Skip to main content

Lipsky Family Papers

 Collection
Identifier: P-858

Scope and Content Note

The majority of papers in this collection were generated and collected by Eleazar Lipsky. The materials include correspondence, an unfinished manuscript, legal transcripts, clippings, speeches, research materials, financial documents, miscellaneous writings and a few photographs. Much of the collection is a product of Eleazar’s research for his planned epic family novel.

Eleazar is the primary creator of the materials. Louis Lipsky stands as secondary and Charlotte Lipsky as tertiary creator. Substantial amounts of correspondence were written by David Lipsky, Joel Carmichael, the Kohn family, Mary Carr and Bernard Richards. The collection is arranged into three series: Series I: Eleazar Lipsky, Series II: Louis Lipsky and Series III: Lipsky, Schacht and Kohn Families. Charlotte Lipsky’s papers are in Series III.

The largest segments of the collection are Eleazar’s Hedda manuscript in Series I, Subseries 2 and his legal papers in Series I, Subseries 5. Little in the collection represents Eleazar’s activity as a journalist and mystery novelist. There are also gaps in the coverage of his activities in Jewish organizations – most notably while President of JTA. Aside from newspaper clippings announcing his election as JTA President, there is very little documentation from his tenure.

Family correspondence is in Series III, and Eleazar’s and Louis’s professional correspondence has been placed under Eleazar’s papers in Series I and Louis’s papers in Series II. Eleazar’s correspondence is most substantial in three places: in his late teens and twenties while at summer camp in Series III, following a 1949 business trip to South Africa in Series I, Subseries 1, and within his legal practice files in Series I, Subseries 5.

For researchers interested in Louis Lipsky, this collection’s strength likely rests in its documentation of his familial and emotional context, both in his correspondence with his sons in Series III and in Eleazar’s analysis of his parents in the Hedda manuscript and notes in Series I, Subseries 2.

Dates

  • 1904-1992
  • Majority of material found within 1925 - 1992

Creator

Language of Materials

The collection is in English, with a few items in Hebrew, Yiddish, and French.

Access Restrictions

The collection is open to all researchers by permission of the Director of Library and Archives of the American Jewish Historical Society.

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



E-mail: reference@ajhs.org

Biographical Note <extptr title="Simpson, Daphne and Len wedding South Africa, 1951" href="http://digital.cjh.org/webclient/DeliveryManager?pid=3826459" show="embed" altrender=" " actuate="onload"/>

Across two generations the Lipsky family participated in a wide variety of cultural, professional and political spheres: journalism, law, history, literature, insurance, theater, interior decorating and, most pivotally, the American Zionist movement. Louis Lipsky (1876-1963) stands as the most recognized figure in the family, given his status as a founder of the American Zionist movement and key figure in and witness to the conflict between Chaim Weizmann and Louis Brandeis. For more on Louis Lipsky see Guide to the Papers of Louis Lipsky (P-672).

Louis Lipsky and Charlotte Schacht (1879-1959) married in 1906. Charlotte had immigrated to New York City in 1895 from Riga in modern-day Latvia and they met through the Yiddish literary and theater scene they were both a part of in their early years. Charlotte was active in the Jewish socialist movement and an admirer of Emma Goldman as well as a founding member of the Manhattan chapter of the Women’s American ORT and a member of Hadassah. She also sculpted and sang. Because Lipsky did not financially support his family until he started a life insurance company in 1930, Charlotte began her own business as an interior decorator and on her income alone bought a home for the family and put their three sons through college.1

Their eldest son, David (1907-1996) became a publicist. The youngest son, Joel (1915-2006), changed his last name to Carmichael “as a way of detaching himself,” and entered the academic world, becoming a historian, editor of Midstream, and Russian-to-English translator.2 He wrote and published extensively on 20th century Russian history, anti-Semitism and the history of Christianity and Islam. His first wife, Mary Carr (Hood) (1923-1998), was a journalist and an editorial officer at the United Nations Secretariat.

Charlotte and Louis’s middle son, Eleazar (1911-1993), carved out a wide spectrum of careers for himself as a lawyer, novelist, journalist, playwright and active Zionist, much of his activities overlapping with and carrying on his father’s interests. Eleazar met Hannah Kohn (1912-2001) in the late 1920s, possibly while at Jewish summer camp in Maine, and they married in 1935.3 Hannah had a career as a social worker. Her father, Rabbi Jacob Kohn (1881-1968), was an author, a founder of the United Synagogue of America and dean of the University of Judaism in Los Angeles.

After receiving his B.A. from Columbia and attending Columbia Law School in the early 1930s, Eleazar practiced law privately from 1934 to 1939. Beginning in 1942 and until 1946, he was the Assistant District Attorney of New York County with the Homicide Bureau. In 1946 he reestablished a private law practice, retiring from it a few weeks prior to his death in 1993. He served as legal counsel to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA), the Jewish Week, the American Examiner, the America-Israel Cultural Foundation, and the Mystery Writers of America. In the last decade of his life much of his legal practice centered on artists’ contract issues and disputes, and he was legal adviser to the New York Artists Equity Association.4

There is evidence early on of Eleazar’s interest in Zionism. By 1936 he had written book reviews for the newsletter of Masada, the youth branch of the Zionist Organization of America, and from 1938 to 1940 he was President of Masada.5 He was also National President of Avukah, a student Zionist organization. Later he was a member of the World Zionist Congress Court and on the National Executive Committee of the Zionist Organization of America.

During what may have been a three-year hiatus from practicing law (1939-1942), he worked two years as a traveling lecturer and fundraiser for the United Jewish Appeal (UJA), following which he was Executive Director of the National Committee of the American Red Mogen Dovid for Palestine, Inc. (now known as Magen David Adom, Israel’s equivalent of the Red Cross) for a year. Throughout his life he would be an advocate, both in his writing and speeches, for many Jewish causes. He spoke on a variety of topics, such as the American Zionist movement, relations between Jewish and African-American communities, the Eichmann trial and the Palestinian Liberation Organization. He was on the Executive Committee of American Jewish Congress (AJC) and active in the American Friends of the Hebrew University. He served on the board of directors of multiple organizations and institutions, such as the American Jewish League for Israel and his father’s company, Eastern Life Insurance.

Also involved in the journalism world, Eleazar at one point had his own syndicated news column and was editor of the New Palestine, 1939 to 1940. After serving as legal advisor to the JTA for twelve years he was elected President in 1960, holding that post until 1967.

Culling from his experience in criminal law, Eleazar wrote best-selling mystery novels, short stories and plays, and a number of his works were adapted into motion pictures. His novels include The Kiss of Death (1947), Murder One (1948), The People Against O’Hara (1950, made into a film starring Spencer Tracy), Lincoln McKeever (1953), The Scientists (1959), The Devil’s Daughter (1969) and Malpractice (1972). Additionally, he wrote more than 150 episodes for the radio series, Indictment, between 1956 and 1969. He was a member of the Authors Guild, the Writers Guild of America, and PEN.

In 1970 Eleazar signed a contract with Doubleday for a three-volume fictionalized history of three generations of his family. Throughout the 1970s he researched and gathered many materials directly or indirectly relating to his mother and father (such as the correspondence of Bernard Richards, a friend and colleague of his father’s, from the 1919 Paris Peace Conference). At the same time, intent on encouraging scholarly analysis of his father’s role in the Zionist movement, Eleazar announced to a few graduate programs that he would fund a doctoral student who chose to write a dissertation on Louis Lipsky. Some of his research efforts seemed to have been aimed at providing material for that student to work with as well. On his own project, he only got so far as a 225-page manuscript, focused primarily on his mother and entitled Hedda after the fictional name he used for his mother’s character. In 1981 Doubleday cancelled the contract, and a legal battle ensued. It appears that after this dispute Eleazar turned his legal interests to artists’ contracts.

Following the contract collapse, Eleazar began making plans to write a biography of his father’s life between 1900 and 1945, examining in particular Louis Lipsky’s personal life and struggles within the Zionist organizations and using the material Eleazar had already collected for the family novel. He wrote to historian Ben Halpern in 1988: “I am often told that I am uniquely qualified to tell this story and that if I fail to do so, it will never be told.”6 Before he was able to start writing the biography, Eleazar died of leukemia in 1993, survived by his wife, Hannah, and three sons, Jonathan, Michael and David.

Footnotes

  1. 1 Kanter, Elana. “Lipsky, Charlotte.” Jewish Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia. Eds. Hyman, Paula and Moore, Deborah. New York: Routledge, 1997, Vol. 1., p. 860.; Eleazar Lipsky to Phyllis Jackson, Dec 15, 1969, Lipsky Family Papers, P-858, Box 11, Folder 6; “Lipsky, Charlotte.” Concise Dictionary of American Jewish Biography, Eds. Marcus, Jacob Rader, and Daniels, Judith M. Brooklyn: Carlson, 1994, Vol. 2. p. 394; “Mrs. Louis Lipsky Dies.” New York Times. March 17, 1959, p. 33.
  2. 2 Duncan, Erika. “Separating History from Conditions of Religion, Separating History from Religious Faith.” New York Times. March 19, 1995. Section 13, p. 1, 21.
  3. 3 “Miss Hannah Kohn to be Wed Sunday” Jul 5, 1935, New York Times, p. 10.
  4. 4 American Jewish Year Book, 1995; Pace, Eric. “Eleazar Lipsky, 81, a Prosecutor, Lawyer, Novelist and Playwright.” New York Times. February 15, 1993, A16.
  5. 5 American Jewish Year Book, 1938-1939, 1939-1940.
  6. 6 Eleazar Lipsky to Ben Halpern, August 24, 1988; Lipsky Family Papers; P-858; Box 6; Folder 10.

Extent

14.25 Linear Feet (25 manuscript boxes, 1 half manuscript box, 1 oversized box OS3)

Overview

The Lipsky Family Papers reflect the professional and personal activities of Eleazar Lipsky (1911-1993), his father, Zionist leader Louis Lipsky (1876-1963), and his mother, Charlotte Lipsky (1879-1959), as well as other family members. Eleazar Lipsky was a lawyer, novelist, Zionist and the head of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in the early 1960s. While working on a multi-part family novel, Eleazar Lipsky gathered and arranged much of the family material in this collection. In addition to family history, the collection contains information on the American Zionist movement, Bernard Richards’s role in the Committee of Jewish Delegations at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference, and various legal battles involving such parties as the Jewish Week, the American Examiner, Doubleday, Philip Hochstein and Lillie Shultz. The materials include correspondence, an unfinished manuscript, legal transcripts, clippings, speeches, research materials, financial documents, miscellaneous writings and a few photographs.

Arrangement

The collection is broken down into three series based on creators, plus one series for visual materials and one for oversized materials. Eleazar Lipsky’s original arrangement and folder titles have been retained where possible. Jon Lipsky, Eleazar’s son, was also involved in the arranging of his family’s papers prior to their donation to the AJHS, and his explanatory notes on boxes were taken into consideration.

Because many of their papers were intermingled, in a few cases the question of whether Eleazar or Louis had authored particular notes could not always be definitively established, but authorship was approximated based on context, subject, date, and handwriting.

Physical Location

Located in AJHS New York, NY

Acquisition Information

The American Jewish Historical Society received the Lipsky Family Papers in two accretions. Joel Carmichael, Eleazar and Hannah Lipsky donated the first accretion, #1993.124, in 1993. A large portion of this accretion was processed in 1995 as the Louis Lipsky Papers, P-672, and AJHS labeled the unprocessed portion the “Lipsky Family Papers.” On March 19, 1997, Hannah Lipsky donated the second accretion entitled, “Additions to the Papers of Louis and Eleazar Lipsky,” #1996.003. The present collection consists of the remainder of the 1993 donation and the entirety of the 1997 donation.

Related Material

Eleazar Lipsky donated materials related to his career as a novelist to the Boston University Special Collections in 1980. According to a March 24, 1980 letter from Howard Gotlieb, Director of Special Collections, to Eleazar Lipsky (Box 1, Folder 5), that donation included notes and drafts of The Outer Islands, research for Lincoln McKeever and Malpractice, and miscellaneous manuscripts.

Louis Lipsky Papers; P-672; American Jewish Historical Society, Boston, MA and New York, NY.

Bernard Richards Papers; currently being processed; American Jewish Historical Society, Boston, MA and New York, NY.

Separated Material

A bronze bust of Louis Lipsky by Robert Berks and Louis Lipsky’s 1959 retirement plaque from Eastern Life Insurance Company have been separated into the curatorial collection. Photographs and negatives have been separated into the photograph collection.

Physical Description

.
Title
P-858
Status
In Progress
Author
Processed by Rachel Miller as part of the Leon Levy Archival Processing Initiative, made possible by the Leon Levy Foundation.
Date
© 2009.
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Language of description note
Description is in English.
Edition statement
This version was derived from LipskyFamily.xml

Revision Statements

  • 2016: Boni Joi Koelliker made corrections to the Biographical Note. The original note stated that Joel Carmichael's forename was Joseph which was erroneous.

Repository Details

Part of the American Jewish Historical Society Repository

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