Brooklyn Jewish Center, Brooklyn, N.Y. records 1921-1985

  • Dates: 1921-1985
  • Size: 23.3 linear ft.
  • Number of Containers: Two record cartons; 44 small archives boxes; two photo boxes; one package; 19 volumes; three oversized boxes.
  • Languages:
    • English
    • German
    • Hebrew
  • Location: Special Collections Reading Room, Jewish Theological Seminary Library.
  • Restrictions: Reproduction of fragile items is not permitted; consult the archivist about literary rights. The Ratner Center reserves the right to restrict access to tapes that are too fragile for use.
  • Gift Of: Brooklyn Jewish Center
  • Date: 1989
  • Related Collections: Israel Levinthal Papers, 1902-1981.

BPK, 1989; rev. EW, 1990 and SGS, 6/6/91. rev. RS, AW, 2002; rev. MR 2003


Table of Contents:


A Note on Folder Headings

Individual folders are identified in the following way on the left side of each folder: Name of Collection, box #/folder#, as in Ben Zion Bokser Papers, 4/22. Please use this format in citations and when referring to files for any other reason.


Historical Note

The Brooklyn Jewish Center was founded in 1919, the second realization of Mordecai Kaplan's vision of the synagogue center. The cornerstone, laid in 1920, was the foundation of a building which housed an elaborate sanctuary, a day school, a swimming pool, and a health club. Designed to cater to every Jewish need, the Center also maintained a full-service kosher restaurant and an extensive adult education program. The center's founding rabbi was Rabbi Israel H. Levinthal, who continued in this capacity until 1954. He was succeeded by Rabbi Benjamin Kreitman.

Among the notable figures associated with the Brooklyn Jewish center were Chaim Weizmann, Albert Einstein and Menachem Ussishkin, who came in 1921 as a delegation on behalf of the Zionist movement; Moss Hart, who served as a social director in 1927; Heinz Liepmann, Einstein, Stephen Wise and Will Durant, who were involved with the establishment of a Library of Nazi Banned Books; Rollo G. Reynolds (Provost of Teachers College), who was the founding Educational Adviser of the Center Academy in 1928; Samuel Lemberg (philanthropist), who initiated plans for the Center's mortgage redemption; and Abraham D. Beame (later mayor of New York City), who was an active member. Cantors Samuel Kantor, Rubin Tucker, and William Sauler all served the congregation.

The Center is also known for its publications, the Brooklyn Jewish Center Bulletin, which appeared as a monthly beginning in 1920 and then as a weekly in 1922, and the Brooklyn Jewish Center Review, which appeared as a monthly in 1933, a quarterly from 1957 and then semiannually. The Review was a pioneering journal and included synagogue news, editorials, a rabbi's column, articles of general Jewish interest and short stories.

The membership of the Brooklyn Jewish Center grew rapidly, numbering 1,000 families in 1923 and doubling by 1946. Beginning in the 1950s, many Jewish families left the neighborhood of Eastern Parkway near Brooklyn and New York Avenues, and the Brooklyn Jewish Center went into a decline. 


Collection Description

The Brooklyn Jewish Center Records, 1921-1985 comprehensively document the history of this important congregation. Included are correspondence (including that of Rabbi Israel Levinthal); annual reports; minutes of the board of trustees and various committees; issues of the Brooklyn Jewish Center Bulletin (1922-1985, with gaps) and the Brooklyn Jewish Center Review (1933-1985, with gaps); cemetery records; dinner dance journals and records; financial records; Hebrew school records; lecture series records; membership information; photographs; and audio tapes (reel to reel format).

The selection of the Brooklyn Jewish Center Reviews is particularly valuable because it is nearly complete and represents a significant aspect of Center and communal activities. The collection as a whole gives a thorough picture of the model synagogue center, including documentation for the health club facilities, the restaurant, and the adult and youth education programs.

Noteworthy are the records of several testimonial dinners. One, honoring the first transatlantic air passenger, includes letters from Justice Louis Brandeis, Adolph Ochs, Justice Benjamin Cardozo, and Stephen Wise. Another dinner, commemorating the establishment of the Library of Nazi Banned Books, contains a handwritten draft of a speech by Albert Einstein and a copy of his paper on the Theory of Relativity, in German.


List of Frequent or Prominent Correspondents

  • Cyrus Adler
  • Louis Brandeis
  • Benjamin Cardozo
  • Boaz Cohen
  • Albert Einstein
  • Mordecai Kaplan
  • Israel Levinthal
  • Louis Lipsky
  • Louis Marshall
  • Adolph Ochs
  • Stephen Wise
  • David Yellin

Container List

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