Record Group 18: Herbert H. Lehman Institute for Talmudic Ethics

  • Dates: 1958-1966; (1958-1959, bulk)
  • Size: 5 linear ft.
  • Number of Boxes: 4
  • Languages: English
  • Location: Special Collections Reading Room, Jewish Theological Seminary Library.
  • Restrictions: Jewish Theological Seminary records are available for research, with permission, through 1972; records dating from 1973 and afterward are currently closed. For permission to see records of The Jewish Theological Seminary write to: Archivist, Ratner Center for the Study of Conservative Judaism, Jewish Theological Seminary, 3080 Broadway, New York, NY 10027. Reproduction of fragile items is not permitted; consult the archivist about literary rights.

TK, 5/20/92; EK, 2004

Table of Contents:

A Note on Folder Headings

Individual folders are identified in the following way: record group# -- box# -- folder#, as in R.G.1-10-32. Please use this format in citations and when referring to files for any other reason.

Historical Note

 [see caption]
New York Governor Herbert H. Lehman speaking at commencement, 1939.

The Herbert H. Lehman Institute of Talmudic Ethics, established in 1956 and officially opened in 1958, was composed of several programs that were loosely connected by a common vision and goal. Though some programs were aimed at rabbis and others at rabbinical students, they were all designed to transform attitudes about the Talmud so that it could be used as an ethical guidepost for the modern world. The Institute was named after New York governor Herbert H. Lehman, president of the Seminary's Board of Overseers.

The first program that emerged from the Lehman Institute was the 1958 Summer Institute, a five week summer course held at the Pioneer Country Club in Greenfield Park, New York for members of the Rabbinical Assembly. Participants, referred to as fellows, were charged with the task of using their weeks of study as preparation for independent research projects which would both articulate Talmudic ethics and show their importance and relevance in contemporary life. In order to continue to encourage fellows to forge ahead with their projects, subsequent weekend programs were also implemented. Among those involved in working with the fellows were a number of Seminary faculty members and administrators including Louis Finkelstein, Saul Lieberman, Chaim Z. Dimitrovsky, Mortimer Ostow, Seymour Siegel, and Gerson Cohen, as well as Richard P. McKeon, a University of Chicago philosophy professor who was active in Seminary intergroup activities.

The Lehman Institute continued to evolve through the 1960s and early 1970s, with various programs being added on for students. One of the individuals with an important role in these developments was Rabbi Eugene Wiener, who was appointed by Finkelstein to the position of executive secretary of the Lehman Institute in 1960. By 1961 funding from the newly established Adlai E. Stevenson Foundation was being used both to support student research on the role of Talmudic ethics and to finance statesmen and scholars who were to live and work among Seminary students. Also in the early 1960s, a Special Studies program was developed for the purpose of providing interested rabbinical students with a means of incorporating Lehman Institute goals into their day-to-day studies.

This Special Studies program, which operated separately from the regular Rabbinical school, maintained its own courses, all of which seem to have been in Talmud. Lehman Institute goals were to be achieved through this program in the following manner - students were to be given both intensive Talmud training and the free time to apply their Talmudic knowledge in pursuing research on Talmudic ethics and their contemporary relevance. In order to provide students with the free time to pursue this research, the Special Studies program included fewer course hours than the regular Rabbinical school, and participants were all provided with funding. Closely connected with the Special Studies program was a Ph.D. program associated with the Lehman Institute, which opened during the 1961-1962 academic year. This Ph.D. program, the first to be established at the Seminary, was conceived as a means of training talented Special Studies students for academic careers.

By the late 1970s, the Lehman Institute had ceased operating.

Collection Description

Records of the Herbert H. Lehman Institute of Talmudic Ethics, 1955-1966 (the bulk of written material dates from 1958-1959; tapes are from 1962-1966) document the establishment and evolution of the Lehman Institute, including its student programs, dinners, luncheons, conferences, and summer sessions. Included are correspondence and memoranda; reports; minutes and transcripts of meetings; lists of participants; evaluations; application materials; invitations; publicity materials; brochures; clippings; notes; photographs; forty-eight reel-to-reel tapes and one phonographic record.

The material documenting the early phases of the organization and administration of the Lehman Institute (Series I) consists primarily of correspondence, memoranda, and reports about the goals, early activities and future plans for the Institute. Of particular interest is material related to Rabbi Eugene Wiener, who became responsible for activating future programs of the Lehman Institute after Dr. Finkelstein appointed him to the position of executive secretary. Rabbi Wiener's progress report to Dr. Finkelstein on the Lehman Institute provides a very critical evaluation of the achievements and failures of the Institute's early years.

A variety of materials are related to the evolution of the student programs sponsored by the Lehman Institute (Series II). Included among these are applications to sit for the Special Studies program exams, correspondence about establishing new programs such as the Ph.D. program and the "Jewish Peace Corps" (including the Lehman Institute Program for South America), lists of program participants, drafts of program goals, and reports on program achievements and shortcomings.

Dinners, luncheons, and conferences sponsored by the Institute (Series III) are documented primarily through correspondence, invitations, meeting agendas, lists of participants, and reel-to-reel tapes of speeches and discussions. Many of the speeches were recorded at the Conference on the Moral Implications of the Rabbinate held in 1962. Speakers recorded at the conference include Rabbis Ben Zion Bokser, Robert Gordis, Simon Greenberg, Isaac Klein, Seymour Siegel, and others. Speakers at other Lehman Institute events recorded here include: Louis Finkelstein, Herbert Gans, Eli Ginzberg, Abraham Heschel, Bayard Rustin, and others. Of particular interest is a transcript, with corrections, of a discussion of Finkelstein's paper, Talmudic Wisdom as a Guide to Major Decisions, which includes the comments of Drs. Richard McKeon, Sol W. Ginsburg, Edmond Cahn and Harold Lasswell (see box 2, folder 7). Also of special interest is a transcript of John F. Kennedy's speech from the Testimonial Dinner at the Waldorf on November 23, 1958 (see box 2, folder 1)

The bulk of summer session materials (Series IV) includes correspondence, memoranda, attendance lists, lists of themes for study, course schedules, material documenting arrangements, and other material. There are a number of items of particular interest in this section. A memorandum from Bernard Mandelbaum dated December 28, 1959 is instructive for understanding the early views on the establishment and role of the Ph.D. program (see box 2, folder 18). Some ideas about the participants' interests can be drawn from the file entitled, "Summer Sessions, Fellows' Project Consultation Reports, June 16-18, 1959," (box 2, folder 17) which documents the topics chosen by fellows for their research projects. Materials documenting some of the activities of the Rabbis' wives and children during the 1958 Summer Institute at the Pioneer Country Club can be found in this series. Finally there is a letter from Finkelstein to Rabbi Armond Cohen in which he discusses his views on Reconstructionist Judaism (see: "Summer Sessions, 1958 Summer Session, Correspondence to/from Rabbis, Reservations, Invitations, Rabbinic Cabinet", box 2, folder 21).

Also included are papers from two conferences, Conference on the Moral Implications of the Rabbinate, Fall, 1963, and On Being a Rabbi, Winter, 1964. Record Group 11, Communications Department files, contains additional material from the Conference on the Moral Implications of the Rabbinate.

Box List

Box Folder(s) Description 
  I. Organization & Administration, ca. 1955-1966
11Brochure - The Moral Dimension, 1959
 2Committee structure, ca. 1958
 3Corerspondence, ("men other than rabbis"), 1955-1956
 4Fellows lists, ca.1958
 5-6Letters of praise, 1958
 7George Meany Foundation, 1962-1966
 8-10Memoranda, 1956-1962
 11-12Organization (reports and memoranda), ca. 1957-1959
 13Publicity, 1958
 14Report to Governor Lehman, July 31, 1958
 15Requisitions, 1957-1957
 16Sabbatical Award, 1965
 17Steering Committee, meetings (minutes and memoranda), 1958-1959
 18Suggested questions and discussions, 1957
 19Themes for study, 1958-1959
  II. Student Programs, 1958-1963
 20Graduate Records Examinations, 1960-1961
 21Peace Corps (Lehman Institute Proram for South America; other student matters), 1961-1962
 22Ph.D. Program, Organization of, 1961-1962
 23Postgraduate programs, 1959-1962
 24-25Seminary Board of Overseers, (reports and memoranda about Lehman Institute), 1958-1962
 26-30Special Studies and Ph.d. programs, 1960-1962; 1963
 31Teaching fellowship, 1962
  III. Dinners, Luncheons, & Conferences, 1958-1962
 32-33Conferences, 1958; 1962
 34-35Dinners, 1958-1960
21-4Dinners, 1958
 5-13Fellows' Meetings, 1958-1959
 14-15Press conferences, May-June, 1958
 16"Talmudic Wisdom and Major Decision-Making," by Finkelstein, Feb. 5, 1959 (reference to unavailable file).
  Tapes, 1962-1966
3 S222 - S257
4 S258 - S270
  IV. Summer Sessions, 1958-1959
217Fellows' Project consultation reports, June 16-18, 1959
 18Memo from Bernard Mandelbaum about Lehman Institute summer session, Dec. 28, 1959
 19-25Arrangements, attendance lists, correspondence, memoranda, forms, proceedings, course schedule, themes for study, 1958
 26Memoranda, lists, 1958-1959
 27-28Memoranda, schedules, lists, etc., 1959
  V. Conference Papers, 1963-1964
      Conference on the Moral Implications of the Rabbinate, Fall, 1963
41    Block, Asher, "Three Pillers of the Synagogue"
      Bloom, Jacob, "Some Personal Reflections on the Rabbis' March to Birmingham"
      Bokser, Ben Zion, "Moral Leadership: The Efficacy of Patience"
      Chertoff, Gershon, "Power of the Word"
      Dresner, Samuel, "The Springfield Funeral Story"
      Eisenstein, Ira, "Some Experiences in Counseling"
      Fenster, Myron, "Of Rabbinic Morality"
      Kazis, Israel, "Reflections on Rabbinic Leadership"
 2    Kling, Simcha, "The Teaching of Adults and Young People as an Effective Use of the Rabbinic Calling"
      Rabiniowitz, Stanley, "In Search of Wealth"
      Rosenberg, Yaakov, "The Rabbi as Teacher"
      Rosenthal, Gilbert, "The Moral Effectiveness of the Rabbinate"
      Rubinstein, Morris, "The Moral Impact of a Jewish Chaplain Upon a Jewish Soldier in Helping Him to Adjust to Military Life"
      Schorsch, Emil, "A Rabbi's Potential Influence Upon the Development of a Moral-Religious Conscience"
      Shanblatt, Sanford, "Personal Counselling: An Effective Means of Education and Communication"
      Silverman, Hillel, "Formation of Moral Chracter Through Saturday Morning Pulpit Dialogue Directed to Junior Congregation"
      Teplitz, Saul, "The Effectiveness of the Sermon"
      On Being a Rabbi, Winter, 1964
 3    Aronson, David, "Rabbis, Assistants, Emeriti"
      Clayman, David, "A Third Dimension in Human Relations"
      Golstein, Alexander, "The Rabbis Relations with his Colleagues in a Large Metropolitan Area"
      Lipnick, Bernard, "Relations Between a Rabbi and Assistant Rabbi"