Access and Provenance

Biographical Sketch

Scope and Content Note

Box and Folder Listing

A Finding Aid to the

Abraham Zygielbaum Papers 

Manuscript Collection No. 768

1919-1986 . 3.2 Linear ft.


The Abraham Zygielbaum Papers were donated to the American Jewish Archives by the Frances Henry Library at the Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles, California on November 28, 1990, and on March 15, 1991. The Frances Henry Library, by the act of donating the Abraham Zygielbaum Papers to the American Jewish Archives, assigned the property rights to the American Jewish Archives. All literary rights to material authored by Abraham Zygielbaum are held by the Zygielbaum heirs. All literary rights authored by others are retained by the individual authors or their heirs. Questions concerning rights should be addressed to the Executive Director of the American Jewish Archives. The papers are available to researchers in the reading room of the Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives.


Abraham Zygielbaum (1914-1989) was born in Poland, where he attended a Jewish Secular Grammar School in Chelm Lubelski. He also attended a Yeshiva in Warsaw. After the Holocaust, but before emigrating to the United States, Zygielbaum acted as the director of Jewish Schools and Theater at the Freed Camps in Germany. On his Vita, he describes his areas of interest as Holocaust literature, drama, talmudic lore, folklore, and Hebrew and Yiddish literature.

Dr. Zygielbaum pursued his higher education after arriving in the States. He obtained a bachelor’s degree from Jewish Theological Seminary, a master’s degree from Hebrew Union College (HUC), and his Ph.D. from HUC. He also studied at the University of Judaism, and University of California-Los Angeles. Somehow, Zygielbaum managed to continue pursuing all of his “areas of interest” throughout his life. As can be seen from his many teaching and speaking engagements, he loved sharing his knowledge of Eastern European Jewish life with any and all audiences. Students at HUC likewise benefited from his gift for presentation. His talent in making this bygone way of life come alive for his classes can be appreciated best by reading his correspondence. Excerpts taken from letters written by grateful listeners to his inspirational storytelling and style of teaching follow:

“You are now a part of my history - a very special, gentle part. I won’t forget you. Your class was very moving for me ... May God keep you as beautiful as you are - Love from your Christian friend ... “

“There are few words which can express how beautiful and meaningful was your participation in our conference on The Shtetl [here] in Oakland. You transmitted a spirit and life such as our kids have never felt. Indeed, I hope you gained a little for you gave so much truly - by being so wonderful and taking a little time to be with us and share a spirit that so few have.”

“I loved your class - as you sparked life in a vital part of our Jewish soul - Thank you so much for sharing a part of your soul with us - I loved seeing or catching a glimpse of your wisdom through your soft, knowing eyes - I know I’ll see you again - It’s always such a joy.”

Plainly here was a teacher who had his students reaching for superlatives.

Abraham Zygielbaum was married to Tema. He died in 1989 of unknown causes.



  The Abraham Zygielbaum Papers consist of documents written in English, Yiddish, and Polish. Certainly the motif of his papers would be Dr. Zygielbaum’s deep love of the east European shtetl coupled with the way of life described as yiddishkeit. His desire to share what he knew about that way of life through performance art imbued everything he did. The impression derived from his papers is that his higher education served merely as a means toward that all-important end. As an interesting aside, eighteen different ways of spelling “Zygielbaum” were encountered while processing the collection.

The collection has been arranged into three (3) series:

SERIES A. Correspondence. This series consists of two Hollinger boxes of letters written in English, Polish, and Yiddish. The folders are arranged chronologically. The bulk of the English correspondence has to do with presentation dates, thank you’s for presentations, and professional correspondence having to do with his tenure at HUC in Los Angeles.

SERIES B. Subject Files. The six Hollinger boxes in this series are arranged alphabetically. Folders are arranged chronologically where applicable. Subjects of particular interest or relevance in the collection include Affiliations, Hillel, HUC/LA, Music, Pedagogical Materials, Speaking Engagements, Teaching Engagements, Workmen’s Circle, and Arthur Zygielbaum. This last subject is of special note. Arthur Zygielbaum was one of Abraham’s nine brothers and sisters. He endured the horror of the Warsaw Ghetto during World War II. This, along with his despair regarding the fates of his siblings, and his disbelief at the world’s seeming disregard for the Jews of Warsaw, caused him to take his own life in 1943. Arthur Zygielbaum was instantly declared a martyr of the Holocaust, and is, to this day, an object of international reverence.

SERIES C.Audio Tapes. There is one audiocassette and two reel-to-reel tapes in this small series. The audiocassette is a recording of a presentation made by Dr. Zygielbaum at the Skirball Museum in Los Angeles in 1973.


Box Folder	Contents
Series A. Correspondence.  1941-1986.

1	1		Correspondence, English.  1960's.
	2		Correspondence, English.  1970-1973.
	3		Correspondence, English.  1974-1975.
	4		Correspondence, English.  1976-June 1977.
	5		Correspondence, English.  July 1977-1979.
	6		Correspondence, English.  1980-1981.
	7		Correspondence, English.  1982-1986.
	8		Correspondence, English.  N.d.
	9		Wanland, Donna.  1972, 1981, n.d.

2	1		Correspondence, Polish.  1953-1966, n.d.
	2		Correspondence, Yiddish.  1940's, 1950's.
	3		Correspondence, Yiddish.  1960-1961.
	4		Correspondence, Yiddish.  1962.
	5		Correspondence, Yiddish.  1963.
	6		Correspondence, Yiddish.  1964-1965.
	7		Correspondence, Yiddish.  1966.
	8		Correspondence, Yiddish.  1967-1968.
	9		Correspondence, Yiddish.  1970's, 1985.
	10		Correspondence of unknown origin.  Yiddish.  Translated into English.
			1900, 1901.
	11		Correspondence, Yiddish.  N.d.
	12		Correspondence, Yiddish.  N.d.
	13		Shore, William.  Yiddish.  1972-1982.

Series B.  Subjects.  1919-1984.

3	1		Activism, Jewish.  English.  1970.
	2		Activism, Student Jewish.  English.  1965-1970.
	3		Affiliations.  A-K.  English and Yiddish.  1958-1973.
	4		Affiliations.  L-Z.  English and Yiddish.  1951-1973.
	5		Anniversaries, 24th, 25th, and 29th, of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and/
			or the Holocaust.  English and Yiddish.
	6		Anniversaires, 30th, 33rd, and 34th, of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and/
			or the Holocaust.  English and Yiddish.
	7		Arab Propaganda.  English.  1966-1972.
	8		Association of Orthodox Jewish Scientists.  1968-1973.
	9		Camps, Jewish Children’s.  1969-1975, n.d.
	10		Certificates.  1964, 1983, n.d.  English, Yiddish.
	11		Congress of American Jews from Poland.  1975-1976.  English, Yiddish.
	12		Conventions.  1976, 1979.  English, Yiddish.
	13		Drawings.

4	1		Family History.  Yiddish, Polish.  1919, 1945.
	2		Hillel-UCLA.  English.  1964-1967.
	3		Hillel-UCLA/UC-Berkeley.  English.  1968.
	4		Hillel-UCLA/UC-Berkeley.  English.  1969.
	5		Hillel-UCLA/UC-Berkeley.  English.  1970-1974.

5	1		HUC, Los Angeles.  English.  1961-1969.
	2		HUC, Los Angeles.  English.  1970.
	3		HUC, Los Angeles.  English.  1971-1977.
	4		HUC, Los Angeles.  English.  Rhea Hirsch School of Education.
	5		Jewish Free University.  English.  1969.
	6		Jewish State Theatre of Rumania.  English, Yiddish.  1972, n.d.
	7		Jewish Survivors of Concentration Camps.  English.  1949, 1952.
	8		Jews in Eastern Europe.  English.  1969.
	9		Jews in Western Europe.  English.  1975.
	10		Library Light.  English.  1972.
	11		Library, Samuel J. Borowsky, Items from the.  English.  1942, 1947, 1949, n.d.

6	1		Music.  Scores and lyrics.  English, Yiddish, transliterated Yiddish.
			1944, 1968, n.d.
	2		Notebooks.  English, Yiddish.
	3		Notebooks.  English, Yiddish.
	4		Notes.  English, Yiddish.
	5		The Pharisees and Sadducees.  Paper by Zygielbaum while student at HUC.  1963.
	6		Pedagogical Materials.  Adult Ed.  Midrash.  English.  1968, n.d.
	7		Pedagogical Materials.  Children’s education.  Yiddish.  N.d.
	8		Pedagogical Materials.  Children’s education.  English and Yiddish.  Holidays.  1975, n.d.
7	1		Photographs.  Labeled in Yiddish.
	2		Poetry.  1979, 1984, n.d.
	3		Poetry.  Yiddish.  1979, n.d.
	4		Postcards.  Yiddish.  N.d.
	5		Poster of Nelson Glueck.  N.d.					
	6		Radio Broadcast, Eternal Light.  English.  1945, 1948, 1949.
			World Over Playhouse.  WNBC.  English.  1948.
	7		Soviet Jewry.  English.  1965, 1975, n.d.
	8		Speaking Engagements.  English.  1960, 1967, 1971-1982.
	9		Stephen S. Wise Temple, Los Angeles, Ca.  English.  1973.
	10		Teaching Engagements.  English.  1966-1982.
	11		Teaching Yiddish.  English.  World Council for Yiddish and Jewish Culture.  1980.
	12		Temple Beth Hillel, North Hollywood, Ca.  English.  1966-1969, 1980.
	13		Temple, Early.  English, Yiddish.  N.d.
	14		Temple Judea.  English.  1979, n.d.
	15		Temple Sinai.  English.  1972.
	16		University of Judaism.  English.  1961-1965.
	17		University Synagogue.  English.  1968.
	18 		Valley Cities Jewish Community Center.  English.  1963.
	19		Vita.  English.  1970.

8	1		Westward from Skopishok.  English.  Compiled by Lennard Thal.  1980.
	2		Workmen’s Circle.  English, Yiddish.  N.d., 1947-1954.
	3		Workmen’s Circle.  English, Yiddish.  1955-1968, 1976.
	4		Writings in Yiddish.  1967, n.d.
	5		Yiddish organizations.  Yiddish.  N.d.
	6		Yiddish Stories from A to Z.  By Abraham Zygielbaum.  Yiddish, English.
	7		YIVO (Ateneo Literario en el IWO).  Yiddish.  1965-1984.
	8		Zygielbaum, Abraham.  English.  1947, 1956, 1957.
	9		Zygielbaum, Arthur.  English, Yiddish.  Various dates.
	10		Zygielbaum, Tema.  English.  1958, n.d.
	11		Zygelboim Genealogy.  English.  1961.

Series C.  Audio Tapes.  1967-1973.

C-4563 		An Afternoon of Yiddish Folklore.  Skirball Museum.  May 6, 1973.

TR-3738		Camp Swig.  Saratoga, California.   Summer, 1969.

TR-3739		Interview with Pauline Rose.  Made in 1967, after the 6-day war.
Copyright © 2009 Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives