Biographical Sketch

Scope and Content Note

Conditions of Access and Use

Related Material

Administrative Information

Search Terms

Box and Folder Listing

Series A. General. 1929-1995.

A Finding Aid to the Milton L. Grafman Papers. 1929-1995. (bulk 1950-1970).

Manuscript Collection No. 825


Repository: The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives
Creator: Grafman, Milton Louis, 1907-1995
Title: Milton L. Grafman Papers
Dates: 1929-1995
Bulk Dates: 1950-1970
Quantity: 1.0 linear foot (1 record carton)
Abstract: Correspondence, class notes, and other materials of Rabbi Milton L. Grafman.
Collection Number: MS-825
Language: Collection material in English

Biographical Sketch

Milton L. Grafman was born in Washington, D.C. on April 21, 1907 and spent his formative years in Western Pennsylvania attending high school in Pittsburgh. Ordained by the Hebrew Union College in 1933, Rabbi Grafman served Temple Adath Israel in Lexington, Kentucky until 1941 and Temple Emanu-El in Birmingham, Alabama from 1941 until his death in 1995 (Rabbi Emeritus 1975-1995). He was active in many religious and civic affairs throughout his life, including being a founder of Spastic Aid of Alabama, later United Cerebral Palsy, serving as its first president. He established the Institute for Christian Clergy in Birmingham—an annual gathering that promoted understanding and cooperation of rabbis and Christian ministers in a city with a high level of anti-Semitism. He was prominently involved, both publicly and privately, in trying to facilitate in a peaceful manner the civil rights movement in Birmingham, often at great personal risk to himself.

In April 1963 Rabbi Grafman was among the addressees of Dr. King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail. For many years thereafter, many critics falsely assumed that the rabbi was an opponent of the civil rights movement. In fact Rabbi Grafman and the other ministerial addressees were supporters of the civil rights movement, though they had sought to persuade Dr. King that a protest march he planned for April of 1963 was “unwise and untimely” in light of the significant progress that was then being made to overcome the racial divide in Birmingham. In September 1963 Rabbi Grafman, along with other prominent clergy from Birmingham, was invited to the White House to meet with President Kennedy to provide background and advice to the President on the civil rights movement.

Rabbi Grafman’s civil rights involvement was deep and extensive, spanning nearly the entire scope of the movement in the 1950s, 1960s, and beyond. Among other things he served as a member of the first Bi-Racial Committee established in Birmingham to facilitate desegregation in the city; he spoke out forcefully against the Ku Klux Klan; he opposed the city’s earlier efforts to close the public parks and golf courses rather than integrate, and he chastised the merchants in his own congregation for not providing visible positions in their stores for their African American employees; he played a critical role in facilitating the integration of the Birmingham Ministerial Association; subsequently he was elected as its first and, as of 2010, the only Jewish president. Further, he offered Temple Emanu-El as a meeting place for Sunday services for a newly formed church established by those who wanted to integrate their then church but were unsuccessful in doing so. Formed as the Baptist Church of the Covenant this newly formed church worshipped at Temple Emanu-El for some two years before they were able to establish their own church facility.

Even as Rabbi Emeritus, Rabbi Grafman continued his leadership role in numerous civil affairs. He was recognized for his service on a number of occasions, including an award at Tuskegee, Alabama for his part in “combating injustice” and by Birmingham’s first African American mayor who stated that Rabbi Grafman has “a life long record of working to bring about change [in Birmingham] and a reputation for being concerned about justice.”

Scope and Content Note

Correspondence, class notes, and pamphlets arranged alphabetically by subject. Topics of correspondence include alumni issues and recruitment for Hebrew Union College (HUC), fundraising efforts, the Central Conference of American Rabbis' debate over interfaith marriage, and Zionism. Exchanges with fellow rabbis discuss visits and synagogue activities. Of note is the file on Julian Morgenstern's "anti-Zionist" speech and the reaction by HUC students. Also includes newspaper clippings and pamphlets on Father Charles Coughlin collected after Grafman's 1938 trip to Nazi Germany (folder 34).

Conditions of Access and Use

Terms of Access and Use

This collection is open to all users. The original manuscript collection is available in the Barrows-Loebelson Reading Room of the Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives.

Property and Literary Rights

Stephen W. Grafman, by the act of donating the Milton L. Grafman Papers to the American Jewish Archives, assigned all property rights to the American Jewish Archives. Literary rights are retained by the heirs of Milton L. Grafman. Literary rights may also be retained by specific creators of materials.

Questions concerning rights should be addressed to the Executive Director of the American Jewish Archives. For more information see the American Jewish Archives copyright information webpage.

Related Material

Related Collections

Grafman, Milton L. Correspondence. 1941-1994. SC-15204.

Grafman, Milton L. Diary. 1938. SC-15723.

Grafman, Milton L. Milton L. Grafman Collection. 1963-2001. SC-15087 and C-4297 to C-4301.

Grafman, Milton L. Oral history. July 22, 1966. CD-477 to CD-478.

Grafman, Milton L. Sermon. September 1966. CD-628.

Grafman, Milton L. Sermons. 1945. CD-212.

Grafman, Milton L. Papers. 1907-1995. AR 1758. Birmingham Public Library, Birmingham, Ala.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Footnotes and bibliographic references should refer to the Milton L. Grafman Papers and the American Jewish Archives. A suggestion for at least the first citation is as follows:

Marcus Seminar, 1934, Box 1, Folder 4. MS-825. Milton L. Grafman Papers. American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati, Ohio.


The Milton L. Grafman Papers were received from Stephen W. Grafman, Potomac, MD in several installments: December 2005; 2008; November 2009; December 2011.

Processing Note

This collection was arranged and described according to minimal-processing standards. Processing was made possible through a grant from the National Historic Publications and Records Commission.

Processing Information

Processed by Elisa Ho, September 2011.

Box and Folder Listing

Series A. General. 1929-1995.
Box Folder
1 1 American Council for Judaism.
1 2 American Jewish Historical Society.
1 3 Apple, James L.
1 4 Asher, Joseph.
1 5 Bamberger, Bernard.
1 6 Baton Rouge, Louisiana (Congregation B'nai Israel).
1 7 Baumgard, Herbert M.
1 8 Berger, Elmer.
1 9 Blackman, Murray.
1 10 Bloom, P. Irving.
1 11 Borowitz, Eugene.
1 12 Brasch, Rudolph.
1 13 Brav, Stanley R.
1 14 Brickner, Balfour.
1 15 Cashdan Family.
1 16 Central Conference of American Rabbis.1943-1985.
1 17 Children's Services.
1 18 Class Notes. A Grammar. 1929-1930.
1 19 Class Notes. History taught by Dr. Marcus.
1 20 Class Notes. Homiletics.
1 21 Class Notes. Marcus Seminar. 1934.
1 22 Class Notes. Theology.
1 23 Cohn, Edward P. (Atlanta).
1 24 Cohon, Samuel S.
1 25 Commission on Information about Judaism.
1 26 Convention (Southeast Council).
1 27 Convention (Southeast Council, Union of American Hebrew Congregations). 1956.
1 28 Conversion Certificates (blank).
1 29 Converts, Information about.
1 30 Cook, Samuel.
1 31 Eichorn, D. Max.
1 32 Eisendrath, Maurice N.
1 33 Essrog, Chaim.
1 34 "Exposé of Charges: Jewish Communism." 1938-1939.
1 35 Frazin, Robert.
1 36 Freehof, Solomon B.
1 37 Garfein, Stanley J.
1 38 Get (Divorce Document).
1 39 Gieseking, Walter.
1 40 Gittelsohn, Roland B.
1 41 Goldburg, Norman H.
1 42 Goodman, Alfred L.
1 43 Gordon, Theodore H.
1 44 Gottschalk, Alfred.
1 45 Grafman, L. Elliot.
1 46 Gutmann, Joseph.
1 47 Ha-Azinu Workshop.
1 48 Hebrew Instruction (UAHC).
1 49 Hebrew Union College.
1 50 Hebrew Union College Alumni Association.
1 51 HUC-JIR Merger.
1 52 Janowski, Max.
1 53 Jarman, Pete.
1 54 Karff, Samuel E.
1 55 Kronish, Leon.
1 56 Lectures. 1965.
1 57 Lefkowitz, Sidney.
1 58 Letters.
1 59 Lincoln, Nebraska (American Reform Congregation).
1 60 Lipman, Eugene.
1 61 Louisiana (Marriage Affidavit).
1 87 Marcus, Jacob R.
1 62 Marx, Meyer.
1 63 Message of Israel.
1 64 Messing, Richard D.
1 65 Morgenstern, Julian (Morgenstern on Zionism).
1 66 Narat, Joe.
1 67 National Association of Retired Reform Rabbis.
1 68 Newsclippings and Nearprint.
1 69 Orbach, Harold.
1 70 Palestine.
1 71 Palestine Partition.
1 72 Perilman, Nathan A.
1 73 Petuchowski, Jakob J.
1 74 Plaut, Gunther.
1 75 Pontiac, Michigan (American Reform Congregation).
1 76 Rabbinic Placement Commission.
1 77 Rabbinical-Congregational Relations.
1 78 Reform Jewish Appeal (HUC-UAHC).
1 79 Rosenberg Case.
1 80 Rothschild, Jacob M.
1 81 Schwartz, William B.
1 82 Seltzer, Sanford.
1 83 Shusterman, Abraham.
1 84 Silberg, Barry.
1 85 Silver, Daniel Jeremy.
1 86 Zionist Related.

Search Terms

The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the AJA Online Catalog.

Persons and Families

Cashdan, Louis Joseph, 1905-1987
Coughlin, Charles E. (Charles Edward), 1891-1979
Grafman, Milton Louis, 1907-1995


Central Conference of American Rabbis
Hebrew Union College
Temple Emanu-El (Birmingham, Ala.)
Union of American Hebrew Congregations
United States. National Historical Publications and Records Commission


Civil Rights -- Alabama -- Birmingham
Interfaith marriage (Jewish law)
Reform Judaism


Birmingham (Ala.)