Guide to the Papers of Morris Gordon (1914-2005), undated, 1937-2006
 
*P-910

Processed by Sarah Glover

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

Email: reference@ajhs.org

URL: http://www.ajhs.org

© 2014, American Jewish Historical Society, Boston, MA and New York, NY. All Rights Reserved.
Machine-readable finding aid created by Sarah Glover as MS Word document, June 2011. Finding aid was encoded by Marvin Rusinek on June 20, 2011. Description is in English.

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Gordon, Morris
Title: Morris Gordon, papers
Dates:undated, 1937-2006
Abstract: This collection documents the life of Rabbi Morris Gordon, particularly the time he spent serving as a chaplain in Burma and China during World War II. Included in the collection are letters, photographs, maps, newspapers and newspaper clippings, and sermons and other short religious writings. Of particular interest are letters written to Gordon’s wife while he was stationed in the Pacific detailing his daily activities, as well as essays written by German refugee children in Shanghai entitled “Home is Where My Heart Is.” Also included is Gordon’s autobiography.
Languages: The collection is in predominately English, with some Hebrew and Chinese.
Quantity: 2.2 linear feet (1 manuscript box, one oversized box, and one oversized folder)
Identification: P-910
Repository: American Jewish Historical Society
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Biographical Note

Morris Gordon (1914-2005)

Morris Gordon was born on August 25, 1914, in Russian-occupied Baronovich. At the time of his birth, Morris's father Isaac had already immigrated to America, along with his uncle Haskell. Until the rest of the family was able to immigrate to the United States, Morris's mother Esther, aunt Sylvia, old sister Sonia, and cousin Sam worked at their grocery store, supplying the village and the Czarist soldiers stationed nearby. They left Baronovich under the cover of darkness and sailed to America, where they settled in Albany, New York.

Along with other immigrant children, Gordon attended Community Hebrew School, where his father was the principal. In the summer of 1927, shortly before Gordon's Bar Mitzvah, the family moved to the Bronx so that Gordon could continue his Hebrew studies. He began by attending a local Hebrew school in the mornings and DeWitt Clinton High School in the afternoon. However, the local Hebrew school was not challenging enough, and he was soon accepted to the Hebrew Institute of the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Yeshiva. After graduating from high school, Gordon enrolled at City College of New York, where he received a bachelor's degree in social science, studying anthropology and sociology. In the middle of his senior year, Gordon married Frances Feigelson. Upon graduation in 1936, he applied to both Columbia Law School and Jewish Theological Seminary of America. Though he received a tuition scholarship to Columbia, it was not nearly enough, so Gordon attended the Jewish Theological Seminary. Acceptance to the seminary was a great honor, and came with a $5,000 a year stipend. With his room and board taken care of by the seminary, Gordon was then able to get a master's degree in economics and history from Columbia as well. He graduated from seminary as a Rabbi with Distinction, winning awards in Jewish literature, cantorial music, and public speaking. In 1972, the seminary awarded him an honorary doctorate.

When WWII began, Gordon enlisted in the army, but was not called up. A year into the war, he joined a boyhood friend as a chaplain in the U.S. army. He was sent to a station in Burma, where the "Fighting Tenth" Air Force was responsible for bombing missions that would protect the Burma Road. Gordon was the first Jewish chaplain to serve in the region of Burma, China, and India, and he was responsible for providing services for soldiers of all faith. Gordon volunteered to be the first chaplain to make the trip up the Burma Road, leading services for troops along the way. Gordon was awarded a Bronze Star after he was injured by a bomb while trying to cross a river. After the war, Gordon worked with German-Jewish refugee children in the Jewish ghetto in Shanghai. He was eventually able to get over a thousand orphaned children on a boat to Palestine.

After the war, Gordon served as a rabbi at Temple Adath Jeshurun in Minneapolis from 1946 to 1952. In 1952, Gordon, his wife, and two children moved to Washington, D.C., where he worked as a "freelance" rabbi. He would receive a call from a small group of families who were trying to build a congregation, but did not yet have enough money for a full-time rabbi. He would make himself available for no charge until the new congregation was large enough to afford a full-time rabbi, and then move on to the next congregation. He helped found eight congregations in the Washington area, including Mishkan Torah (Bethesda, MD), Olam Tikvah (Greenbelt, MD), Har Shalom (Potomac, MD), Beth Shalom (Columbia, MD), Beth Tikvah (Rockville, MD), and the Gaithersburg Hebrew Congregation (Gaithersburg, MD).

After the death of his first wife, Gordon married Lori Heyman Eisenberg, with whom he founded Practical Applications of Intimate Relationship Skills (PAIRS), a program for couples struggling with their marriages. Gordon decided to make PAIRS and saving marriages his new purpose in life. Gordon worked with PAIRS until his death on March 8, 2005, in Falls Church, Virginia. He was buried with full military honors in Arlington Cemetery in Washington, D.C., only the third rabbi to receive this honor.

References

Morris, Gordon and Lori Gordon. Dare to Be…The Autobiography of Rabbi Morris Gordon. Lulu Press, 2006.

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Scope and Content Note

This collection documents the life of Rabbi Morris Gordon, particularly the time he spent serving as a chaplain in Burma and China during World War II. Included in the collection are letters, photographs, maps, newspapers and newspaper clippings, and sermons and other short religious writings. Of particular interest are letters written to Gordon's wife while he was stationed in the Pacific detailing his daily activities, as well as essays written by German refugee children in Shanghai entitled "Home is Where My Heart Is." Also included is Gordon's autobiography.

Kept separately are artifacts from Gordon's time as a chaplain in Burma and China during World War II, including binoculars in a leather case, a knife, a leather pouch, a watch, a sign reading "Chaplain," a magnifying glass, a Bronze Star, chaplain insignia, 10 Commandment pins, captain insignia, dog tags, a metal bracelet, and a small wooden box containing a Japanese signature stamp and red wax. The box list includes oak leaf cluster battle decorations, but these items were not found.

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Arrangement

The collection is arranged into a single series as follows:

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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

Information concerning the literary rights may be obtained from the Director of Library and Archives of the American Jewish Historical Society. Users must apply in writing for permission to quote, reproduce or otherwise publish manuscript materials found in this collection. For more information contact:
American Jewish Historical Society, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY, 10011
email: reference@ajhs.org

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Related Material

Artifacts from Rabbi Morris Gordon's collection are located in the American Jewish Historical Society's Museum Collection. Items may be viewed by clicking here.

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Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form:
Identification of item, date (if known); Morris Gordon, papers; P-910; box number; folder number; American Jewish Historical Society, Boston, MA and New York, NY.

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Acquisition Information

Donated by Lori Heyman Gordon in August 2008.

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Access Points

Click on a subject to search that term in the Center's catalog. Return to the Top of Page

Container List

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

 

Papers of Morris Gordon, undated, 1937-2006

English with some Chinese and Hebrew.
2.2 linear feet (1 manuscript box, one oversized box, and one oversized folder)
Arrangement:

Arranged chronologically.

Scope and Content:

See collection Scope and Content Note.

BoxFolderTitleDate
11Letters to Frances GordonApril-June 1945
12Letters to Frances GordonJuly-September 1945
13Letters to Frances GordonOctober-November 1945
14Maps1944-1945
15Papers of Fred Levi1945-1946
16"Home Is Where My Heart Is"1945
17Chinese-Language Materialsundated
18Various Synagogue Bulletinsundated, 1944-1945, 1975
19Sermons and Other Religious Writingsundated, 1971
110Letters to Morris Gordonundated, 1937-2002
111Letters from Morris Gordonundated, 1945, 1977, 2002
112Newspaper Clippingsundated, 1944-2001
113Notesundated, 1971
114Graduation Tickets1972
115Brochuresundated
116Dare to Be: The Autobiography of Morris Gordon2005
117Memorial Booklets2005-2006
118Photographsundated, 1945, 1960, 1971
119Audiovisual Material2005-2006
BoxFolderTitleDate
2 (OS1)Artifactsundated
BoxFolderTitleDate
OS11Newspaper Clippings, Oversized1945
OS11Chinese-Language Materialsundated
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