Guide to the Papers of Sarah Kussy (1869-1956), 1898, 1945


Processed by Felicia Herman

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



© 2018, American Jewish Historical Society, Boston, MA and New York, NY. All Rights Reserved.
Machine-readable finding aid created by Felicia Herman as MS Word document, August 1995. Finding aid was encoded by Marvin Rusinek on September 25, 2009. Finding aid written in English.
September 2017 dao link to DOD folder added by Leanora Lange.

Descriptive Summary

Creator:Sarah Kussy (1869-1956)
Title:Sarah Kussy, papers
Dates:1898, 1945
Abstract:Contains the minute book (May-December 1898) and other material of the Ladies' Patriotic Relief Society of Newark, N.J. organized to assist needy families during the Spanish-American War; a diary for the War Period, and mimeographed copies of the Kussy family genealogy and the history of Miriam Auxiliary of Oheb Shalom Congregation in Newark from 1880-1945.
Languages:The collection is in English.
Quantity: .25 linear feet (1 half manuscript box)
Repository: American Jewish Historical Society
Location: Located in AJHS New York, NY
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Biographical Note1

Sarah Kussy was born in Newark, New Jersey on June 27, 1869, a daughter of Gustav and Bella (Bloch) Kussy. She graduated from the Teachers Training School of the Jewish Theological Seminary in 1906, and continued to be involved in both teaching and the Conservative movement for the rest of her life. A passionate Zionist, Kussy was a member of the National Executive Committee of the Zionist Organization of America, a delegate to the 1913 and 1929 World Zionist Congresses, and an active member of Hadassah (of which she was also a founder and an honorary vice president).

Kussy was a founder of the Ladies' Patriotic Relief Society of Newark in 1898 (for relief of families left poor by the departure of their male members for the Spanish-American war) and of the Newark section of the National Council of Jewish Women. She was heavily involved in the Miriam Auxiliary of Oheb Shalom (of which her mother and aunt were early members) and helped to establish their religious school, originally intended to combat the activities of Christian missionaries.

Kussy served as the honorary vice president of the Women's League of the United Synagogue of America (later renamed the Women's League for Conservative Judaism), and was the associate editor of its official organ, The Outlook. She authored several booklets, including A Handbook and Guide for Jewish Women's Organizations (1944) and A Family Chronicle: The Story of Gustav and Bella Kussy of Newark, NJ. She received the Chayil Citation for outstanding achievement in Jewish cultural pursuits in 1952, and a forest in Israel was named for her in 1950.

Kussy died in Newark on October 2, 1956. She never married.

1 Sources: Who's Who in American Jewry (1938-1939), American Jewish Year Book (1958), The Concise Dictionary of American Jewish Biography.

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Scope and Content Note

The Sarah Kussy collection contains material written by and pertaining to the life of Sarah Kussy, a Newark, NJ woman who was a prolific writer and editor, and an influential early member of the Women's League for Conservative Judaism. She was also involved in several other Jewish women's organizations. The collection includes several of her writings, including minutes of organizations of which she was secretary, a history of her synagogue's sisterhood, and a genealogy of her family.

The collection is valuable to researchers studying Conservative Judaism, synagogues, the Spanish and American War, New Jersey Jewry and the Kussy family.

Of special interest is a personal diary kept by Kussy during the Spanish and American War. In this diary she records the war news of the day, her emotions, the mood of the city, the involvement of Jews in the war effort, and her involvement in the Ladies' Patriotic Relief Society, an organization established to aid families left destitute by the departure and/or death of their male members in the war.

The collection contains a manuscript diary, a manuscript notebook of minutes, some ephemera, and two typescript essays.

The documents are in English.

The collection contains 6 items.

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The collection is organized into a single series.

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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

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Digitization Note

Folder 2 was digitized in 2017 through the Digitization-on-Demand program and has been made available in its entirety.

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Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form:
Identification of item, date (if known); Sarah Kussy, papers; P-4; box number; folder number; American Jewish Historical Society, New York, NY, and Boston, MA.

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Acquisition Note


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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 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.


Papers of Sarah Kussy, 1898, 1945

.25 linear feet. Box 1.
Scope and Content:

See Scope and Content Note.

1 1 “Diary kept during war with Spain” April–August 1898 request_box

- April 30, 1898: "The spirit of '76 is evidently not dead. 125,000 volunteers had been called for, yet in New York City alone 100000 offered to enlist, an immense number of Jews amongst them. How glad I am that our people realize what special duty they owe this glorious country."

- She prays a lot, and when there's victory, thanks God - "the Lord of Hosts is evidently on our side"

- She prays for peace, and that God should help everyone to understand how awful war is, and how they should learn to settle their disputes peacefully

- Friday, May 7: "I attended services to-night with a heavy heart. The star-spangled banner was sung by the choir and congregation. How sincerely I prayed that our flag 'in triumph may wave' over Manilla . . ."

- May 10: "The Jews of Cleveland O., last week started a battle ship fund toward which the Jews throughout their state were asked to contribute. May it be a successful effort. May our coreligionists show by every possible endeavor how inestimably they value the holy privileges which American citizenship guarantees."

- Sunday, May 15: "tonight a meeting will be held in our synagogue for the purpose of maturing the plans of a patriotic organization that was called into existence last Thursday evening. That night in response to a call issued by Rose Blau, a number of ladies connected with our congregation met and agreed to organize a society, whose object shall be to give a successive number of entertainments for the purpose of supplying the immediate needs of families left without means of support on account of the war.

"The purpose of this society is certainly a most noble one and deserves to be successfully carried out. I, as its secretary, will readily do the work assigned to me and hope that the efforts of none will be lacking."

- July 18: "In the midst of the war excitement, a certain step taken by our government is being almost ignored by the public, a step, perhaps, the most important in its influence on our future history, since the abolition of slavery. The Congress of the United States has at last annexed the Hawaiian Islands. The policy against territorial increase has been cast aside, and patriotic hearts are turned anxiously toward the future. Will the Philippines in the Far East, remain in our possession? Have we set foot in the world at last, as a conquering nation? Who knows just what is right in this matter, after all? I tremble when I think that our Monroe Doctrine, that safe-guard against foreign invasion, must now become obsolete. And yet, as a free independent nation, is it not our mission to spread liberty on earth, to carry the fair goddess into every land where oppression still holds sway?

"The natives of the Philippines, crouching under the Spanish yoke, are entitled to breathe the air of freedom, so dear to every living creature. Are we not doing God's work by carrying our Declaration of Independence into foreign and despotic ports? A nation, like an individual, perhaps does its work with the noblest results, when it ceases to think of itself alone, but carries its doctrine of right, its principles of justice into the world around it. We can only look to ward the future now, with the hope, that the spirit of right and justice upon which American institutions are based, and with which the patriotic people of America are imbued, will keep the nation from any act that may ultimately reflect discredit on our beloved country."

- August 12: "Our Ladies Patriotic Relief Society has done its utmost. We presented the Board of Trade with a hundred and fifty dollars this week, while the personal service has been faithfully attended to by our members."

1 2 Ladies Patriotic Relief Society 1898

1. Minutes, written by SK in a notebook (she was the secretary)
- They raised money for families who were left poor by the departure of their men for the war [and were founded at the suggestion of Rev. Bernard Glýck] - They solicited donations from various sources - After the end of the war, they visited sick soldiers - At the end of October, they met to determine the future of the organization; the Reverend Schorr "advocated the formation of a Young Woman's Auxiliary to the Oheb Sholom Synagogue." - Group disbanded on December 7, "the relief work among the sick being continued by a committee consisting of the Misses Rose Blau, Belle Hauser, and Sarah Kussy."

2. Invitation to a committee-sponsored concert, June 7

3. Program of the concert
- With advertisements and little jokes throughout

4. Letter from the Newark Board of Trade, September 24, 1898
- Inviting her to "review the homecoming of the First Regiment N. J. Vol. from the reviewing stand at the City Hall"

  View the folder 
1 3 “The Story of Miriam Auxiliary of Oheb Shalom: Sixty-Five Years in Retrospect,” by Sarah Kussy 1945 request_box

[stapled booklet, 10 typescript pages, Oct., 1945]

- Founded October 1880, at the suggestion of the President of the Congregation and the Rabbi

- Most of the founders were German and Bohemian

- Minutes were recorded in German for three decades

- Her aunt (?) was the first secretary

- Purpose: "to beautify the synagogue, strength religious devotion and further philanthropic endeavors . . . committees were appointed to visit the sick, sew shrouds and prepare bodies of members for burial. The Zedakah box was conspicuously placed and money for the poor was dropped therein."

- Some male members

- Started a "Kaffee Klatsch"

- They thought of starting a philanthropic fund, but decided not to because it might "overshadow the primary purpose of Miriam, 'service to the synagogue.'"

- "They supplied gowns for the Rabbi and Cantor, new curtains for the Ark and covers for the pulpit desks. They had the seats upholstered, the floors carpeted, wall decorated, and on Succoth furnished wine, cake, and fruit for the little congregation tabernacle that preceded the fine Succah to be established later . . . funds were raised through Calico Hops, Apron and Necktie dances, Purim Masquerades, Simhath Torah balls, and the Annual Picnic."

- Its members joined other groups as well, such as the Hebrew Ladies Immediate Relief Society

- They donated money to groups such as the Hebrew Benevolent and Orphan Asylum Society, and other groups from their synagogue: the Newark Hebrew Literary Society, the Lasker Literary Society, the Montefiore Literary Society, and the Progressive Literary Society . . . Later, Miriam cooperated with Young Judaea."

- They donated money for improvement of school facilities, as well as for a new cemetery

- Around 1906: "At this time, Miss Sarah Kussy was combating Christian missionary activities among Jewish children with some interesting results. Parents were visited and urged to send their children to a Religious School. Rabbi Hoffman urged Miriam to cooperate by establishing sewing classes for girls and a Story Hour Period in our vestry rooms during the summer vacation. Miriam responded through a committee . . . with the result that the children came to us, instead of to the missionaries, and a number of them entered our Religious School in the Fall."

- They began sponsoring lectures, including Rebekah Kohut

- "To bring ourselves up-to-date Miriam installed a telephone. It was also up-to-date for the voice of woman to be heard on matters not directly connected with the synagogue. The suffrage movement was in the ascendancy and Miriam listened to able expounders of the cause . . . "

- Around 1913: "Miriam became alert to the needs and events of the day. Returning travelers recounted their experiences. We learned something about our great West from a member who visited the western coast. Dr. Julius Levy gave a talk on 'Mothercraft' and Dr. Joseph Kussy on 'Mouth Hygiene.' . . . An address followed by a musical program, became the feature of every meeting."

- "We entertained Jewish delegates to the Convention of exhibitors at the Newark Industrial Exhibition, and furnished Jewish ceremonial objects for the Homeland Exhibit. We cooperated in improving conditions in the Third Ward and asked that a policeman be stationed at High and Clinton Avenue, to facilitate our Children's crossing the street to and from Hebrew School."

- During WWI: made automobiles available for the government, collected money for the Red Cross, sewed garments, "sent cartons filled with gifts to Jewish soldiers on Hanukkah and Purim," etc.

- "We had lectures on food economy, on scientific management of the home; and at luncheon gatherings we spoke with pride of all the food we denied ourselves. Our president called together the heads of other Jewish women's societies and organized the 'Jewish Women's Service Committee.' This was a forerunner of the Federation of Jewish Women's Organizations of Essex County. . . "

- Affiliated with the Women's League of the United Synagogue of America since 1918 (when it was founded)

- "While the variety of subjects considered was as wide as life itself, the Jewish note was always struck and emphasized in Miriam activities . . . [names prominent Jewish lecturers] . . . Our own members prepared papers on Jewish Women and other subjects."

- They have a "Little Shop" at which they sell Jewish books and ceremonial objects

- New Constitution: "the object of this organization shall be to strengthen Judaism:
a. By furthering he spiritual material, and social interests of Congregation Oheb Shalom. b. By advancing Jewish Education among members of the Congregation and Auxiliary. c. By strengthening the Jewish practices of the home. d. By generally strengthening the religious life of the Newark Jewish Community."

- "So, while Miriam still calls itself an Auxiliary, it has in reality become - what every modern congregational women's group should - the Women's Branch of the Congregation."

- Helped support the Temple of Religion at the World's Fair

- "The Jewish Home Beautiful" program - "We all recall the tables, arranged for the various festivals, the description of the Holy days and holidays, accompanied by traditional chants that thrilled us and aroused an emotional response."

- WWII: helped the "Bundles for Britain" campaign, gave money to the Red Cross, sewed and knitted, sold war bonds, started up a defense committee, dinner and luncheons for soldiers

- Appended at the back is a list of "Our People in the Services of Our Country"

1 4 Kussy Family Genealogy 1945 request_box

- "Prepared in Loving Memory by their Daughter Sarah. Dedicated to their Oldest Surviving Descendent [sic] Herman Kussy."

- Interesting section about their religious life: traditional, observant, children learned Hebrew and German prayers

- "We had no problems regarding Hanukkah versus Christmas. Hanukkah was for Jews and Christmas for Christians. . . . Judah [Maccabee] was the Jewish George Washington and we loved George Washington . . ."

- Her mother had a strong Jewish identity, and was very pious. She was heavily (but not at all solely) responsible for the Jewish education of the children

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