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

Processed by Stephanie Call

American Jewish Historical Society, New England Archives

99-101 Newbury St.

Boston, Massachusetts

Phone: (617) 226-1245



© 2015, American Jewish Historical Society, Boston, MA and New York, NY. 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 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 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; American Jewish Historical Society, New York, NY, and Boston, MA.

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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.


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
1 2 Journals, Misc. undated, 1964, 1981-1996
1 3 Sermons, Misc. undated
1 4 Synagogues/Schools, Misc. undated, 1981-1990

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

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
2 11 Compensation in Jewish Organizations undated, 1981-1984
2 12-13 Holidays undated, 1951-1987
2 14 Holidays/Tu Bi'Shevat undated, 1984-1986
2 15 Intermarriage undated, 1988-1989
2 16 Jewish Education undated, 1971-1987
2 17 Jewish Education/Children & Families undated, 1981-1985
2 18 Jewish Education/Jewish Educators undated, 1974, 1982-1990
2 19 Kashrut undated, 1974-1990
2 20 Matchmaking undated, 1984-1994
2 21 Parenting undated, 1985
2 22 Role of Judaism in the Community undated, 1984-1985
2 23 Soviet Jewry undated, 1972-1976
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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

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
3 3 New Haven CRC/General undated, 1959-1963
3 4 New Haven CRC/Race Relations undated, 1961-1963
3 5 New Haven CRC/Religion in Public Schools undated, 1961-1964

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
3 7 Greater Boston undated, 1979-1989, 1994
3 8 Yale University undated, 1995-1996

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

Subseries E: Miscellaneous, 1985, 1987

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

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
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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
OS Newspapers undated, 1970

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

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