Simon Greenberg (1901-1993), Papers.

TSH, 6/1/94

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

Simon Greenberg was born in Horoshen, Russia in 1901. His family came to the United States in 1905 and he attended public and religious schools in Woodridge in the Catskill Mountains of New York. The family later moved to Brownsville, in Brooklyn. Greenberg graduated from the Teachers Institute of The Jewish Theological Seminary of America in 1919, and earned a B.A. from the City College of New York in 1922. During the academic year 1920-1921 Greenberg attended the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

In 1924-1925, after graduating from City College, Greenberg studied at the Hebrew University, where he was the first American student, and at the American School for Oriental Research, both in Jerusalem. In 1925, after his return to the United States, he was ordained by The Jewish Theological Seminary and immediately took a position as the rabbi of the fledgling Har Zion Temple in Philadelphia. During Greenberg's twenty-one years at Har Zion he both enlarged its membership rolls and established its reputation as a prominent Conservative congregation. During this time Greenberg was also engaged in graduate study at Dropsie College in Philadelphia, where he earned a Ph.D. in 1932.

In 1931 Cyrus Adler, then president of The Jewish Theological Seminary of America, invited Greenberg to teach education courses at the Seminary's Teachers Institute. In 1932 he was formally made a professor of education, a position he held until 1968. Greenberg left Har Zion Temple in 1946 after the Seminary offered him the opportunity to assume the positions of provost and professor of homiletics in the Seminary's Rabbinical School. He taught homiletics at the Seminary until his retirement in 1992. In 1950 Greenberg was made vice-chancellor and president of the faculties of the Seminary. He was also one of the founders, in 1947, of the Seminary's west coast branch, the University of Judaism. He served as its first president (1948- 1963), and later as its chancellor (1963-1968) and chancellor emeritus (1968-1993). From 1947 until the early 1960s Greenberg served nominally as director of the Jewish Museum (during part of this time he was actually based in Los Angeles) while curator Stephen Kayser was in charge of operations at the museum.

In addition to his congregational and Seminary responsibilities, Greenberg was actively involved in many Jewish professional and communal organizations. From 1937 to 1939 he served as the president of the Rabbinical Assembly of America. The Rabbinical Assembly Bulletin was begun during his administration. From 1950 to 1953 he was the executive director of the United Synagogue of America.

Greenberg was also a devoted Zionist. He served as the president of the Philadelphia branch of the Zionist Organization of America from 1940 to 1943, and was chairman of its national education committee from 1943 to 1945. Greenberg was a member of the executive committee of the World Zionist Organization from 1963 to 1968, and in 1984 he became the executive director of the Foundation for Conservative (Masorti) Judaism in Israel. Rabbi Greenberg died in 1993, in Jerusalem.

Collection Description

The papers of Rabbi Simon Greenberg consist of letters, diaries, texts of sermons and other writings, and other material documenting Greenberg's personal life, experiences as a student, rabbinical career at Har Zion Temple in Philadelphia, career at The Jewish Theological Seminary and its West Coast and Israeli branches, activities on behalf of the Conservative movement, and involvement in Zionist organizations. The papers range in date from 1918, when he was a student at the Seminary's Teachers Institute, to 1992 during his final months at the Seminary, where he served as Vice-Chancellor Emeritus. The collection has been organized into eleven series.

These papers contain a sizeable body of Greenberg's writings, consisting of sermons, talks, lectures, eulogies, and tributes, most of which are in Series V. Found here are the original texts or outlines for talks given over the course of more than sixty years, with a fairly even distribution over those years. (An additional, large group of writings by Simon Greenberg is in JTSA Records, R.G.27, Writings By and About Seminary Figures, box 2, folder 15 to box 3, folder 6a.

Another strength of this collection is the material concerning the the establishment and funding of Seminary programs in Israel from the 1950s to the 1970s. This material can be found in Series VIII, Jewish Theological Seminary of America.

One of the most noteworthy facts about the collection is that there is a generally good date distribution of items from 1918 to 1992. Material from the early decades of this period is well represented and there are no significant gaps.

The principal weakness of the collection is the relatively thin documentation of Greenberg's administrative activities at The Jewish Theological Seminary. What can be learned of his administrative work must often be inferred from correspondence. Additionally, there is very little material relevant to the many courses Greenberg taught over the years at the Seminary or to the University of Judaism, of which he was a founder.

Series List

  • I. Personal Correspondence, 1934-1989; n.d.
  • II. Student Years, 1917-1975; n.d.
  • III. General Correspondence, 1924-1992; n.d.
  • IV. Resource Materials for Sermons and Other Talks, 1928-1988; n.d.
  • V. Sermons, Eulogies, Tributes, and Other Talks, 1920s-1991; n.d.
  • VI. Other Writings, 1929-1980; n.d.
  • VII. Har Zion Temple and Philadelphia Community Activities, 1926-1986; n.d.
  • VIII. Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1931-1992; n.d.
  • IX. Affiliated Organizations of the Conservative Movement, 1928-1990; n.d.
  • X. Israel and Zionism, 1926-1990; n.d.
  • XI. Photographs, 1941-1989; n.d.

Series Descriptions


Box 1, Folders 1-8

Included in this small series is Greenberg's correspondence with members of his family and with others about them. The bulk of the letters deal with matters of a personal nature, such as illnesses and bar mitzvahs and other celebrations. Of note is a group of approximately fifty autobiographical letters written by Rabbi Greenberg to his grandson, Joel Greenberg (box 1, folder 5). In these letters Greenberg describes his childhood and student years, including details of his studies at the City College of New York, the Teachers Institute of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, the University of Minnesota, and The Rabbinical School of the Seminary.

The files in this series are arranged alphabetically, according either to the name of the person letters are to or about, or else the subject of the correspondence. This is the order in which these letters were found at the time they were reorganized in 1994.

II. STUDENT YEARS, 1917-1975; n.d.

Box 1, Folders 9-29

This series contains diaries and subject files documenting Greenberg's years as a student. The diaries were written by Greenberg during his years of study at the University of Minnesota (1920-1921) and in Palestine (1924-1925). While they primarily detail his day to day activities, in the Palestine diaries Greenberg vividly records impressions and observations of his new environment. The diaries - which largely appear to be transcripts of the originals - are filed chronologically. For additional information about Greenberg's student years, see his autobiographical letters to his grandson, Joel Greenberg (box 1, folder 5).

The subject files primarily consist of manuscripts of papers, sermons and notes from Greenberg's studies at the Seminary's Teachers Institute, The Rabbinical School, and at Dropsie College. Also included are records of Greenberg's involvement in such organizations as the Hebrew Educational Society, the Teachers Institute Alumni Association, and Young Judea. Of note are papers and sermons written while Greenberg was a student at The Jewish Theological Seminary, and notes used in preparing his Ph.D. dissertation at Dropsie College. The subject files are ordered alphabetically.


Box 1, folder 30 - Box 4, Folder 7

The general correspondence principally documents Rabbi Greenberg's work as an administrator at The Jewish Theological Seminary, both in New York and in Israel. The bulk of it is from the 1970s to the 1990s, and largely concerns Greenberg's Seminary work in Israel. He regularly corresponded with rabbis, Jewish community leaders, lay people, students, and scholars. In some cases people wrote to Greenberg in his capacity as a Seminary administrator but discussed personal rather than Seminary matters. Birthday letters are an example.

The correspondence is ordered in two ways. Letters in Subseries A are filed alphabetically according to the last name of the correspondent or by the subject of the correspondence. Letters in Subseries B are filed chronologically. While both subseries generally contain the same kind of correspondence, they have been maintained here in the way Greenberg (or his secretary) filed them.

Of special note is a large group of letters dating from January, 1990 to February, 1992. These reveal something of Greenberg's activities during his final two years working at the Seminary.

Additional correspondence can be found in a number of places in the collection. Correspondence with or about Greenberg's family is found in Series I: Personal Correspondence (box 1, folders 1-8). Correspondence regarding Greenberg's published writings is found in Series VI: Other Writings (box 8, folder 21 to box 9, folder 3). Correspondence with Seminary personnel is found in Series VIII: Jewish Theological Seminary of America (box 10, folders 50-51 [G.Cohen]; box 10, folders 64-66 [L. Finkelstein]; box 10, folder 69 [L. Ginzberg]; box 10, folder 71 [R. Gordis]; box 11, folder 6 [M. Kaplan]; box 11, folder 13 [S. Lieberman]; box 11, folder 15 [B. Mandelbaum]; box 11, folder 45 [Y. Rosenberg]; box 11, folder 49 [I. Schorsch]). (Simon Greenberg correspondence can also be found in JTSA Records, R.G.1, General Files.)


Box 4, Folder 8 - Box 6, Folder 23

This series contains resource materials which Rabbi Greenberg consulted when preparing sermons, lectures, and other talks. Included are pamphlets, booklets, reports, speeches, scholarly writings, clippings, and other, largely published, materials. Greenberg organized these materials according to their topic. Topics are varied, and range from the most general to the most specific. Examples include Zionism, the relation between Jewish and American values, and Solomon Schechter. In most cases Greenberg assigned a number to each topic. He then filed the materials in numerical order. An index to these topics and their assigned numbers is found in the first file in this series. A partial duplicate of the index is found in the second file.

Greenberg identified nearly five hundred topics over the years. A complete list of them in numerical order is found at the beginning of the index. Each time a new topic presented itself, Greenberg appended it to the end of the list and assigned it the next number. To find the resource materials for a particular topic, locate the topic in the alphabetically ordered index. Sometimes it is necessary to look under several related words to find the topic sought. If the topic exists in the index its assigned number will be listed. Next look in the files for the materials with that particular number. Note: there are many topics in the index for which there are no resource materials in this collection. If such materials ever existed, their whereabouts are unknown.

While most of the resource materials are filed numerically, there is a second batch which contains files that were not assigned numbers. These files are ordered alphabetically by topic. They contain the same types of materials as the first batch. Of note among these are a number of notebooks containing transcriptions of talmudic passages along with Greenberg's comments in the margins (box 6, folders 15-20).


Box 6, Folder 24 - Box 8, Folder 20

This large series consists of two kinds of material: texts and outlines of sermons and other talks (Subseries A) and texts of eulogies and tributes (Subseries B). While some of the talks in Subseries A are based on religious texts, others are best thought of as lectures or speeches rather than sermons. Rabbi Greenberg kept these different types of talks interfiled.

The sermons and talks in Subseries A are organized in three different ways, reflecting the order in which Greenberg maintained them. First, there are sermons organized alphabetically by holidays such as Rosh Hashanah, Passover, etc. Second, there are sermons and talks organized by topic. These are filed numerically according to the relevant topic number assigned to them by the index in Series IV: Resource Materials for Sermons and Other Talks (see the description for Series IV above for information on determining topic numbers). Third, there are sermons and talks organized chronologically. These were neither written for a specific religious holiday nor were they assigned a topic number. A majority of these are sermons delivered by Greenberg at synagogues throughout North America, apparently as a spokesman for the Seminary.

Additional sermons and talks are found in Series VII, Har Zion Temple and Philadelphia Activities. Talks given at the University of Judaism can be found in Series VIII-C, The Jewish Theological Seminary of America. Talks given at Rabbinical Assembly or National Federation of Jewish Men's Clubs gatherings are found in Series IX, Affiliated Organizations of the Conservative Movement. For sermons and talks on Israel and Zionism, see Series X, Israel and Zionism.

Subseries B consists of the texts of eulogies and tributes given by Greenberg at the funerals, memorial services, and unveilings of Jewish community leaders and friends. These are organized alphabetically by name. Of particular interest among these are the memorials Greenberg delivered for two of the Seminary's past chancellors, Gerson Cohen and Louis Finkelstein. Additional eulogies and tributes may be found in Sub-series A-2 of this series (sermons and talks organized by topic), either under the individual's name or under the topics "men" or "women." (An additional, large group of writings by Simon Greenberg is in JTSA Records, R.G.27, Writings By and About Seminary Figures, box 2, folder 15 to box 3, folder 6a.)

VI. OTHER WRITINGS, 1929-1980; n.d.

Box 8, Folder 21 - Box 9, Folder 77 and Folders 82-83

This series consists of texts of and materials pertaining to Rabbi Greenberg's published and unpublished non-sermonic writings. Subseries A contains reviews of and correspondence about Greenberg's published writings. These are organized alphabetically by the title of the work. Subseries B makes up the bulk of this series. It consists of the texts and partial texts of Greenberg's non-sermonic writings in the form of manuscripts, typescripts, reprints, and clippings. These are divided according to whether they are published or not, and are filed alphabetically according to the title of the work with books first and articles second.

Of particular interest among the published writings are position papers of Seminary faculty members that were included in the volume The Ordination of Women as Rabbis: Studies and Responsa (1988), which Greenberg edited (box 9, folders 11-12). Among the unpublished writings there is a paper in which Greenberg reacts to Mordecai Kaplan's influential work, Judaism as a Civilization (box 9, folder 72).


Box 9, Folder 78 - Box 10, Folder 35

This small series contains alphabetically ordered subject files pertaining to Greenberg's activities at Har Zion Temple in Philadelphia and with the larger Philadelphia community. The files have been divided into two subseries. Subseries A contains material concerning Har Zion Temple, and Subseries B documents Greenberg's Philadelphia community activities.

Greenberg served as the rabbi of Har Zion Temple from 1925 to 1946. Amongst the Har Zion files in Subseries A are sermons, bulletins, correspondence, and clippings from the time of his tenure there. Of note are a diary Greenberg kept during the summer of 1942 when he was serving at an army base in Augusta, Georgia (box 10, folder 12), and brief reflections he wrote long after he left Har Zion about his early years there (box 10, folder 13). Greenberg maintained his interest in Har Zion after he left his pulpit there, as is evident from the file of addresses he gave at the synagogue over the years (box 9, folder 78).

Most of the files on Greenberg's Philadelphia community activities contain correspondence pertaining to his work on behalf of religious education (principally through the Philadelphia Akiba Academy and the Philadelphia Board of Jewish Education) and campus chaplaincy programs at the University of Pennsylvania. Also found here are several letters from 1928 from executives of the East Midwood Jewish Center of Brooklyn, New York making an offer to Greenberg to be their rabbi, as well as a letter from Greenberg indicating his decision to decline (box 10, folder 30).

See Greenberg's letters to his grandsons for additional reminiscences about his years at Har Zion (box 1, folder 5). See also the Ratner Center's separate collection of the records of Har Zion Congregation.


Box 10, Folder 36 - box 13, folder 22; Box 16, Folder 1 (oz.)

This is a large series, reflecting the activities of Rabbi Greenberg at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America and its branches during the more than sixty years he spent there as an administrator and professor. The series has been divided into three subseries of alphabetically ordered subject files: A, New York Campus; B, Jewish Theological Seminary in Israel; C, University of Judaism, Los Angeles.

The files pertaining to the New York campus (Subseries A) are divided between those having to do with Greenberg's administrative activities (Sub-subseries 1) and those related to courses he taught (Sub-subseries 2). Amongst the administrative files (Sub-subseries 1) are correspondence, minutes of meetings, and publications concerning such matters as the Seminary's Board of Directors, its Institute for Religious and Social Studies, the Seminary library, and Camp Ramah. Correspondence between Greenberg and Seminary personnel is also found here. In the file for Chancellor Ismar Schorsch can be found the "charge" issued by Greenberg to Schorsch in 1987 on his inauguration (box 11, folder 48).

Greenberg taught courses at the Seminary from 1931 until his retirement in 1992. Included in Sub-subseries 2 is a small collection of his notes, syllabi, and texts of lectures for courses in both education and homiletics. Of particular note are lectures prepared by Greenberg for his education courses during the 1930s.

Greenberg was an active Zionist. He was also committed to advancing the visibility and influence of both the Seminary and the Conservative movement in Israel. Subseries B contains files concerning the earliest years of the Seminary's projects in Israel, from the establishment of the American Student Center in Jerusalem in 1958, to the fundraising drives and subsequent expansion of Seminary activities in Israel in the 1970s. The bulk of these files concern fundraising actitivies. Note: Most of the material pertaining to Seminary activities at the Schocken Institute and Neve Schechter in Jerusalem, as well as to the Masorti movement are found in Series X: Israel and Zionism.

The third and smallest portion of the files, Subseries C, concerns the University of Judaism, the Seminary's campus in Los Angeles. The most notable items are the texts of a number of talks given by Greenberg at the University over the years.

Because Rabbi Greenberg was affiliated with the Seminary in one capacity or another for virtually all of his adult life, there is a substantial amount of material in other series in the collection which may be relevant here. Series II, Student Years, contains information about Greenberg's period at the Seminary's Teachers Institute and Rabbinical School. Series III, General Correspondence, contains many letters which Greenberg either wrote or received as a Seminary professor and administrator. Series VI, Other Writings, contains a number of items written by Greenberg in his official Seminary capacities. Series IX, Affiliated Organizations of the Conservative Movement, contains material on Greenberg's involvement with the Rabbinical Assembly, the United Synagogue of America, and the National Federation of Jewish Men's Clubs, often as a Seminary representative.


Box 13, Folder 23 - Box 14, Folder 21

This series contains alphabetically ordered subject files pertaining to Rabbi Greenberg's involvement with the Rabbinical Assembly of America, the United Synagogue of America, and the National Federation of Jewish Men's Clubs, all organizations of the Conservative Movement and closely tied to The Jewish Theological Seminary. The bulk of the material concerns the United Synagogue of America. The series is divided into three subseries: A, Rabbinical Assembly; B, United Synagogue of America; C, National Federation of Jewish Men's Clubs.

Subseries A contains, among other things, correspondence regarding Rabbinical Assembly activities, convention summaries and reports, and papers submitted to the Commission on the Ideology of Conservative Judaism, 1986. Of note among these files are a number of addresses delivered by Greenberg over the years at Rabbinical Assembly conventions and gatherings. There are also papers by rabbis and scholars which were submitted to the Commission on the Ideology of Conservative Judaism, the body which produced Emet V'Emunah, in the mid-1980s. Rabbi Greenberg's paper for the Commission, with annotations, is found here.

Subseries B, documenting the United Synagogue, contains material dating largely from the early 1950s when Greenberg served as the organization's executive director. Included among the files is Greenberg's correspondence with various United Synagogue and congregational leaders, records of synagogue conflict arbitration, talks given by Greenberg at conventions, and records of executive council meetings. Particularly notable is material detailing the establishment of the United Synagogue Review and the founding of the United Synagogue Youth.

Subseries C consists of only two files concerning the National Federation of Jewish Men's Clubs. The most important of these contains talks given by Greenberg at Men's Clubs gatherings in the 1960s. The other file contains a copy of the Men's Clubs Torch magazine.

X. ISRAEL AND ZIONISM, 1926-1990; n.d.

Box 14, Folder 22 - Box 15, Folder 15; Box 16, Folders 2-8 (oz.)

This series contains two types of material: talks and lectures by Greenberg pertaining to Israel and Zionism (Subseries A) and alphabetically ordered subject files (Subseries B). The talks and lectures in Subseries A are filed chronologically and range in date from the 1920s to the 1990s. They reflect Rabbi Greenberg's lifelong commitment to the causes of Zionism and the State of Israel, and they were delivered to a wide variety of Jewish professional and lay groups.

Subseries B is a small group of subject files containing correspondence, information on fundraising campaigns for Israel, and material on organizations such as the World Zionist Organization and the Zionist Organization of America. Of note is material on the activities of the Conservative (Masorti) movement in Israel, of which Greenberg was the executive director, as well as on the Seminary's activities at the Schocken Institute library and at Neve Schechter, site of its American Student Center, both in Jerusalem.

Additional material on Israel and Zionism can be found in other series in the collection. Series IV-B, Resource Materials for Sermons and Other Talks, contains items related to Israel (see "Palestine") and Zionism. There are additional sermons and talks in Series V-A-2: Sermons, Eulogies, Tributes, and Other Talks. For material on the establishment of Seminary activities in Israel, including fundraising programs, see Series VIII-B: Jewish Theological Seminary of America.

XI. PHOTOGRAPHS, 1941-1989; n.d.

Box 15, Folders 16-17

This series contains both portraits and candid photographs of Rabbi Greenberg, as well as photographs in which he is not pictured. There are approximately 125 photographs in this series. Additional photographs can be found in Series VII-A: Har Zion Temple and Philadelphia Community Activities (box 10, folders 17-18 and 20). Descriptions of these have been entered in the Ratner Center's photograph database. See the attached list of photographs.

The Ratner Center's photograph collection contains many additional photographs of Simon Greenberg at The Jewish Theological Seminary.

Box List

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