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Louis Lipsky Papers

 Collection
Identifier: P-672

Scope and Content Note

The papers of Louis Lipsky (LL) contain correspondence, memoranda, speeches, articles in magazines and newspapers, manuscripts, and organizational materials concerning the Zionist movement and various Jewish organizations. The collection is primarily in English, but there is some material in Yiddish, Hebrew, and German. The papers chronicle LL's commitment to Zionism and Jewish life from the end of the 19th century until his death in 1963.

Lipsky's early career as writer and journalist is portrayed in many articles and pamphlets published throughout his life. There are also drafts of the books A Gallery of Zionist Profiles and Yiddish Realto as well as published articles and unpublished plays. These manuscripts in addition to his early personal correspondence show a continuing interest throughout his career in the Yiddish theater and press.

Lipsky's personal life is documented by his correspondence covering the years 1898 to 1959. The early correspondence presents a picture of the intellectual and social life of the East European Jewish community in New York City in the early years of the century. His courtship of Rita Scherman and eventual marriage to Charlotte Schacht is chronicled. As he became more involved in Zionism there was extensive correspondence between Lipsky and his family when he was traveling on behalf of the cause. There are many letters concerning Lipsky's efforts to help fellow Jews all over the world during the turbulent 1930s. Other biographical information is contained in his memoirs, obituaries, tributes, and material from his years as president of Eastern Life Insurance Co.

His son, Eleazar Lipsky (EL), interlaces the collection with notes and comments on accompanying pages. EL had already started to index his father's personal correspondence and his index is included in the collection. The original order, where possible, has been maintained. The division into seven series is a consequence of that order. A list of organizations Lipsky was involved in and some of the people with whom he corresponded follow.

Dates

  • 1898-1976

Language of Materials

The collection is in English, Yiddish, Hebrew and German.

Access Restrictions

The collection is open to all researchers by permission of the Executive Director of the American Jewish Historical Society, except items that are restricted due to their fragility.

Use Restrictions

There may be some restrictions on the use of the collection. For more information, contact: American Jewish Historical Society, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY 10011

email: info@ajhs.org .

Biographical Note

Louis Lipsky, noted Zionist leader, journalist and author, was born in Rochester, N.Y. in 1876 one of 11 children to Polish immigrant parents. The family came from a town called Philipova, a village near Suwalk. The Jewish community was almost entirely made up of landsmen from this area of Poland and much of the gentile Polish immigrants were also from the same area. Louis' father, Jacob Lipsky, came to America in 1874 to join his brother Isaac and two sisters. He was the second shochet (kosher butcher) in the community. Louis' mother came in 1875 with his older brother Abram. Louis was the first child born in America.

When brother Abram left for college, Louis took over his job as a freelance reporter for The Herald, a Rochester Newspaper. During this time he also worked as a law clerk with intention of becoming an attorney. In 1899, with the help of a well-to-do friend of his father's he acquired $300 to start a weekly periodical in his hometown, called The Shofar. Abram wrote sermons and Louis wrote the stories. Philip Cowen, publisher of The American Hebrew, saw a copy of The Shofar and brought Louis to New York City in March of 1900. The Shofar lasted for 13 months until the money ran out. That same year, 1900, LL became the managing editor of The American Hebrew. He also registered at Columbia University as a special student taking an eclectic course without a fixed curriculum. He would have been a member of the class of 1902 if he had graduated. LL remained with The American Hebrew for 14 years. During those years he was fascinated by the Yiddish theater and was caught up in a literary circle that included Mary Antin, Harry Scherman, Rita Scherman, and Charlotte Schacht (his future wife). When he married Charlotte in 1906 these friendships seem to be supplanted entirely by Zionist colleagues. In 1901 Dr. Stephen Wise asked LL to edit an new magazine called The Maccabean (later The New Palestine) under the aegis of the Federation of American Zionists. LL was chosen for the post because he had written an account of the Zionist Convention in The American Hebrew that was the first time Zionism made the American press. This was the first Zionist publication in the English language. He remained editor for one year and passed the position on to Jacob de Haas who was also secretary of the FAZ. His association continued with the FAZ and to a large degree he set the pattern of Zionist policy in the United States in these early years. When de Haas retired LL became editor again.

During these years he also served on the Campaign Committee chaired by Oscar Straus for Teddy Roosevelt, he was a press agent for Harry Scherman and Herman Bernstein, and was commissioned to write a play by Louis Mann. He was also editor of The Jewish Herald for 3 months. He was secretary for Leo N. Levi, then National President of B'nai B’rith. He started writing for the secular press including pieces in The Reader, The Sunday Morning Telegraph, and The New York Daily Press. He translated the stories of Isaac Leib Peretz. In 1914 he became Secretary, a salaried position, of the Federation of American Zionists.

He was secretary then chairman of the Federation of American Zionists that became ZOA in 1917. Involved in the Brandeis-Weizmann rift, Lipsky supported Weizmann concerning financial support and control of Jewish Palestine. From 1922-1930 LL was President of ZOA.

From 1930-1959 he was President of the Eastern Life Insurance Co.

He was a founder of Keren HaYesod, also called the Palestine Foundation Fund and later incorporated into the Jewish Agency for Palestine. He was active in the United Palestine Appeal, and the American Zionist Council, in 1915 he advocated the establishment of the American Jewish Congress, in 1918 the American Jewish Congress became a reality. He later served as Vice President and Chairman.

During the years 1934-1945 LL channeled his energies to save Europe's Jews. Collaborating with Stephen Wise in the American Jewish Congress LL worked diligently trying to save Jewish lives. He wrote the rules and supervised the operation. He was keynote speaker at the first session of the World Jewish Congress in 1936. During this period he served as Vice President and later, Chairman of the Administrative Committee and Chairman of the Executive Committee.

After the war he fought the British over the partition of Palestine, against Arab interests in the United Nations, and against divisive elements in American Judaism. In 1954 he chaired the Committee For Public Affairs of the American Jewish Congress. In the 1950s he retired from the American Jewish Congress. In 1955 he formulated the idea of an organization to offer support to Israel but have no part in politics. This viewpoint found some expression in the League for Israel. He retired from active participation in any organization except for the Weizmann Institute of Science in 1956. That same year he delivered the address on the occasion of the 4th anniversary of Weizmann's death.

In 1906 he married Charlotte Schacht, who was herself a founding member of the American Women’s Division of the Organization for Rehabilitation through Training (ORT). His sons were: Eleazar Lipsky, 1912- , head of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, NYC ; Joel Carmichael, 1915- , author of The Shaping of the Arabs (1967), A Short History of the Russian Revolution (1964), and Death of Jesus (1962); and David.

Lipsky authored books, short stories, essays, plays, book reviews, and drama criticism. Among his works are: 30 Years of American Zionism, Stories of Jewish Life, Shields of Honor (1927), A Gallery of Zionist Profiles (1956), and Tales of the Yiddish Realto.

CHRONOLOGY

1876, November 30
Born, Rochester, N.Y.
1899
Began producing The Shofar. 13 issues
1900-1914
Became manager of The American Hebrew in New York City
1900
Took courses at Columbia University
1901-1918
Editor of The Maccabean with brief intermissions. First Zionist publication in the U.S. in English
1902-1913
Wrote short stories, essays, plays, book reviews and drama critiques. Translated I.L Peretz from Yiddish. Contributed material to the New York Morning Telegraph.
1903
Secretary to Leo N. Levi, President of B'nai B'rith; ran a Boys Club on the Lower East Side
1906
Married Charlotte Schach
1912
Became Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Federation of American Zionists (in 1917 to become Zionist Organization of America)
1913
Attended World Zionist Congress in Vienna; visited London and made contact with English Zionists
1913-1946
Attended all Congresses with the exception of the one in 1939
1914
Accepted the first paid position in Zionist movement-Secretary of FAZ. Resigned his post as editor of The American Hebrew. Called for Extraordinary Conference of Zionists. Brandeis entered the movement at this time
1915
Named Chairman of the Executive Committee of FAZ.
1915-1921
Served as Chairman of FAZ to become ZOA in 1917
1915-1949
Led struggle for Jews to organize locally and nationally and to elect their own spokesmen
1915-1917
Active participant to secure American support for the Balfour Declaration
1916
Attended preliminary meeting of AJC in Philadelphia
1920
With Chaim Weizmann established the Keren Hayesod as the fund raising instrument of WZO. Split with Brandeis over Keren Hayesod. Brandeis favored independent organizations
1921
Defeated Brandeis at the Cleveland Convention causing a split in the movement. Founded The New Palestine as an instrument to support the Keren Hayesod. He was its first editor
1922
Elected chairman of National Executive Committee of ZOA at its convention
1922-1930
Chairman of ZOA
1923
Served on Executive Committee of WZO
1924
Founded in London The New Judea as official organ of WZO. J. Hodess was the editor. Visited Palestine for the first time
1926-1930
Elected President of ZOA
1926
Brought Habimah to the U.S
1927
As President of ZOA paid expenses of Habimah to go to Palestine where they established Israel's national theater. This created a furor in the U.S. that nearly cost him the presidency. Collected writings were published in three volumes
1930-1954
Left ZOA as paid official, but served, on call, without pay, as propagandist, speaker, planner, and organizer traveling throughout the U.S. and Europe
1930-1959
President of Judean Insurance Co. (later to become the Eastern Life Insurance Co.)
1933-1946
Served as a member of the Executive Committee of the Jewish Agency for Palestine
1934
Elected Vice President of AJC; served also as Chairman of its Governing Council and head of its National Administrative Council
1934-1945
Actively worked with Stephen Wise with the American Jewish Council to organize America against Hitler. Worked to open doors for Jewish immigration into Palestine
1936
With Wise and Goldman founded the World Jewish Congress. Co-Chairman of UFA
1940
Co-Chair with Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver of UPA; Co-Chair of Keren HaYesod; Chairman of the General Council of the American Jewish Congress
1941
Fought to have Palestine secure a place in the rescuing of Jews
1943
Named Chairman of the Board of Elections for the American Jewish Congress, devising rules of procedure whereby Jewish communities through democratic elections to form the AJC as the spokesman for a united Jewish community to aid in the up building of post war Jewish Palestine. Served as the Chairman of the Committee of Five Session supervising the conduct of 3 day sessions
1943-1947
Principal factor in mobilizing American opinion to open the doors of Palestine to survivors of the Holocaust
1944
Elected Co-Chair of the Interim Committee of the American Jewish Congress together with Henry Monsky and Dr. Israel Goldstein
1945
Made two trips to London to confer with Weizmann and other Zionist leaders to help bring survivors to Palestine. Headed AJC delegation to the organizing conference of the UN in San Francisco to press for the creation of a Jewish state
1945-1949
Served as Co-Chairman of the Interim Committee and Chairman of the Executive Committee of the American Jewish Congress
1947-1949
Headed movement, through the American Jewish Congress, to prevent rescinding of American support for partition
1949-1954
Chairman of the American Zionist Council, representing all branches of the Zionist movement in the US to mobilize with US help to protect the new state of Israel
1950
Visited Israel for first time
1954
Chairman of American Zionist Committee for Public Affairs later American Israel Committee for Public Affairs, an instrument to build a viable state
1956, November 12
Principle speaker at the Chaim Weizmann Memorial Lecture: “Herzl, Weizmann and the Jewish State.” Made an Honorary Fellow of the Institute
1956
Published A Gallery of Zionist Portraits
1959
Retired as President of The Eastern Life Insurance Company
1960
Became Honorary Chairman of the Board of the Eastern Life Insurance Company
1962
Published Tales of the Yiddish Realto stories of the Yiddish theater at the turn of century
1963
Died, New York City.

Extent

22 Boxes (10.5 linear feet)

Overview

Louis Lipsky (1876-1963) was a noted Zionist leader, journalist and writer. The collection contains personal correspondence, memoranda, speeches, magazine and newspaper articles, manuscripts, drafts of books, and organizational materials concerning the Zionist movement and various Jewish organizations.

Provenance

The Papers of Louis Lipsky were donated to AJHS by Eleazar and Hannah Lipsky and Joel Carmichael in 1993.

Related Material

Related materials can be found in the Papers of Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, Papers of Rabbis Jacob X. Cohen, the Records of the American Jewish Congress and the Papers of Philip Cowen. Additional material can be located in the Central Zionist Archives in Jerusalem, Israel and in the Records of the Zionist Organization of America in New York, New York.
Title
Guide to the Papers of Louis Lipsky (1876-1963), undated, 1898-1976 P-672
Status
In Progress
Author
Processed by Louise Sandberg
Date
© November 2001
Language of description
Undetermined
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Description is in English.
Edition statement
This version was derived from LouisLipsky.xml

Revision Statements

  • April 2005.: Converted to EAD 2002. Revised as LouisLipsky02.xml by Tanya Elder. Removed deprecated elements and attributes, updated repository codes, added language codes, changed doctype declaration, removed boilerplate entities, etc.
  • January 2006.: Entities removed from EAD finding aid.

Repository Details

Part of the American Jewish Historical Society Repository

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