Guide to the Papers of Rabbi Richard J. Israel Papers, undated, 1949-1996 (bulk 1980-1992)

Processed by Stephanie Call

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, August 12, 2008. Finding aid was encoded by Marvin Rusinek on October 29, 2008. Description is in English.

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Rabbi Richard J. Israel
Title: Rabbi Richard J. Israel, papers
Dates:undated, 1949-1996 (bulk 1980-1992)
Abstract: Rabbi Richard J. Israel was born in 1929 in Chicago. After attending the University of Chicago and Hebrew Union College, Rabbi Israel began his lengthy career in Hillel at the University of California, Los Angeles. He later worked at Hillel at Yale University, followed by an Executive Director position at the Hillel Council of Greater Boston. Rabbi Israel was also the Director of Central Services and Judaica at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Boston and was the Director of the Rabbinic Program at Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. In addition to his work on college campuses and in Jewish education, he was the author of "The Kosher Pig and Other Curiosities of Modern Jewish Life" and "Jewish Identity Games: A How to do it Book." The bulk of this collection contains resources and information pertaining to his career at the Jewish Community Center, although there are several documents regarding his work in Hillel and Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. In addition, a brief memoir of his trip to the Soviet Union in 1974 is included, as well as copies of various Black Panther newspapers from New Haven, Connecticut.
Languages: The collection is in English.
Quantity: 4 cubic feet (4 document boxes)
Identification: P-860
Repository: American Jewish Historical Society
Location: Located at AJHS, Boston, MA.
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Biographical Note1

Rabbi Richard Israel was born in 1929 in Chicago to Isidore and Julia Israel. R.I. and his sister, Lorna, were raised in the South Shore of Chicago. Until the Depression, his father and uncles owned millinery stores; once the stores failed Isidore Israel worked as a jobber of women's hats. R.I.'s mother began her career as a dress seller before eventually becoming a buyer of children's clothing.

Prior to attending the University of Chicago, R.I. changed his name to Richard Cordell per the suggestion of his father, who was known professionally as Irving Cordell. In 1950, R.I. graduated from the University of Chicago. It was during college that R.I. became involved with Hillel, eventually entering Hebrew Union College. While at Hebrew Union College, R.I. studied for a year in Israel. He was ordained in 1957.

R.I. spent several years working in Hillel organizations. His first job was as Associate Director of the Hillel at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). He held this job until 1959, when he then became the Director of the Yale University Hillel. In 1971, R.I. left Yale for the Executive Director position at the Hillel Council of Greater Boston.

In 1985, R.I. began his tenure as the Director of Central Services and Judaica at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Boston. In this position, R.I. was responsible for programming activities and was heavily involved in the operations of the organization. After leaving the JCC, R.I. served as Director of the Rabbinic Program for the College Campus of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College.

R.I. was also the past-president of the National Association of Hillel Directors, the Yale Religious Ministry, served on the Genocide Convention Committee of the National Community Relations Advisory Council, and authored The Kosher Pig and Other Curiosities of Modern Jewish Life and Jewish Identity Games: A How to Do it Book. He also served as Chief Rabbi of India for six months. In 1974, R.I. traveled to the Soviet Union to help establish a network for Refuseniks.

In addition to his rabbinical duties, R.I. was known to be an avid beekeeper and marathon runner. He and his wife Sherry had four children: Alisa, David, Rachel, and Joshua. R.I. died in July 2000 at the age of 71, while hiking in New Hampshire with his son, Joshua.

1 Biographical Note based on information from the following: Richard J. Israel Papers finding aid (American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati, OH #722); "Hesped for Rabbi Richard James Israel" by Rabbi Benjamin J. Samuels, July 14, 2000; "The Making of an American Rabbi: A Conversation with Richard Israel" by William Novak, Kerem, 1992.


1929RI born in Chicago
1950Graduates from University of Chicago
1957Ordained at Hebrew Union College
1957-1959At UCLA
1959-1971Hillel Director at Yale University
1971-1985Regional Director of Hillel Council of Greater Boston
1985Retires from Hillel; begins tenure at the JCC of Greater Boston
2000RI dies
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Scope and Content Note

The bulk of this collection contains organizational resources from R.I.'s tenure at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Boston. A small amount of material is included in the collection that refers to his work with various Hillel organizations. In addition to organizational resources, numerous Judaic resources on topics relating to intermarriage, kashrut, Soviet Jewry, matchmaking and camping are included in the collection.

The JCC subseries also contains material relating to other JCCs around the country, including Memphis, Chicago and Los Angeles. During R.I.'s tenure at JCC of Greater Boston, Jewish education was a priority and various JCCs shared information to develop appropriate programming. Although very little of R.I.'s personal papers are in this collection, the JCC material provides a snapshot of Jewish community services in the mid-eighties and early nineties.

Judaic resources include resources from various national organizations and subject files. Of particular interest is the file on Soviet Jewry, which includes a written description of RI's trip to the Soviet Union in 1974.

Also of interest is a series of Black Panther newspapers and documents that R.I. saved from his time at Yale Hillel. Although known for his work with the Civil Rights Movement, it is unclear if there was a relationship between R.I.'s work at the Yale Hillel and the Black Panthers.

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

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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 Executive Director 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

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Related Material

Jewish Community Relations Council (I-123)
Jewish Welfare Board (New York collection: I-337)
Jewish Community Center (New Haven, CT) (I-328)
Richard J. Israel Papers (American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati, OH #722)

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Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form:
Identification of item, date (if known); Rabbi Richard J. Israel, papers; P-860; box number; folder number; Jewish Heritage Center at NEHGS.

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Acquisition Information

Donated to AJHS by Rabbi Richard Israel in 1995.

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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.

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


Series I: Judaic Resources, undated, 1949-1995

The Series is in English.
2 cubic feet. Boxes 1-2.

Alphabetical by subseries, and chronological.

Scope and Content:

This series contains numerous resources pertaining to issues of Jewish life and utilized by Rabbi Israel in this work. Articles, journals and sermons on matters relating to Jewish life are included, as well as organizational resources from the American Jewish Committee, Central Conference of American Rabbis, Combined Jewish Philanthropies, and the Rabbinical Assembly. Subject files relating to specific areas of interest for Rabbi Israel include those on Kashrut, Soviet Jewry, and Jewish Education. All these works are previously published and are not the work of Rabbi Israel, with the exception of remembrances from his trip to the Soviet Union.

Subseries A: General, undated, 1964, 1973-1996

The subseries in English.
4 folders. Box 1, Folders 1-4.
1 1 Articles, Misc. undated, 1973-1994 request_box
1 2 Journals, Misc. undated, 1964, 1981-1996 request_box
1 3 Sermons, Misc. undated request_box
1 4 Synagogues/Schools, Misc. undated, 1981-1990 request_box

Subseries B: Organizations, undated, 1960-1962, 1967-1998

The subseries in English.
Box 1, Folder 5 -- Box 2, Folder 9.
1 5 American Jewish Committee undated, 1960 request_box
1 6 Central Conference of American Rabbis undated, 1980-1998 request_box
1 7 Combined Jewish Philanthropies 1984, 1989 request_box
1 8 Council of Jewish Federations undated, 1962, 1971, 1985-1990 request_box
1 9 Hebrew Union College 1967-1969, 1994-1996 request_box
1 10 Jewish Theological Seminary of America undated, 1969-1970, 1985 request_box
1 11 Jewish Welfare Board/"Directory of Jewish Resident Summer Camps" 1982-1983 request_box
1 12 Jewish Welfare Board/Halem Newcomers Network 1985 request_box
1 13 Jewish Welfare Board/Jewish Education Materials 1984, 1986 request_box
1 14 Jewish Welfare Board/New Leadership Development Manual undated request_box
1 15 Jewish Welfare Board/Papers undated, 1961, 1985 request_box
1 16 Jewish Welfare Board/Publications 1985-1987 request_box
1 17 National Jewish Conference Center 1977 request_box
1 18 Rabbinic Cabinet of United Jewish Appeal/ "The Orchard" 1988-1993 request_box
1 19 Rabbinical Assembly/Homiletics 5742 1981-1982 request_box
1 20 Rabbinical Assembly/Homiletics 5743 1982-1983 request_box
1 21 Rabbinical Assembly/Homiletics 5744 1983-1984 request_box
1 22 Rabbinical Assembly/Homiletics 5745 1984-1985 request_box
1 23 Rabbinical Assembly/Homiletics 5746 1985-1986 request_box
1 24 Rabbinical Assembly/Homiletics 5747 1986-1987 request_box
1 25 Rabbinical Assembly/Homiletics 5748 1987-1988 request_box
1 26 Rabbinical Assembly/Homiletics 5749 1988-1989 request_box
1 27 Rabbinical Assembly/Homiletics 5750 1989-1990 request_box
1 28 Rabbinical Assembly/Homiletics 5751 1990-1991 request_box
1 29 Rabbinical Assembly/Homiletics 5752 1991-1992 request_box
2 1 Rabbinical Assembly/Homiletics 5753 1992-1993 request_box
2 2 Rabbinical Assembly/Homiletics 5754 1993-1994 request_box
2 3 Rabbinical Assembly/Homiletics 5755 1994-1995 request_box
2 4 Rabbinical Assembly/Miscellaneous undated, 1990, 1993-1998 request_box
2 5 Rabbinical Assembly/Ordination of Women undated, 1980-1983 request_box
2 6 Synagogue Council of America/"Aging" 1976 request_box
2 7 Synagogue Council of America/"Analysis" 1971-1980 request_box
2 8 Synagogue Council of America/"Background" undated, 1972 request_box
2 9 Union of American Hebrew Congregations 1981, 1986, 1990 request_box

Subseries C: Subject Files, undated, 1949-1994

The subseries is in English.
Box 2, Folder 10 -- Box 2, Folder 23.
2 10 Camping undated, 1949-1962, 1973-1985 request_box
2 11 Compensation in Jewish Organizations undated, 1981-1984 request_box
2 12-13 Holidays undated, 1951-1987 request_box
2 14 Holidays/Tu Bi'Shevat undated, 1984-1986 request_box
2 15 Intermarriage undated, 1988-1989 request_box
2 16 Jewish Education undated, 1971-1987 request_box
2 17 Jewish Education/Children & Families undated, 1981-1985 request_box
2 18 Jewish Education/Jewish Educators undated, 1974, 1982-1990 request_box
2 19 Kashrut undated, 1974-1990 request_box
2 20 Matchmaking undated, 1984-1994 request_box
2 21 Parenting undated, 1985 request_box
2 22 Role of Judaism in the Community undated, 1984-1985 request_box
2 23 Soviet Jewry undated, 1972-1976 request_box
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Series II: Professional Resources, undated, 1958-1994

The Series is in English.
2 cubic feet. Boxes 3-4.

Alphabetical by sub-series and chronological.

Scope and Content:

This series consists of numerous resources utilized by Rabbi Israel during his various tenures in his organizational positions. The majority of the series holds material relating to the Jewish Community Center of Greater Boston, but a sampling of material from the National Hillel Foundation, Hillel of Greater Boston, Yale Hillel and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College is also included in this series. In addition, various but incomplete records of evaluation and work assignments from summer camps are in this series.

Subseries A: Camps/Recreation, undated, 1958, 1968-1971

The subseries is in English.
1 folder. Box 3, Folder 1.
3 1 Camps/Recreation undated, 1958, 1968-1971 request_box

Subseries B: Committees, undated, 1959-1964

The subseries is in English.
4 folders. Box 3, Folders 2-5.
3 2 Genocide Convention Committee (NCRAC) 1963 request_box
3 3 New Haven CRC/General undated, 1959-1963 request_box
3 4 New Haven CRC/Race Relations undated, 1961-1963 request_box
3 5 New Haven CRC/Religion in Public Schools undated, 1961-1964 request_box

Subseries C: Hillel, undated, 1971, 1979-1989, 1994-1996

The subseries is in English.
3 folders. Box 3, Folders 6-8.
3 6 General undated, 1971, 1980-1982 request_box
3 7 Greater Boston undated, 1979-1989, 1994 request_box
3 8 Yale University undated, 1995-1996 request_box

Subseries D: Jewish Community Center, undated, 1977-1988

The subseries is in English.
Box 3, Folder 9 -- Box 4, Folder 20.
3 9 Activities/Camping undated, 1983-1988 request_box
3 10 Activities/CJP Assessment undated, 1983-1986 request_box
3 11 Activities/Early Childhood undated, 1986-1988 request_box
3 12 Activities/Grant Projects undated, 1985-1986 request_box
3 13 Activities/Jewish Knowledge Inventory 1985 request_box
3 14 Activities/Physical Education undated, 1979, 1985-1987 request_box
3 15 Activities/Special Needs undated, 1984-1986 request_box
3 16 Branches/Chelsea-Revere 1984, 1987 request_box
3 17 Branches/Israel Program Center undated request_box
3 18 Branches/Jewish Young Adult Center undated, 1987-1988 request_box
3 19 Branches/Leventhal-Sidman JCC undated, 1987-1988 request_box
3 20 Branches/South Area JCC undated, 1985 request_box
3 21 Budget 1979-1988 request_box
3 22-23 Budget/Manual 1988-1989 request_box
4 1 Committees/Central Board undated, 1985-1988 request_box
4 2 Committees/Central Board: Orientation Manual 1985-1987 request_box
4 3 Committees/Executive Board undated, 1985-1986 request_box
4 4 Committees/Fundraising undated, 1987-1988 request_box
4 5 Committees/Jewish Effectiveness Committee undated, 1977-1989 request_box
4 6 Committees/Kehila Committee 1986-1987 request_box
4 7 Committees/Professional Development 1986-1987 request_box
4 8 Committees/Sabbath undated, 1987 request_box
4 9 Governance undated, 1985 request_box
4 10 Non-MA. JCCs/JCC of Chicago 1985 request_box
4 11 Non-MA. JCCs/JCC of Dallas undated request_box
4 12 Non-MA. JCCs/JCC of Greater Rochester (NY) 1985 request_box
4 13 Non-MA. JCCs/JCCA of Los Angeles undated, 1984-1985 request_box
4 14 Non-MA. JCCs/Jewish Community Federation of Cleveland 1987 request_box
4 15 Non-MA. JCCs/Memphis JCC 1983, 1985 request_box
4 16 Staff/Human Resources undated, 1984-1988 request_box
4 17 Staff/Human Resources: Hiring & Compensation undated, 1985-1987 request_box
4 18 Staff/Professional Development undated, 1979, 1985-1988 request_box
4 19 Staff/Study Seminar in Israel undated, 1982-1987 request_box
4 20 Writings & Notes undated, 1986 request_box

Subseries E: Miscellaneous, 1985, 1987

The subseries is in English.
1 folder. Box 4, Folder 21.
4 21 Miscellaneous 1985, 1987 request_box

Subseries F: Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, undated, 1990-1994

The subseries is in English.
1 folder. Box 4, Folder 22.
4 22 Reconstructionist Rabbinical College undated, 1990-1994 request_box
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Series III: General, undated, 1969-1970, 1978-1984

The Series is in English.
2 folders, 2 OS folders. Box 4.

Alphabetical by sub-series and chronological.

Scope and Content:

This series contains propaganda, correspondence and newspapers relating to the Black Panthers, specifically relating to the organizational branch in New Haven, Connecticut during Rabbi Israel's tenure at the Yale University Hillel. Rabbi Israel was known for his work with the Civil Rights Movement and may have been monitoring the situation because of his role with Hillel. Also included in this series are Genesis newspapers, May Day Labor Union support newsletters, Yale University newspapers, and other miscellaneous papers.

Subseries A: Black Panthers, undated, 1970

The subseries is in English.
1 folder, 1 oversized folder.
4 23 Propaganda undated, 1970 request_box
OS Newspapers undated, 1970 request_box

Subseries B: Miscellaneous, undated, 1969-1970, 1978-1984

The subseries is in English.
1 folder, 3 oversized folders.
4 24 May Day 1970 request_box
OS 24 Genesis 1978-1984 request_box
OS 24 New York Times Book Review and Old Mole undated, 1969 request_box
OS 24 Yale News 1970 request_box
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