Davis, Moshe (1916-1996), Papers.

  • Dates: 1912-1991
  • Size: 5.4 linear ft.
  • Number of Boxes: 5
  • Languages:
    • English
    • Hebrew
    • Spanish
    • French
    • Russian
  • Location: Special Collections Reading Room, Jewish Theological Seminary Library.
  • Restrictions: Reproduction of fragile items is not permitted; consult the archivist about literary rights.
  • Gift Of: Moshe Davis
  • Date: 1990-1991

SGS, 8/9/91; revised 6/23/92

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.

Biographical Note

Moshe Davis was born in Brooklyn, New York on January 12, 1916. He received a BA from Columbia University in 1936, another BA in Jewish pedagogy from the Teachers Institute of The Jewish Theological Seminary the following year, and was ordained at JTS in 1942. In 1945 Davis earned a PhD from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, the first American to earn a doctorate there.

Davis initiated his academic career at JTS in 1942 as registrar and lecturer in American Jewish history. In 1944, he became assistant to Mordecai Kaplan, the dean of the Teachers Institute. Two years later Davis was appointed dean of the Teachers Institute himself, a position he held until 1950. During his tenure as dean, Davis played a central role in the founding of Camp Ramah.

During the 1950s, Davis held a variety of positions at JTS. He served as provost (1950- 1959), professor of American Jewish history (assistant professor, 1952-1955; associate professor, 1956-1959), director of the American Jewish History Center (1950-1963), and program editor for the Seminary's television and radio productions on NBC ("Eternal Light," radio, 1942-1952, and "Frontiers of Faith," television, 1951-1953.)

In 1959 Davis relocated to Israel to become a visiting professor at the Hebrew University, where he founded the Institute of Contemporary Judaism (1959). The Institute provided a center for the study of the cultural, religious, political, and economic experiences of modern Jewish communities across the world. As founder and director of the Institute (1959-1973), Davis guided the production of numerous scholarly publications and conferences. Particularly notable was the America-Holy Land Studies Program, a collaborative effort of the Institute and the American Jewish Historical Society, which examined Americans' historical interest and involvement in Palestine and Israel. Davis served as general editor for the series of books which resulted from this project.

Davis was named to the Stephen S. Wise Chair of American Jewish History and Institutions at the Hebrew University in 1965 (emeritus after 1984). He also retained close ties with JTS, serving as co-director of its American Jewish History Center (1963-1974), and professor of American Jewish history at the Seminary Student Center in Jerusalem beginning in 1964.

As both an author and editor, Davis made numerous contributions to the fields of American Jewish history and Diaspora-Israel relations. His many publications include "Jewish Religious Life and Institutions in America" in Louis Finkelstein, ed., The Jews: Their History, Culture, and Religion (New York, 1949, 1971); The Emergence of Conservative Judaism(Philadelphia, 1963); Israel: Its Role In Civilization (New York, 1956) and With Eyes Toward Zion: Scholars' Colloquium on America-Holy Land Studies 2 vols. (New York, 1977, 1986). In 1984, Geoffrey Wigoder edited a volume entitled Contemporary Jewry: Studies in Honor of Moshe Davis (Jerusalem, 1984) which contains a full bibliography of Davis' extensive scholarly work.

Moshe Davis died in 1996.

Collection Description

Moshe Davis's papers, 1927-1991, consist largely of material collected during the preparation of a bibliography of Davis' publications, 1936-1984. Also included are clippings, notes, and articles, filed by subject, which Davis collected throughout his student and academic careers, 1927-1989; notes, outlines, examinations, and lectures from Davis' years as a rabbinical student at The Jewish Theological Seminary, ca. 1938-1942; correspondence, 1944-1991; sermonic and liturgical material, 1930s-1960s; pamphlets, brochures, statements, and other historical documents related to the Jewish Theological Seminary and its Rabbinical School, Teachers Institute, the Seminary College of Judaic Studies, and Camp Ramah, ca. 1930-1981; Hebrew and English scripts for radio and general use, 1942-1956; and tapes, notes, and transcripts of oral history interviews with Moshe Davis, 1985-1991. Noteworthy is a file of correspondence (1912-1928) gathered by Davis, about the posthumous affairs of Seminary Professor Israel Friedlaender (1876-1920), and the possibility of publishing a memorial volume of Friedlaender's work.

Series Descriptions

I. Bibliographic Material, 1936-1984 contains offprints and photocopies of articles and book- length studies authored or edited by Moshe Davis. These items are numbered to correspond with the printed bibliography, and often consist only of photocopies of the title page of the work. Also included is a photocopy of the Moshe Davis bibliography contained in Geoffrey Wigoder, ed., Contemporary Jewry: Studies in Honor of Moshe Davis (Jerusalem, 1984).

II. Subject Files, 1927-1989 includes files of articles, notes, and other printed material collected by Moshe Davis, and organized topically. These files reflect Davis' interest and involvement in Hebrew culture, including dance, music, arts, poetry, and the modern revitalization of the Hebrew language in Palestine and the Diaspora. Davis also compiled files on Palestine and Hebrew University. Finally, Davis collected material on the Jewish holidays, including Chanukah, Passover, Purim, Shabbat, Shavuoth, Succoth, and Yom Kippur. Some of this material is in Hebrew.

III. Student Papers, 1938-1942 consist of files for the various courses which Davis attended as a rabbinical student at The Jewish Theological Seminary. Included are Davis' notes (in English and Hebrew), syllabi, examinations, course outlines, and lecture texts. These materials document classes taught by Seminary faculty members such as Alexander Marx, H.L. Ginsberg, Robert Gordis, Shalom Spiegel, Boaz Cohen, and Mordecai M. Kaplan.

IV. Correspondence, 1944-1991 contains files of Davis' correspondence with Shlomo Shulsinger, 1944-1989; letters of congratulations on Davis' appointment as dean of Teachers Institute in 1946; correspondence with Judah Magnes, 1941-1947, and Jack Kabakoff, 1955- 1988; correspondence between Yehoshua Ansel and Davis, 1953-1962; and correspondence with or relating to David Ben-Gurion, 1954-1979. Also included are copies of correspondence between Maryland Governor Theodore R. McKeldin and President Dwight D. Eisenhower relating to Moshe Davis' book Israel: Its Role in Civilization (New York, 1956), 1956; correspondence with Israel Goldman, 1953; Gerson Cohen, 1980-1986; Robert Lieberles, 1990; Louis Finkelstein, Ismar Schorsch, and Reneee Gutman, 1991. Much of the correspondence is in Hebrew.

V. Israel Friedlaender Correspondence, 1912-1928 contains letters related to the possible republication of work by Israel Friedlaender after his death in a pogrom in the Ukraine in 1920. Included is correspondence between S. Bacharach of the Ark Publishing Company, Cyrus Adler, Louis E. Berman, Barnett R. Brickner, and Judah L. Magnes. The letters document the correspondents' attempts to secure publication rights for Friedlaender's work.

VI. Sermonic and Liturgical Material, 1930s-1960s contains texts (by Davis and others) and notes for sermons. Files for various holidays and occasions are included. Also included are files of ideas, notes, and texts for use in services.

VII. Jewish Theological Seminary Material, ca. 1930-1984 consists of programs, statements, addresses by seminary officials, brochures, and other material relating to the history of the Seminary, the Rabbinical School, Teachers Institute, the Seminary College of Judaic Studies, and Camp Ramah. Some of this material was apparently collected by Davis for a seminar on the Rabbinical School.

VIII. Scripts, 1942-1956 contains English and Hebrew scripts, many of which were written or translated by Moshe Davis. Also included is a script by Marc Siegel, entilted "Rosenblatt's Reply," from the "Eternal Light" Radio program.

IX. Oral History Interviews with Moshe Davis, 1985-1990 consists primarily of a group of oral histories - edited and unedited transcripts and tapes - conducted by Seminary rabbinical students Pamela Jay (Gottfried) and Mychal Springer with Moshe Davis in Jerusalem in 1990 and 1991. Also included are Mychal Springer's notes from her 1990 interviews with Davis; and a transcript of an interview of Davis done by Arthur Hoffnung in 1985. The interviews performed by Springer cover Davis' family background; his reminiscences of student days at the Seminary's Teachers' Institute and Rabbinical School (including anecdotes about teachers, later colleagues, such as Mordecai M. Kaplan, Hillel Bavli, Samuel Dinin, Abraham S. Halkin, Moshe Halevy, Alexander Marx, Max Arzt, Louis Ginzberg, and Simon Greenberg); his year in Israel and trip to Europe in 1937-1938; recollections of working with Louis Finkelstein and other administrators; recollections of the relationship between the Seminary and Zionism during the late 1930s; involvement with Camp Ramah and Atid and the Hebrew arts movement; graduate work at the Hebrew University; and his role as a Seminary administrator in the 1940s and 1950s (Dean of Teachers' Institute and provost of Seminary). The interviews performed by Jay document Davis' work with the Camp Ramah movement; the Leaders' Training Fellowship; Camp Atid; the Seminary's media programs (the "Eternal Light" radio show and the "Frontiers of Faith" television show); the American Jewish History Center; recollections of Alexander Marx, Simon Greenberg, Joel Geffen, and Theodore McKeldin; and the Seminary's Israel Institute.


  • Yehoshua Ansel
  • Joshua Bloch
  • Israel Chipkin
  • Boaz Cohen
  • Gerson Cohen
  • Harry Coopersmith
  • Carrie Davidson
  • Azriel Eisenberg
  • Samuel B. Finkel
  • Louis Finkelstein
  • Israel Goldman
  • David A. Goldstein
  • Solomon Grayzel
  • Julius H. Greenstone
  • David Ben-Gurion
  • Renee Gutman
  • H. Handler
  • Henry Hofheimer
  • Maurice Jacobs
  • Jack Kabakoff
  • Robert Lieberles
  • Leon J. Liebreich
  • Judah Magnes
  • Alexander Marx
  • Stuart Rosenberg
  • Samuel Rothstein
  • William S. Salzman
  • Ismar Schorsch
  • Judah J. Shapiro
  • Shlomo Shulsinger
  • William C. Smith
  • Saul S. Spiro
  • Evelyn B. Zuckerman

Box List
Box  Folder(s) Description 
  I. Bibliographic Material, 1936-1984
1 1 Moshe Davis bibliography, lists
 2-20 Bibliographic material
 21-22 Miscellaneous published material
  II. Subject Files, 1927-1989
2 1 Archaeology in Palestine, 1934-1939; n.d.
 2 Camp Atid, late 1940s?
 3-5 Children's services, 1927-1937; n.d.
 6 Dance, 1933-1948
 7 Extension programs/activities, 1939-1940; n.d.
 8 Hadassah Hospital address, 1965
 9 Hebrew Arts Committee/Foundation, 1943-57; n.d.
 10-11 Hebrew language, 1933-1947; n.d.
 12-13 Hebrew movement (Palestine & Diaspora), 1936-1989; n.d.
 14 Hebrew poetry, 1930s; n.d.
 15 Holidays - Chamisha Esar BiShevat, 1941-1942; n.d.
 16 Holidays - Chanukah, 1936-1946; n.d.
 17 Holidays - Passover, 1937-1946; n.d.
 18 Holidays - Purim, 1937-1941; n.d.
 19 Holidays - Shabbat, 1940s?; n.d.
 20 Holidays - Shavuoth, 1937-1940s, n.d.
 21 Holidays - Succoth, 1946; n.d.
 22 Holidays - Yom Kippur, 1957-1958
 23 Jewish art, 1933-1944; n.d.
 24 Jewish book month, 1944; n.d.
 25-29 Jewish education, 1940s-1950s; n.d.
 30 Jewish Youth Congress, 1939-1940
 31-32 Music, 1936-1948; n.d.
 33 "Origin and Destiny of Conservative Judaism," 1939-1990
 34-36 Palestine (Hebrew University), 1927-1985; n.d.
 37 Photographs of Moshe Davis, n.d.
 38 Rabbinical Assembly, statement, c. 1940s
 39 "Role of Religion in Contemporary Moral Crisis," c.1952
 40 Sisterhood, pamphlet, 1940
 41 Spiritual Statesmanship Conference, moral standards, 1955-1956
  III. Student Papers, ca. 1938-1942
3 1 Arabic
 2-5 Bible
 6-8 Biblical history
 9 Education
 10-11 Gemara
 12-16 Jewish history
 17-18 Jewish law
 19 Literature
 20 Liturgy
 21 Medieval Hebrew literature
 22-23 Midrash
 24 New Testament
 25 Philosophy
 26-27 Prophets
 28-32 Talmud
 33 Theology
  IV. Correspondence, 1944-1991
4 1 Shlomo Shulsinger, 1944-1989
 2 Congratulations on Teachers Institute, appt., 1946
 3 Judah Magnes, 1946-1947
 4 Jack Kabakoff, 1953-1988
 5 Yehoshua Ansel and M. Davis, (Nir Galim), 1953-1962
 6 David Ben-Gurion, 1954-79
 7 McKeldin-Eisenhouwer correspondence re: Davis's book, 1956
 8 Israel Goldman, 1958
 9 Gerson Cohen, 1980-1986
 10 "Eternal Light"?, 1990
 11 Robert Liberles, 1990
 12 JTSA officials, Louis Finkelstein, Ismar Schorsch, Renee Gutman, 1991
 13 V. Israel Friedlaender Correspondence, 1912-1928
  VI. Sermonic and Liturgical Material, ca.1930s-1960s
 14 High holiday bulletin
 15 Prayers for special occasions
 16-29 Sermons
 30 Service ideas
 31-32 Services - notes, texts
  VII. Jewish Theological Seminary Material, ca.1930-1981
 33 Jewish Theological Seminary material, 1943-1948
 34-36 Material for seminar on Rabbinical School, 1930-1958
 37 Seminary/Rabbinical school material, 1938-1981
 38 Teachers Institute, Seminary College of Jewish Studies, Camp Ramah, 1947; n.d.
  VIII. Scripts, 1942-1956; n.d.
 39 "Original Pantomimes," 1942; n.d.
 40 "Eternal Light" radio program, 1956
 41 For general use, n.d.
 42-44 Hebrew scripts, n.d.
  IX. Oral History Interviews of Moshe Davis, 1985-1990
 45 Notes of interviews conducted by Mychal Springer, 1990
Transcript of interview conducted by Arthur Hoffnung re: University of Judaism, 1985
5 1 Transcripts of Springer interviews with Davis, final versions
 2 Transcripts of Pamela Jay (Gottfried) interviews with M. Davis, final versions
 3 Transcripts of Springer interviews with Davis, unedited versions
 4 Transcripts of Jay interviews with Davis, unedited versions
 5 Transcripts of Springer interviews with Davis, rough versions
 6 Transcripts of Springer interviews with Davis, edited, but not recorrected versions.
  Note: Cassette tapes of interviews with Moshe Davis conducted by Mychal Springer and Pamela Jay during 1990-1991 are in the Ratner Center's sound archives.