Skip to main content

Isidore S Meyer Papers

 Collection
Identifier: P-905

Scope and Content Note

Isidore Meyer generated and accumulated the bulk of this collection between 1925 and 1980, from the start of his graduate studies through his last decade of research in the 1970s. His research, his writings and his AJHS career are chronicled most extensively, but his rabbinical and teaching careers, his education and his family are also represented. There is a large amount of correspondence throughout the collection, as well as extensive notes and reproductions of 17th-18th century primary sources Meyer used in his research. Formats also include manuscripts, printed materials, clippings, photographs, slides and negatives.

Dates

  • 1848-1992
  • Majority of material found within 1925 - 1980

Creator

Access Restrictions

The collection is open to all researchers, except items that may be restricted due to their fragility, or privacy.

Use Restrictions

No permission is required to quote, reproduce or otherwise publish manuscript materials found in this collection, as long as the usage is scholarly, educational, and non-commercial. For inquiries about other usage, please contact the Director of Collections and Engagement at mmeyers@ajhs.org.

For reference questions, please email: inquiries@cjh.org

Biographical Note

Isidore Solomon Meyer was born on November 19, 1903 in New London, Connecticut to Rachel Pearl (Ritt) Meyer and Max Meyer, recent immigrants from a region identified alternately as Russia, Lithuania or Poland on official documentation. In 1918, Meyer moved to Manhattan to attend the Talmudical Academy, graduating in 1922 and going on to earn a B.A. from the City College of New York in 1925. He completed graduate work at Columbia University and the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS), where he received an M.A. in history in 1928 and was ordained as a rabbi in 1929. While working towards a doctoral degree at Columbia, Meyer studied Jewish history in Berlin and Jerusalem at the University of Berlin, Hochschule für Wissenschaft des Judentums and Hebrew University (1929-1930). Meyer does not seem to have completed his doctoral dissertation, but in 1961 the JTS awarded him an honorary Doctor of Divinity.

Meyer’s career as a librarian began at the JTS library, where he worked part-time as a student (1926-1928) and managed their museum exhibits (1931-1932). He also worked as an assistant research editor at Columbia University’s Casa Italiana Educational Bureau (1933-1934). In the mid-1930s he taught Jewish history classes at Brooklyn College, the School of the Jewish Woman and the Brooklyn Jewish Center’s Institute of Jewish Studies for Adults.

At the 1937 annual meeting of the American Jewish Historical Society (AJHS), Meyer delivered a paper titled, “Hebrew at Harvard,” and Cyrus Adler encouraged him to pursue such research further. Ottoman Jewry and 16th century rabbinical responsa had been the focal points of Meyer’s masters and doctoral work, but after the 1937 meeting, his scholarly interests definitively shifted to the use, study and influence of Hebrew language and thought in early American education and democracy. Meyer often cited this Adler-inspired turn in his research and three subsequent publications in 1939 as major factors leading to his appointment as AJHS librarian, archivist and editor by AJHS President A.S.W. Rosenbach in 1940.

As librarian and archivist, Meyer headed the post-WWII Committee on Books for Devastated and Other Libraries Abroad of the Jewish Book Council of America; served as the vice president of the Jewish Librarians Association; and was a member of the Manuscript Society, the American Association of State and Local History, and the Executive Council of the Jewish Book Council of America. Meyer held the position of librarian at AJHS until 1962, continuing on as archivist until 1968. As the editor of AJHS from 1940 to 1968, Meyer oversaw Publications of the American Jewish Historical Society, American Jewish History Quarterly, and AJHS’s monographs from 1940 through 1968. In addition to his editorial, library and archival duties, Meyer also planned annual meetings and coordinated exhibits for AJHS. In 1968, the year AJHS moved from New York to Massachusetts, Meyer retired, at which point he was given the title of Editor Emeritus and later voted an Honorary Member of AJHS. He worked as a consultant for the In-Service Course cosponsored by AJHS and the Jewish Teachers Association until approximately 1979.

Alongside his AJHS work and historical research and writing, Meyer was engaged as a rabbi at the Jewish Center of Bay Shore, Long Island (1937-1943) and Congregation Sons of Israel in Palisades Park, New Jersey (1944-1948). He also served as secretary of the Bergen County Section, New Jersey Region of the United Synagogue of America, as editor of the Rabbinical Assembly of America’s Bulletin, and was a member of the New York Board of Rabbis.

In 1938, Meyer married Hannah Myers, a social worker and native of Texas who had studied at the Training School for Jewish Social Work and the New York School of Social Work. The Meyers had one son, Jonathan, in 1944. Hannah Myers Meyer died in 1983, and Isidore Meyer died on September 15, 1992.

Extent

20.75 Linear Feet (41 manuscript boxes, 1 half-size manuscript box, 1 oversized folder [OS1])

Language of Materials

English

Hebrew

German

Yiddish

Dutch; Flemish

French

Italian

Spanish; Castilian

Abstract

Isidore Meyer was an editor (1940-1968), librarian (1940-1962) and archivist (1940-1968) at the American Jewish Historical Society and a rabbi at the Jewish Center of Bay Shore, Long Island (1937-1943). Also a historian, Meyer wrote and spoke on the use, study and impact of Hebrew language and texts during the colonial period in the United States. The collection documents his AJHS career, historical writing and research, rabbinical work, teaching experience and general professional activities. Materials include correspondence, manuscripts, notes, photostats, clippings, printed materials, photographs, slides and negatives.

Arrangement

This collection was originally in a state of great disorganization. Much of the material was either loose and unfiled or it was foldered with file names that did not correspond to the contents, since Meyer often repurposed folders many times over. Therefore the arrangement was largely created by the archivist based on Meyer's different professional roles. The arrangement begins with papers from his personal life and his education and then moves into his professional output. As per AJHS practice, the photographs have been separated into the last series of the arrangement scheme.

Acquisition Information

Isidore Meyer's son, Jonathan Meyer, donated the collection to AJHS on December 16, 1992.

Related Material

AJHS Archives

Isidore Meyer is the creator of the Civil War Centennial Jewish Historical Commission Records (I-40) and the Leo Herskowitz correspondence regarding the Franks family Collection (P-832). The Records of the American Jewish Historical Society may contain material generated by Isidore Meyer; these records are unprocessed as of August 2011. The Mordecai Family Papers (P-116) contain 6 microfilm reels which were transferred from this collection.

Other Collections

Correspondence with Meyer is in the Salo W. Baron Papers. M0580. Dept. of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries, Stanford, Calif.

Separated Material

A cluster of late 1960s AJHS Publications Committee files belonging to Abraham Karp were transferred to the AJHS Records, as well as a linear foot of general Executive Council and Board materials (1963-1992) not addressed specifically to Meyer or written on by him.

Appointment books, library call slips and catalogues of books and documents for sale were deaccessioned. Also deaccessioned was a large set of early research notes not related to the subjects of American Jewish history and Nazi Germany on which Meyer published. Meyer most likely took these notes in the late 1920s-1930s as he read sources for his masters thesis, "Jewish Life in Salonika in the Sixteenth Century from the Responsa of R. Solomon ha-Kohen,” (see Box 16, Folders 5-6) and his unfinished dissertation (tentatively titled, "Chapters in Levantine Commerce of 16th Century”), and they were largely direct transcriptions of sources, not his own thoughts. Subjects covered included: Ottoman Jews, 16th century rabbinical responsa, foreign travellers' accounts of the Ottoman Empire, Islamic faith and populations, Isaac Abravanel, the Spanish Empire, and Italian Jews.

Meyer’s 6 microfilm reels of the Jacob Mordecai Papers at Duke University were removed to the Microfilm Collection by a previous archivist and are now a part of the Mordecai Family Papers (P-116). These reels cover material from 1784 to 1866 and were generated in 1950 at Jacob Marcus’s request.
Title
Guide to the Isidore S Meyer (1903-1992) Papers, 1848-1992   P-905
Status
Completed
Author
Processed by Rachel Miller
Date
© 2011
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Language of description note
Description is in English.
Sponsor
Processed as part of the Leon Levy Archival Processing Initiative, made possible by the Leon Levy Foundation.

Revision Statements

  • November 2020: RJohnstone: post-ASpace migration cleanup.

Repository Details

Part of the American Jewish Historical Society Repository

Contact:
15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States