Israel H. Levinthal (1888-1982), Papers.

  • Dates: 1902-1981
  • Size: 11 linear ft.
  • Number of Boxes: 22
  • Languages:
    • English
    • Hebrew
  • 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: Hellen Lyons, 1986. 
  • Related Collections: Brooklyn Jewish Center Records

SGS, 7/17/1991; 2007

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

 [see caption]
Rabbi Israel Levinthal receiving an honorary degree from president Louis Finkelstein, commencement, 1940. Levinthal's sponsors, professors Alexander Marx (left) and Mordecai Kaplan stand behind him.

Israel Herbert Levinthal was born in Vilna, Lithuania on February 12, 1888 into a family with a long rabbinical tradition.  Levinthal's family emigrated to the United States in 1891 when his father became the rabbi of the orthodox community in Philadelphia.  Levinthal received his BA from Columbia University in 1909, and was ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary the next year.  He earned a law degree from New York University in 1914, and received the degree of Doctor of Hebrew Letters from the Jewish Theological Seminary in 1920.

Levinthal began his rabbinical career in Brooklyn, first at Temple B'nai Shalom (1910-1915), moving afterwards to Petach Tikvah (1915-1919).  In 1919, Levinthal accepted a position as the first rabbi of the incipient Brooklyn Jewish Center.  An early realization of Mordecai M. Kaplan's synagogue-center idea, the Brooklyn Jewish Center fostered Rabbi Levinthal's interests in communal activities and Zionism.

Levinthal served as the rabbi of the Brooklyn Jewish Center during the institution's period of growth between the world wars.  The center's membership, consisting of 1,000 families in 1923, doubled by 1946.  In order to meet the religious and communal needs of this expanding constituency, the center offered religious services, youth and adult educational opportunities, recreational activities, and cultural programs.  By the 1960s, as congregants increasingly left the community and moved to the suburbs, Rabbi Levinthal labored to maintain the center's viability.

Rabbi Levinthal additionally played a prominent leadership role in the Conservative and Zionist movements.  He served as president of the Rabbinical Assembly (1930-1932) and as the national chairman of the United Synagogue drive to found a synagogue-center in Jerusalem (1932-1935).  A prominent Zionist, Levinthal was a member of the council of the Jewish Agency for Palestine (1929-1933), president of the Brooklyn Zionist Region (1933-1936), and was active in the Zionist Organization of America starting in 1936.  As a community leader, Levinthal served as the first president of the Brooklyn Jewish Minister's Association (1929-1931) and on the executive committee of the New York Board of Jewish Ministers (1935-1936).  Levinthal also shared a close relationship with the Jewish Theological Seminary, acting as visiting lecturer in homiletics from 1947 to 1962.

Well known for his skill as a preacher, Levinthal published numerous volumes of sermons and addresses.  These works, which spanned Levinthal's career at the Brooklyn Jewish Center, explored both the Jewish tradition and the conditions of contemporary American Jewry.
Rabbi Levinthal died on October 31, 1982, in New Rochelle, New York.

ReferencesWho Was Who in American Jewry, 1938-39, pp.629-30, 1928, pp.414-15; Pamela Nadell, Conservative Judaism in America:  A Biographical Dictionary and Sourcebook (New York:  Greenwood Press, 1988), pp. 174-176.

Collection Description

The Israel H. Levinthal Papers consist largely of manuscripts of and notes for sermons and addresses, 1902-1970s and n.d.  Also included is correspondence, 1930-1981; reel-to-reel and cassette tapes of sermons and addresses, 1963-1980; a few copies of Brooklyn Jewish Center publications, 1927-1978 (see note, below); several issues of the Hebrew paper Hadoar; a brief typescript describing Levinthal's life, n.d.; reviews of his publications; and clippings of articles written by or about him; clippings of articles relevant to his studies.  A complete title and subject index of the sermons is available in the Ratner and in the Rare Book Room.

The Levinthal sermonic material has been preserved in mylar through the generosity of Rabbi Kenneth S. Cohen, in loving memory of his father, Paul A. Cohen.

Series List

  • I. Sermons and Addresses, 1902-1978, n.d.
  • II. Correspondence, 1930-1981
  • III. Tapes and Miscellaneous Material, 1915-1979


I.  Sermons and Addresses, 1902-1978; n.d.

Boxes 1-16, 19, 20

Rabbi Levinthal's notes and manuscripts for sermons and addresses delivered between 1902 and 1978 delivered at the Brooklyn Jewish Center, at ceremonial banquets and dinners at the Center, Rabbinical Assembly conventions, United Synagogue functions, and at other synagogues and institutions.  Levinthal addressed issues such as the religious and communal life of American Jewry, anti-Semitism, contemporary politics and current events, Jewish tradition and history, interfaith relations, changing roles of women, and Zionism.  A complete index to these writings is available in the Ratner Center.

II.  Correspondence, 1930-1981

Box 17

Included are letters received by Rabbi Levinthal between 1930 and 1981.  The letters concern such topics as Zionism, Jewish communal organizations, anti-Semitism, the ordination of women, and proposed social security legislation.  Also included are letters of acknowledgement and thanks for copies of Levinthal's published works, as well as letters regarding celebrations and tributes commemorating milestones in Levinthal's career.  Correspondents include Rabbi Isaac Landman (re American Council for Judaism), Lewis Lipsky, Cyrus Adler, Louis Finkelstein, Abba Hillel Silver, John Haynes Holmes, Mordecai Kaplan, Boaz Cohen, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Salo Baron, Louis D. Brandeis, Stephen S. Wise, and Chaim Weizmann.  See the complete list of individual correspondents, below.

III.  Tapes and Miscellaneous Materials, 1915-1979

Boxes 18, 21-22

Included are reel-to-reel and cassette recordings of various Levinthal sermons and addresses, 1963-1979.  Also included are selected copies of Brooklyn Jewish Center publications dedicated to or containing articles by Rabbi Levinthal, 1927-1980; manuscripts of invocations and benedictions; invitations to religious and communal affairs; issues of the Hebrew language newspaper Hadoar  In addition, this series includes a short typescript (auto?)biography of Rabbi Levinthal; a letter recording his election as a member of the Jewish Agency for Palestine in 1929; reviews of Levinthal's published works; and clippings of newspaper articles by and about Levinthal.  Also noteworthy are several letters written by Levinthal to Stephen S. Wise, Ira Eisenstein, Isaac Landman, and others.

NOTE:  For further information and material relating to Rabbi Levinthal's career (including correspondence, photographs, sermons, addresses, recordings, publications, and press clippings) see the Brooklyn Jewish Center Records, 1921-1983, also held by the Ratner Center.


  • Cyrus Adler
  • Max Arzt
  • Salo W. Baron
  • Louis D. Brandeis
  • A. David Benjamin
  • S. Parkes Cadman
  • Boaz Cohen
  • Gerson D. Cohen
  • I. David Cohen
  • Mortimer J. Cohen
  • Samuel S. Cohen
  • Simon R. Cohen
  • Israel Davidson
  • Arthur C. DeGraff
  • A. Stanley Dreyfus
  • Will Durant
  • Ira Eisenstein
  • Chaim Israel Etrog
  • Alan Fairbank
  • Louis Finkelstein
  • Mendel N. Fisher
  • Harry Friedenwal
  • Ann Gelrud
  • Roland B. Gittelsohn
  • David I. Golovensky
  • Robert Gordis
  • Harold H. Gordon
  • Israel Goldman
  • Simon Greenberg
  • Moses Hadas
  • Abraham Mayer Heller
  • Simon J. Heller
  • A. J. Heschel
  • Sidney B. Hoenig
  • Ben Hollander
  • John Haynes Holmes
  • Henry Hurwitz
  • M. Hyamson
  • Rose G. Jacobs
  • Leo Jung
  • Mordecai M. Kaplan
  • Wolfe Kelman
  • I. Edward Kiev
  • Harold S. Kushner
  • Isaac Landman
  • Philip A. Langh
  • Herbert H. Lehman
  • Morton M. Leifman
  • Theodore N. Lewis
  • Saul Lieberman
  • Louis Lipsky
  • Joseph H. Lookstein
  • Martin Lowenthal
  • Jacob R. Marcus
  • Mitchell May
  • G. Pereira Mendes
  • Isidore S. Meyer
  • Henry D. Michelman
  • Jacob S. Minkin
  • Louis J. Moss
  • Emanuel Neumann
  • Louis I. Newman
  • Harry M. Orlinsky
  • Shalom Paul
  • Franklin Delano Roosevelt
  • Stanley Schachter
  • Jacob K. Shankman
  • Abba Hillel Silver
  • Maier Steinbrink
  • Sefton D. Temkin
  • Z. Tygel
  • Harry Weiss
  • Trude Weiss-Rosmarin
  • Chaim Weizmann
  • Stephen S. Wise
  • Solomon Zeitlin

Box List

I. Sermons and Addresses, 1902-1978
2 1916-1918
3 1919-1924
4 1925-1929
5 1930-1934
6 1935-1939
7 1940-1944
8 1945-1950
9 1951-1958
10 1959-1969
11 1970-1978; n.d.; miscellaneous
 II. Correspondence,1930-1981
III. Tapes and Miscellaneous Material, 1915-1979
13 Tapes; Brooklyn Jewish Center publications
14   Tapes; Brooklyn Jewish Center publications; correspondence; benediction and invocation manuscripts; invitations; issues of HaDoar; letters; (auto?)biographical statement; newspaper clippings, articles by/about Levinthal; book reviews.