Guide to the Papers of Isadore Breslau
(1897-1978), 1911-1975


Processed by Rachel Elisa Reiner

American Jewish Historical Society

Center for Jewish History

15 West 16th Street

New York, N.Y. 10011

Phone: (212) 294-6160

Fax: (212) 294-6161



© 2015, American Jewish Historical Society, Boston, MA and New York, NY. All Rights Reserved.
Machine-readable finding aid created by Adina Anflick as MS Word document, July 10, 2001. Electronic finding aid converted to EAD 1.0 by Tanya Elder. March 2002. Description is in English.
April 2005. Converted to EAD 2002. Revised as IBreslau02.xml by Tanya Elder. Removed deprecated elements and attributes, updated repository codes, added language codes, changed doctype declaration, etc. January 2006. Entities removed from EAD finding aid.

Descriptive summary

Creator: Breslau, Isadore (1897-1978)
Title: Isadore Breslau Papers
Dates: 1911-1975
Abstract: Personal papers of Rabbi Isadore Breslau, including World War II military chaplaincy documents and correspondence with figures in the American Zionist Movement. Materials include: confidential memoranda, reports, minutes, financial and legal documents, newspaper clippings, conference agendas, handwritten notes, prayer books and chaplaincy photographs.
Languages: The collection is in English with one document in Yiddish.
Quantity: 1.5 linear feet
Accession number: P-507
Repository: American Jewish Historical Society
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Biographical Note

The 1980 American Jewish Yearbook states that Rabbi Isadore Breslau was born in Kabilnik, Russia, on January 19, 1897. However, his military records indicate that he was born on January 20th the same year in Russia. He came to the United States in 1906. However, it is unclear when or where he met his wife, Julia. The War Department documents state that he had two children, however; reference is only found to a daughter Ruth who attended Goucher College, though the Breslaus also had a son, Joel.

Rabbi Breslau served in the United States Navy during World War I and graduated from New York University and New York State College, where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree. He continued his studies at Albany Law School and the Jewish Institute of Religion. He occupied pulpits at the Washington Heights Free Synagogue and the 82nd Street Synagogue, both in New York; Temple Israel in Waterbury, Connecticut and in Washington D.C.

He served as Director of the American Zionist Bureau for two years beginning in 1939 for the two-year duration of the Bureau’s existence. In 1939, he was also elected as an American delegate to the World Zionist Congress in Geneva. He was then appointed Executive Director of the Zionist Organization of America in 1940, a position he kept for almost two years.

Having headed the Louis D. Brandeis Zionist District of Washington for a number of years, Rabbi Breslau also served as the Chairman of the United Palestine Appeal of the Seaboard Region. He acted as Co-Chair for the United Jewish Appeal in Washington D.C. prior to his entry into and after his release from the Army. In addition, he was a member of the National United Jewish Appeal Executive and the Quota and Allocations Committee.

In 1943, he decided to re-enlist in the United States Military, this time to serve as a Chaplain and to learn more about the War effort from within. After ten months in Daytona Beach, Florida, he was assigned to the European Theater and became the first Jewish Chaplain in Berlin, Germany.

After his release from the United States Military, he served as Department Chaplain for the Department of the District of Columbia Jewish War Veterans of the United States. He continued his involvement in Jewish activities and organizations as President of the Jewish Community Council of Washington in 1953 and President of the American Association for Jewish Education, instrumental in the establishment of both.

In addition to being a Rabbi and Chaplain, Rabbi Breslau was also a very successful businessman. He and other investors founded the Mill End Shops in Washington D.C. His concern for the community led him to civic affairs and he served as the Chairman of the Bond Committee of the City of Washington.

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Scope and Content Note

The Papers of Isadore Breslau consist of various documents and correspondence pertaining to the Jewish organizational activities in which Rabbi Breslau participated. This collection is highly valuable to researchers interested in the American Zionist movement during the late 1930s and early 1940s. Primarily focusing on Breslau’s associations with the American Zionist Bureau (1939-1940), the Emergency Refugee Committee (1938-1940), and the Zionist Organization of America (1940-1941), this collection also includes papers from the time of his involvement with the American Association for Jewish Education (1964-1968). Breslau’s correspondence with important members of the American Zionist movement, the most prominent of whom are Justice Louis D. Brandeis, Stephen S. Wise, Robert Szold, Solomon Goldman, and Maurice M. Boukstein are also contained in this collection.

Of special interest are the letters and memorabilia regarding the stationing of Rabbi Breslau as a United States Army Chaplain in Daytona Beach, Florida, in 1943.

The documents are entirely in English, except for one Yiddish paper. The material is found in the form of correspondence, confidential memoranda, cables, reports, minutes, financial and legal documents, newspaper clippings, press releases, conference agendas and information, and handwritten notes. Folders are arranged in chronological order corresponding roughly to the original filing system of Isadore Breslau

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See description of individual boxes.


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Access and Use

Access Restrictions

The collection is open to all researchers by permission of the Director of Library and Archives of the American Jewish Historical Society, except items that are restricted due to their fragility.

Use Restrictions

There may be some restrictions on the use of the collection. For more information, contact:
American Jewish Historical Society, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY 10011

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Related Material

Related materials can be found in the Stephen Wise Papers.

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The Papers of Isadore Breslau were donated to the Society by his children Joel Breslau (1981.090) and Ruth Breslau Fein (1993.134, 1994.061).

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Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form:
Identification of item, date (if known); Isadore Breslau Papers; P-507; box number; folder number; American Jewish Historical Society, New York, NY, and Boston, MA.

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Container List

The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.

Click the box in the request column to open the form that allows you to request a box for onsite viewing in the reading room at the Center for Jewish History, New York, NY.


Box 1, 1930-1948

Scope and Content:

Isadore Breslau kept much of his correspondences with significant figures in the American Zionist Movement. He also wrote memoranda to himself after important meetings that delve into the reasons behind certain actions taken by organizations and the thought processes regarding different issues. Topics discussed include the Zionist Organization of America, United States political dealings with Britain, the Emergency Committee, the Palestine Economic Corporation, and personal notes and comments. References are made to Chaim Weizmann, Ed I. Kaufmann, and Lord Lothian of the British Embassy.

Box Folder Title Date Request
1 1 Confidential Memoranda 1939-1940 request_box
1 2 Louis Dembitz Brandeis Correspondence 1939-1940 request_box
1 3-4 Robert Szold Correspondence 1939-1940 request_box
1 5 Maurice M. Boukstein Correspondence 1939-1940 request_box
1 6-9 Solomon Goldman Correspondence 1939-1940 request_box
1 10 Stephen S. Wise Correspondence 1939-1948 request_box
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Box 2, 1911-1975

Scope and Content:

These files contain many valuable resources concerning the Zionist organizations as well as Breslau’s association with them. Of special interest are a transcript of Woodrow Wilson’s address at Carnegie Hall, December 6, 1911, the Balfour Declaration of 1917, the Churchill White Paper of June 3, 1922, a record of events and transcripts to the 44th annual convention of the Zionist Organization of America, a list of leading rabbis in the Zionist field, the proceedings up to and including a nationwide appeal for the pledging of allegiance to Palestine (a response to Churchill’s 1939 decree on Jewish rights in Palestine), and a financial report of the American Zionist Bureau.

Box Folder Title Date Request
2 11 American Zionist Bureau 1911-1940 request_box
2 12 General Zionist Affairs 1911-1975 request_box
2 13-14 Emergency Refugee Committee 1938-1939 request_box
2 15 Personal Correspondence 1938-1964 request_box
2 16 Zionist Organization of America 1938-1943 request_box
2 17 Zionist Organization of America, 44th Annual Convention 1941 request_box
2 18 Zionist Organization of America, Intergroup Relations 1943 request_box
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Box 3, 1943-1953, 1964-1968

Scope and Content:

In 1943, when Rabbi Breslau decided to re-enlist in the United States Military, he was assigned First Lieutenant and the only Jewish chaplain in the Women’s Army Corps. Stationed in Daytona Beach, Florida, he quickly became an important member of the civilian and military community. He scheduled regular Friday night services and organized a choir to follow the liturgy in Hebrew and English. He began weekly study sessions and ran holiday observance services. He was a confidant as well as a religious leader and advisor to the enlisted women. After his release from the Army, his most significant work was concentrate in the establishment of the American Association for Jewish Education. Most noteworthy in these files are a report on Auschwitz from 1945, military prayer and songbooks, and the text of Breslau’s address at the fifth national conference of the American Association for Jewish Education in 1965.

Box Folder Title Date Request
3 19 Chaplaincy Certificates and Newspaper Articles 1943-1953 request_box
3 20 Chaplaincy Prayer Books and Songbook 1943-1946 request_box
3 21-22 Chaplaincy Correspondence 1943;1944-1948 request_box
3 23 Chaplaincy Photographs 1943-1945 request_box
3 24 War Department Records 1944-1949 request_box
3 25 Synagogue Council of America 1954 request_box
3 26-31 American Association for Jewish Education Correspondence and Address 1962-1968 request_box
3 32 American Association for Jewish Education Newpaper Articles 1965-1968 request_box
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