He also published numerous articles.

Rabbi Kertzer led the first Jewish delegation to the Soviet Union in 1956 and subsequently won the George Washington Medal for his analysis of the Soviet Union’s anti-Semitism. He served as the national president of the Jewish Military Chaplains Association, he was the national chaplain of Amvets and was the chairman of the social action commission of the Synagogue Council of America (1950’s), secretary of the New York Board of Rabbis (1957-1959), member of the executive board of the CCAR (1964-1966), and trustee of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (1962-1967). He served as Rabbi in Larchmont, then in Riverdale, New York in the 1960’s and 1970’s. He retired in Scottsdale, Arizona where he taught at Mesa Community College, and was a member of the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix. He passed away on December 29, 1983.


The Rabbi Morris N. Kertzer Papers span the years 1936-1983 and trace his career as a military chaplain, Rabbi, and author. The papers include sermons and lectures, publications, correspondence, chaplain material, travel information, and miscellaneous files. The bulk of the collection consists of his sermons and lectures as well as his publications. The papers are arranged into six series as follows:

· B. PUBLICATIONS 1953-1978
· D. CHAPLAIN FILES 1943-1945

SERIES A. SERMONS AND LECTURES (1945-1983) is arranged chronologically and includes notes and articles that relate to the sermons and lectures. Rabbi Kertzer wrote on a number of topics including Civil Rights, current events, intermarriage, The Bible, Jewish-Christian relations, and his experiences in World War II.

SERIES B. PUBLICATIONS (1953-1983) is arranged alphabetically by title. Included with each publication are research notes and correspondence. Also included are copies and notes from articles written for newspapers and magazines.

SERIES C. PERSONAL/CORRESPONDENCE FILES (1948-1978) is arranged alphabetically and includes an article on Italy written by his son David Kertzer, some financial information, and biographical sketches that he used on the lecture circuit. There is also correspondence pertaining to his lectures at various synagogues.

SERIES D. CHAPLAIN FILES (1943-1945) includes a scrapbook containing letters to his daughter Ruth and his wife Julia, and copies of newspaper clippings that mention Rabbi Kertzer. Also included in the series are marriage certificates, official correspondence, burial information, as well as published and unpublished articles and sermons that Kertzer delivered while serving as chaplain.

SERIES E. TRAVEL MATERIALS (1936-1960) is arranged chronologically and contain correspondence, diaries, writings, sermons, lectures, and newspaper articles regarding Rabbi Kertzer’s trips to various countries.

SERIES F. MISCELLANEOUS FILES (1939-1977) is arranged alphabetically and contains articles that Rabbi Kertzer kept pertaining to issues such as Catholic-Jewish relations, and intermarriage. There are notes from a class that he took in 1939 as well as information about Watergate, the Jewish Defense League, and a drug abuse meeting in Washington D.C. in 1971. Also included is an audiotape of his memorial service at Larchmont Temple in 1984 as well as two interviews.

Related AJA Materials

· Picture Collection 2263, Morris Kertzer
· Nearprint Biographies, Morris Kertzer


Box	Folder	Conents
SERIES A. SERMONS AND LECTURES. 1 1 Sermons and Lectures. 1945, 1947-1949. 2 Sermons and Lectures. 1950. 3 Sermons and Lectures. 1951. 4 Sermons and Lectures. 1952. 5 Sermons and Lectures. 1953. 6 Sermons and Lectures. 1954. 7 Sermons and Lectures. 1955. 8 Sermons and Lectures. 1956. 9 Sermons and Lectures. 1957. 10 Sermons and Lectures. 1959. 11 Sermons and Lectures. 1960. 12 Sermons and Lectures. 1961. 13 Sermons and Lectures. 1962. 14 Sermons and Lectures. 1963. 2 1 Sermons and Lectures. January, 1964-June, 1964. 2 Sermons and Lectures. September, 1964-December, 1964. 3 Sermons and Lectures. January-March, 1965. 4 Sermons and Lectures. April-June, 1965. 5 Sermons and Lectures. September-December, 1965. 3 1 Sermons and Lectures. 1966. 2 Sermons and Lectures. 1967. 3 Sermons and Lectures. 1968-1969. 4 1 Sermons and Lectures. 1970. 2 Sermons and Lectures. January-June, 1971. 3 Sermons and Lectures. September-December, 1971. 4 Sermons and Lectures. 1972. 5 Sermons and Lectures. 1973. 5 1 Sermons and Lectures. 1974. 2 Sermons and Lectures. 1975. 3 Sermons and Lectures. 1976. 4 Sermons and Lectures. 1977. 5 Sermons and Lectures. 1978. 6 Sermons and Lectures. 1979. 6 1 Sermons and Lectures. 1980. 2 Sermons and Lectures. 1981. 3 Sermons and Lectures. 1982. 4 Sermons and Lectures. 1983. 5 Sermons and Lectures. n.d. 6 Sermons and Lectures. n.d. 7 1 Academy of Conservative Synagogues of Riverdale. January 19th, 1970. 2 Adult Education at Temple B'nai Sholom. 1966. 3 Attitudes toward Jews. n.d. 4 Bible Series. Riverdale Temple. 1970-1971. 5 B'nai B'rith. The Lighter Side of Jewish Life. November 10, 1969. 6 Cementing Jewish-Christian Relations. 1954. 7 Church and State Conference. The Bible and the Public School. 1961. 8 Confirmation. Riverside Temple. May 19, 1972. 9 Conversion. 1960's. 10 Eulogies. 1960's-1970's. Sporadic. 11 Grandparents. November 6, 1978. 12 Installation. September 20, 1946. 13 Invocations. 1950's, 1970's. 14 Jewish Communal Service Conference. n.d. 15 Jews in the Gentile World. The Jews in Politics. N.d. 16 Lecture Tour. November, 1976. 17 Miscellaneous. 1970's. 18 Mordecai M. Kaplan. June 11, 1966. 19 New Day Dawning. Westchester AJC. n.d. 8 1 Problems of Jewish Youth. 1940's. 2 Prophets. Central Methodist Arizona. 1983. 3 Rambam Material. n.d. 4 Religious Factor in Bigotry. National Conference of Jewish Communal Service. May 23, 1960. 5 Reverence for Life. September 24, 1965. 6 Rotary Club Speech. April 18, 1972, September 9, 1976. 7 What does a Rabbi do? n.d. 8 Wisdom Literature. United Methodist Church. 1982. 9 Yom Kippur. 1948-1954. 10 Yom Kippur. 1973. SERIES B. PUBLICATIONS. 9 1 Article. "Four Jewries." n.d. 2 Face to Face with Gabriel. 1953. 3 "Healer from Iowa." Reader's Digest. 1956. 4 "Jewish Mission." 1958. 5 Look. Magazine article notes. 1963. 6 Miscellaneous Publications/Writings. 1956-1977. 7 Miscellaneous Publications/Writings. 1954-1959. 8 Miscellaneous Publications/Writings. Sporadic. 9 Ohio Story. "Lesson in Brotherhood." n.d. 10 Rambam/Maimonides. Research Notes. n.d. 11 Round the World Tour. Reader's Digest Article. 1958. 10 1 Tell Me Rabbi. 1976. 2 Today's American Jew. Book Reviews. 1967. 3 Today's American Jew. Book Reviews. 1967. 4 What is a Jew? Correspondence. 1950-1952 5 What is a Jew? Correspondence. 1953-1955. 6 What is a Jew? Lecture Series. 1959, 1978, 1983. 7 What is a Jew? Mac Millian Publishing. Royalty Information. 1977-1979. 8 What is a Jew? Miscellaneous. 1970's. 9 What is a Jew? News Articles. 1954-1955. 10 What is a Jew? Revisions. n.d. 11 What is a Jew? Royalty Statements. World Publishing Company. 1954-1968. 12 What is a Jew? Student Reactions. New Orleans. 1974. SERIES C. PERSONAL/CORRESPONDENCE. 11 1 Biographical Sketches. 1971, 1977. 2 Homewood, Illinois. Temple B'nai Yehuda. 1978. 3 Lecture Series. 1977-1978. 4 Secretary General of the U.N. to President of the Rotary International. n.d. 5 Temple Beth Shalom. 1975-1977. 6 Tulsa, Oklahoma. February 6, 1972. 7 Insurance Information from Accident. March 14, 1952. 8 Italy Article. David Kertzer. n.d. 9 Ives, Irving M. (US Senate). Committee on Expenditures in the Executive Departments. n.d. 10 Mesa Community College. Teacher's Agreement. 1973-1976. 11 News articles. Biographical. Sporadic. 1948-1954. 12 Pension Fund. Larchmont Temple. 1969. 13 Personal/Family. 1964-1972. 14 Social Security 1974-1978. SERIES D. CHAPLAIN. 12 1 Scrapbook. 1943-1945. 2 Official Correspondence. 1944-1945. 3 Chaplains Association. 1947, 1960. 4 Army Welfare. 1944-1945. 5 Burial Information. 1945. 6 Marriages. 1943. 7 Writings. Published and Unpublished. 1944-1945. 8 Jews Cross the Atlantic. 1940. SERIES E. TRAVEL MATERIALS. 13 1 Travel Diary. 1936. 2 Russian Trip. 1956. 3 Russian Trip. News Articles. 1956. 4 Round the World Tour. 1958. 5 South American Trip. 1962. 6 Israel. 1973. 7 Florida. 1973. 8 Spain. 1979. SERIES F. MISCELLANEOUS. 14 1 Bar Mitzvah Notes. 1970's. 2 Catholic-Jewish Relations. 1973. 3 High School Graduation. Riverdale Temple. June 16, 1972. 4 Intermarriage. 1960's, 1970's. 5 Jewish Defense League. 1970's. 6 Leadership. Rabbinic Installation. June 6, 1976. 7 Lebanon. n.d. 8 Miscellaneous. Notes. 1960's, 1970's. 9 Private Philosophy of Art. Isaac Bashevis Singer. January 31, 1964. 10 Professor Sellars. Michigan. 1939. 11 Usher Recognition. June 18, 1971. 12 Washington Drug Abuse Meeting. March 31, 1971. 13 Watergate. July 2, 1973. 14 World Convention on Christian Education. Tokyo, Japan. August 6-13, 1958. 15 Yiddish. February 11, 1972. 16 Yuma, Arizona. 1977. Audio Tapes 17 Memorial Service for Rabbi Morris Kertzer. Larchmont Temple. January 29, 1984. 18 Montreal Interview. n.d. 19 Interview of the Rabbi. October 23, 1977.