Guide to the Papers of Col. Bernard L. Gorfinkle (1889-1973), undated, 1916-1979 (bulk 1916-1919, 1940-1943)

Processed by Claire B. Farkas (1994), reprocessed by Stephanie Call (2007)

Jewish Heritage Center at NEHGS

99-101 Newbury St.

Boston, MA 02116



© 2019  Jewish Heritage Center at NEHGS, Boston, MA. All Rights Reserved.
Machine-readable finding aid created by Stephanie Call as MS Word document, November 19, 2007. Finding aid was encoded by Marvin Rusinek on December 5, 2007. Description is in English.

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Gorfinkle, Bernard Louis (1889-1973)
Title: Bernard Louis Gorfinkle papers
Dates:undated, 1916-1979
Abstract: Consists of correspondence, photographs, newspaper clippings, ephemera, documents and a scrapbook compiled by a Boston area lawyer and civic leader who served in the United States Army during both World Wars and was a participant in the negotiations leading to the Treaty of Versailles and the Paris Peace Conference in 1919.
Languages: The collection is predominantly in English, with Hebrew, and French.
Quantity: 1.5 linear feet (3 manuscript boxes); 1 oversized folder
Identification: P-664
Repository: American Jewish Historical Society
Location: Located at AJHS, Boston, MA.
Return to the Top of Page

Biographical Note

Col. Bernard L. Gorfinkle (1889-1973)

A U.S. attorney and community leader, Bernard L. Gorfinkle was born on October 29, 1889 to Harris and Sarah (Miliontaler) Gorfinkle in Boston, Massachusetts. He married Frieda Edinberg on June 7, 1921 and had three children-Herbert, Ruth (later Ruth Gorfinkle Roberts) and Sara.

After graduating from Boston University Law School in 1911, he was admitted to the Massachusetts and Federal Bar the same year and practiced law in Boston, Massachusetts. Upon his discharge from the Army in 1919 he returned to private corporate law practice, and worked in every department of a large bank with legal work, establishing branches and new departments, supervising brokerage houses and businesses of all sorts.

Bernard L. Gorfinkle's military career began in 1913 when he enlisted in the Massachusetts cavalry and served at the Mexican border as a sergeant under General Pershing. Upon the entrance of the U.S. into World War I he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the American Expeditionary Forces. He participated in seven major battles and was wounded twice at Verdun, and promoted on the battlefield from second lieutenant to Captain Judge Advocate in the 26th Yankee Division. After the Armistice he was assigned to the American Peace Commission as secretary and military aide to Bernard M. Baruch. He was appointed Secretary of the Raw Materials Section of the Supreme Economic Council, and Paris representative of the Rhineland Commission. He was present at the signing of the Versailles Treaty in 1919 as a military aide to President W. Wilson.

Bernard L. Gorfinkle was decorated by the U.S. government, the French government and knighted by the King of Belgium at the close of World War I.

In 1919 he became a member of the Reserve Corps of the Army with the rank of Colonel. After the entrance of the United States in World War II, upon recommendation of President Roosevelt and approval of the U.S. Senate, he was appointed as Field Supervisor of the War Manpower Commissions for New England. In 1962, he was promoted to Brigadier General by Governor John Volpe from Massachusetts.

His wide-ranging interest in Jewish life led him to be co-founder and commander of the Jewish War Veterans Post of Newton, Massachusetts. He also was the founder, first president and honorary president of the Newton Squash and Tennis Club. He served as director of the Hebrew Rehabilitation Center for the Aged, the Multiple Sclerosis Society and the Boston Brandeis Club, and was an honorary trustee of Beth Israel Hospital. He was organizer and first president of the New England graduates of Zeta Beta Tan, and past president and administrator of the New Century Club and its students aid fund. He was active in many different local, state and national organizations, such as the Gorfinkle Foundation and the YMHA of France. He served in an executive capacity in many businesses, communal, athletic and social organizations. He was a member of the Temple Ohabei Shalom in Brookline, Massachusetts, American Friends of Hebrew University, the American Legion, Disabled American Veterans and the American Jewish Historical Society.1

1 Compiled on the basis of archival documents in the Papers of Bernard L. Gorfinkle as well as from data presented in "The Universal Jewish Encyclopedia, vol. 5, p. 67 (1941); Who's Who in World Jewry (1965 and 1972), p. 354; Biographical Encyclopedia of American Jews (1935), p. 191.

Chronology of the Life of Col. Bernard L. Gorfinkle

1889BLG born in Boston, Massachusetts
1906Graduates from Boston English High School
1911L.L.B., Boston University Law School
1913Pvt., Massachusetts Cavalry
1916Sergeant, Mexican Border Service
1917Second Lieutenant, American Expeditionary Forces
1918Promoted in the field to Captain Judge Advocate in the 26th Yankee Division; wounded twice in France
1918Acting Jewish Chaplain
1918Trail Judge Advocate
1919Delegate, American Peace Commission & Commission on Germany
1919Secretary & Military Aide to Bernard M. Baruch
1919Secretary of the Raw Materials Section of the Supreme Economic Council
1919Paris Representative, Rhineland Commission
1919Colonel, U.S. Army Reserve Corps.
1919Military Aide to President Woodrow Wilson
1919Judge Advocate, Maritime Affairs, New York
1921Marries Frieda Edinberg
1932State Department Judge Advocate, JWV
1942-1945New England Field Supervisor, War Manpower Commission
1953-1957Colonel, military aide to Governor Herter of Massachusetts
1962Military aide to Governor John Volpe of Massachusetts
1962Brigadier General, promoted by Governor J. Volpe, Massachusetts
1973BLG dies
Military HonorsU.S. Service Medal, seven stars (1919)
Purple Heart (1919); Medals of Verdun, Chateau Thierry, St. Mihiel, Le Havre, BelleWoods (1919)
Belgian Order of the Crown (1919)
Return to the Top of Page

Scope and Content Note

The Papers of Bernard L. Gorfinkle reflect his family attachment, and his pride in being a member of the U.S. Army, having served his country in World Wars I and II. Though the collection does not preserve the total volume of his papers, its importance goes beyond the individual whose life these papers represent.

The collection is valuable to researchers studying the events in France and in Germany during World War I, when Bernard Gorfinkle served as part of the official U.S. team negotiating the Treaty of Versailles. The papers also highlight his interests and concerns during World War II, when he was reinstated in the Army for active duty.

The collection contains family and official U.S. Army correspondence, legal documents, reports, financial documents, telegrams, newspaper clippings, press releases, handwritten notes, photographs, a scrapbook, pension materials and Supreme Economic Council documents. These documents are primarily in English, with some documents in Hebrew or French.

Return to the Top of Page


The collection is arranged into three series, as described below:

Return to the Top of Page

Access and Use

Access Restrictions

The collection is open to all researchers by permission of the Director of Collections and Engagement 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

Return to the Top of Page

Related Material

Papers of the Milontaler Family (P-553)
Papers of the Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Boston (I-220)
Papers of the New Century Club of Boston (I-95)

Return to the Top of Page

Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form:
Identification of item, date (if known); Bernard Louis Gorfinkle papers; P-664; box number; folder number; Jewish Heritage Center at NEHGS.

Return to the Top of Page

Acquisition Information

The collection was donated to AJHS in 1992 by Sara Gorfinkle. Additional papers were donated in 1995 (donor unknown).

Return to the Top of Page

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.

Click the box in the request column to learn more about viewing materials at the Jewish Heritage Center at NEHGS.


Series I: Correspondence, undated, 1916-1970

The series is in English.
0.5 linear feet. Box 1.

Alphabetical by folder and chronological.

Scope and Content:

This series consists of personal correspondence and telegrams addressed to his mother and siblings during his years of service during World War I, as well as a small amount of the personal correspondence of his sister, Bess. Additional personal and business related correspondence is also included in this series. Family correspondence includes letters to his sisters Bess, Clara and Ida, his brother Emmanuel (Men) and his brother-in-law Mark (husband of Clara.) Most correspondence is in its original form, followed by its typescript.

1 1-4 Family undated, 1916-1919 request_box
1 5 Family/Gorfinkle, Bess 1918-1919 request_box
1 6 Letters of Reference 1938, 1942 request_box
1 7 Personal undated, 1917-1918, 1944-1945, 1949, 1969-1970 request_box
Return to the Top of Page

Series II: General, undated, 1917-1995

The series is in English.
0.5 linear feet. Box 2.

Alphabetical by folder and chronological.

Scope and Content:

This series contains miscellaneous materials, such as biographical information, diary excerpts, photographs, newspaper clippings, a scrapbook and ephemera. Of interest is the scrapbook, which was once a French bank ledger book rescued from the bombed out rubble of a bank, and a photograph of proceedings following the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. Oversized materials consist of a declaration in honor of Frieda Gorfinkle's 100th birthday, and a framed caricature of Bernard Gorfinkle's high school class.

2 1 Biographical Information undated request_box
2 2 Diary & Correspondence Typescripts 1916-1949 request_box
2 3 Ephemera undated request_box
2 4 Freida Gorfinkle 1992, 1995 request_box
2 5 New Century Club of Boston 1950-1969 request_box
2 6 News Clippings undated, 1901, 1942-1945, 1950-1961, 1970 request_box
2 7 Photographs undated, 1913-1918, 1940-1973, 1992 request_box
2 8 YMHA 1918-1919 request_box
2 Scrapbook 1918-1956 request_box
OS2 Oversized Material undated, 1992 request_box
Return to the Top of Page

Series III: Military Service, undated, 1917-1965

The series is in English.
0.5 linear feet. Box 3.

Alphabetical by folder and chronological.

Scope and Content:

This series contains correspondence regarding Gorfinkle's service in the army, including World War I, World War II, court marshals, and the Supreme Economic Council of 1919. Of particular note is the Draft for the Treaty with Germany, a precursor to the Treaty of Versailles.

3 1 Army Documentation 1917-1919, 1945 request_box
3 2-7 Correspondence 1917-1949 request_box
3 8 Legal Cases 1916, 1919, 1945, 1965 request_box
3 9 Supreme Economic Council 1919 request_box
Return to the Top of Page