Samuel Penner (1922-1986), Papers.

  • Dates: ca. 1928-1987
  • Size: 10.4 linear ft.
  • Number of Boxes: 9
  • 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: Sheba Penner

JL, 1990; YML, 8/25/92


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

Samuel Penner was born in Sambur, Galicia, Poland in 1922, and came to the United States as a child. He received bachelors degrees from the City College of New York and The Jewish Theological Seminary. He was ordained at the Seminary in 1944.

From 1946 to1948 Penner served as the rabbi of Temple B'nai Jacob in Washington, DC; at the same time he was President of the Zionist Emergency Council of Washington. In 1948, Penner became the rabbi of Herzl Congregation, Seattle, and held a number of academic posts, including an assistant professorship in Hebrew at the University of Washington and dean of the Institute of International Relations. From 1950 to 1955 Penner served as the rabbi of Beth Shalom and Beth Israel synagogues, both in Philadelphia. During this period he also served as director of the Commission on Adult Jewish Education of the United States of America, Philadelphia region.

After returning to New York in the late 1950s, Rabbi Penner became the rabbi of the Jacob H. Schiff Center, Bronx, New York, 1957-1970, and the director of Hillel activities at New York University, 1961-1964. In 1970 Rabbi Penner moved to San Diego where he served as the rabbi of Congregation Beth Tefilah until his retirement in 1985. In addition to his rabbinical duties, Penner helped to introduce Judaic studies at the University of California at San Diego where he was a senior lecturer in the departments of classical languages and religious studies. He also served as president of the San Diego Rabbinical Association and as a vice-president of the Rabbinical Assembly's West States Region.

A prolific author, Penner wrote many newspaper and journal articles as well as two unpublished volumes, Four Dimensions in Paradise , and A Jet Tour Through 4,000 Years of Jewish Humor. He died in 1986 following a brief illness.


Collection Description

Rabbi Samuel Penner's papers, 1928-1987, consist of correspondence, typescripts of sermons, lecture notes, printed material, clippings, manuscripts of his two unpublished books, datebooks and photographs. Most of the material dates from the 1940s to1987. This material documents Penner's personal life, education, teaching career, the civic and religious organizations of which he was an officer or a member, and his rabbinical career at the following synagogues: Beth El of Manhattan Beach, Brooklyn, N.Y.; Temple B'nai Jacob, Washington D.C.; Herzl Congregation, Seattle, Washington; Beth Sholom and Beth Israel, Philadelphia; The Jacob Schiff Center, Bronx, New York; and Congregation Beth Tefilah in San Diego.


Series List

  • I. Personal Papers, 1970-1987
  • II. Correspondence, 1949-1985
  • III. California Pacific University, 1977-1979
  • IV. Teaching Career, 1950-1984
  • V. Rabbinical Career, 1928-1986
  • VI. Organizations, 1954-1984
  • VII. Writings, Speeches and Sermons, 1949-1986
  • VIII. Additional Papers, 1943-1987

Series Descriptions

I. Personal Papers, 1970-1987

Box 1, Folders 1-4

Included are programs and photographs documenting the Penner's visit to the White House on May 1, 1978 to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the State of Israel; a National Jewish Welfare Board certificate awarded to Rabbi Penner in honor of his service in the armed forces during World War II; and material documenting Penner's funeral, 1986, and memorial service, 1987.

II. Correspondence, 1949-1985 Box 1, Folders 5-14

Included is Samuel Penner's correspondence with congregants and rabbinical colleagues. The subject matter of the correspondence with congregants includes: synagogue programs, weddings, funerals, b'nai mitzvah, conversions and other events. Of particular interest is correspondence with San Diego Magazine, 1972-1973; with assemblyman Bob Wilson discussing the United Nations resolution (number 60), equating Zionism with racism; with the honorable William B. Enright of the United States District Court of California, 1977; and with the American Civil Liberties Union, 1979-1980.

III. California Pacific University, 1977-1979; n.d. Box 1, Folders 15-16

A small amount of printed material, transcripts, correspondence, and applications documenting Samuel Penner's attendance at California Pacific University. His Ph.D. proposal for a degree in humanistic education, "An Introduction To the Comparative Study of Basic Value Concepts In the Ethical and Spiritual Development of Jewish Tradition" is also included.

IV. Teaching Career, 1950-1984

Box 1, Folders 17-45

This series contains lectures, correspondence, and bulletins documenting Penner's career as a teacher at: the Seattle Institute of International Relations, 1950-1952; the Institute of International Relations, 1950; California Pacific University, 1977-1979; San Diego State University, n.d.; University of San Diego, 1973-1979; and the University of California, San Diego, 1975-1976.

V. Rabbinical Career, 1928-1986

Box 1, Folders 46-61; Box 2

Included here are records chiefly documenting Rabbi Penner's periods at: the Jacob H. Schiff Center, Bronx, N.Y., 1956-1969, and Beth Tefilah of San Diego, 1965-1986. Also included are a smaller number of records documenting his time at Beth El of Manhattan Beach, 1928-1945, (although he did not begin to serve there until 1944, there are publications that date back as far as 1928); B'nai Jacob of Washington D.C., 1946; and Beth Sholom and Beth Israel, both of Philadelphia, 1953-1956. Of note is material documenting the Schiff Center's Eva Becker Hebrew School, 1968-1969, and a 1977 Beth Tefilah proposal for a "Hebrew School For the Gifted."

VI. Organizations, 1954-1984

Box 3; Box 4, Folders 1-10

This series consists of printed material and correspondence documenting Samuel Penner's involvement in civic and religious organizations either as a founder, an officer or a member. The organizations with the most material included in the collection are: the San Diego Rabbinical Association of which Penner was president, 1974-1980, the San Diego Bureau of Jewish Education, 1969-1983, the Community Relations Council of the Federation, and the University of Judaism, Los Angeles. Of particular note are the proposals/prospectuses written by Samuel Penner for the National Council For Human Development, the Renaissance Foundation For the Advancement of the Arts and Sciences, and the Jewish Heritage Foundation. Also of interest are the publications of the National Conference of Christians and Jews, 1972-1983, the San Diego Ecumenical Conference, 1971-1978, for which he was a featured speaker, a report on the Jewish population of San Diego, 1975, and material of the Rabbinical Assembly, Western Region, 1977- 1981 of which he was vice-president.

VII. Writings, Speeches, and Sermons, 1949-1986; n.d.

Box 4, Folders 11-43; Boxes 5-7

Samuel Penner's sermons on the Torah portions are organized in the order in which the portions are read. A number of sermons for each portion are included. Many of these sermons are not dated, but the overall span of years appears to be 1945-1986. Also included are sermons delivered on all Jewish and national holidays. Included among the sermons are clippings and other printed material concerning the portions.

Also included here are articles, in both draft and published form, and manuscripts of Penner's two unpublished books: Four Dimensions of Paradise and A Jet Tour Through 4,000 Years of Jewish Humor. Of particular note is the manuscript The Revolution of Wisdom - An Evolutionary Guide For the Survival and Enrichment of Life Into the Next Century, a transcription of Jonas Salk's and Samuel Penner's dialogue on biology and religion. Invocations and eulogies are also included here.

VIII. Additional Papers, 1943-1987

Boxes 8-9

A later addition to Samuel Penner's papers consists of: pages from an album (disbound), condolence cards on Samuel Penner's death, festival announcements, news releases, material for Samuel Penner's Yahrzeit tribute, lecture notes, correspondence, clippings, business cards, biographical digests, photographs, and pamphlets.

Of particular interest are the "Mainstream" WNBC television program scripts that Penner wrote between 1956 and 1958. This show was one of the first to attempt an informal method of spiritual programming. The condolence cards, written after Samuel Penner's death in 1986, were sent to Sheba Penner. The cards are from congregants, Penner's colleagues, and Hebrew school children at Beth Tefilah in San Diego.

The disbound album consists of both pages of photographs and pages of clippings documenting the groundbreaking, January 3, 1971 and dedication of Congregation Beth Tefilah in San Diego. Between 1977 and 1979, the San Diego Jewish Press printed news releases in a section called "Heritage" and the typescripts of these news releases are included in the collection.

The correspondence included in the additional papers, 1971-1984, consists of Hebrew correspondence, general correspondence, and personal correspondence.

Also included are Rabbi Penner's business cards for the National Council for Human Development, his pocket calendars, 1945-1986, and two yearbooks from the Herzl Congregation in Seattle, Washington, 1950-1951.


Box List

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