Leon Kronish Papers
Scope and Content Note
This collection incorporates the personal and professional papers of Rabbi Leon Kronish with the organizational records of Temple Beth Sholom, where he served as spiritual leader for over fifty years. The collection documents most of Kronish's professional life while it concurrently chronicles the history of the Temple as it progressed from a tiny storefront Conservative synagogue to a large and influential Reform synagogue under his leadership. The collection also includes a small amount of biographical and personal material, as well as some material pertaining to his wife, Lillian, and two of their children.
Series I consists of the personal and professional papers Rabbi Leon Kronish, documenting fifty years of vocational work and professional activities. Included are sermons, photographs, correspondence, scrapbooks, subject files, clippings, and material documenting Kronish's involvement and service in professional organizations outside of his rabbinical duties. Chief among these was his involvement in Israel Bonds, a fundraising organization for the State of Israel, where he served in a leadership capacity for many years.
Series II contains the organizational records of Temple Beth Sholom that were accumulated by Rabbi Kronish while he served as spiritual leader at the Temple. Included are administrative records, financial records, photographs, sound recordings, newsletters, memorandums, material documenting Temple programs, activities, and events, and educational material and curricula, and material documenting worship services and lifecycle events held at the Temple.
- Majority of material found within 1948 - 1985
- Kronish, Leon (Person)
The collection is open to all researchers, except items that may be restricted due to their fragility, or privacy.
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Rabbi Leon Kronish served as spiritual leader of Temple Beth Sholom, a Reform synagogue located in Miami Beach, Florida, from 1944 through his semi-retirement in 1984. He continued to serve the Temple in a diminished capacity until 1995. Leon Kronish was born in Brooklyn, New York on February 21, 1917. He was the son of Max and Lena (Seligman) Kronish, Orthodox Jews who immigrated to the United States in 1910 from Eastern Europe. (Sources list either Poland or Ukraine, though the 1940 US Census lists Poland. As Poland didn't regain independence until 1918, it is likely that the Kronish family emigrated from either Congress Poland or Galicia.)1 According to the 1940 United States Census, Max and Lena Kronish also had two other children, Sylvia and Walter.2
Leon Kronish graduated from Eastern District High School in Brooklyn in 1932 and then attended Brooklyn College from which he graduated in 1936.3 Between 1937 and 1938, Kronish met two influential people that would shape his life and religious ideology, Rabbi Mordecai M. Kaplan (Reconstructionist) and Rabbi Stephen S. Wise (Reform).4 In 1938, Kronish entered the Jewish Institute of Religion (later Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion) located in New York City. He was ordained by Rabbi Wise at the Jewish Institute of Religion in 1942. In 1967, Kronish was awarded a Doctor of Divinity from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.
According to Henry A. Green, Professor of Religion at the University of Miami, Kronish inherited from Rabbi Wise (while at the Jewish Institute of Religion) "a strong commitment to the Reform mainspring of the prophetic mission of social justice," "a fervent activist-oriented Zionism," and "an ecumenical approach, certainly to Christians, but even more so to those of Klal Yisrael (Jewish Peoplehood) who were Conservative or Orthodox."5 From Rabbi Kaplan, Kronish was impacted by his "insistence on the centrality of a living liturgy, one that could express and re-express the simultaneous commitment of a living people to both change and continuity as part of a dynamic process of identity."6 Kronish was also influenced by the Cultural Zionism of Alexander Dushkin. As a result, Kronish "came to have a multi-faceted conception of what it meant to be Zionist, one simultaneously collective (Klal Yisrael), egalitarian (social justice and Labor Zionism), and cultural (intimately connected to Hebrew as a living language)."7Green also argues that Kronish can be understood within four institutional contexts that shaped him and that he, in turn, influenced: Liberal Judaism, Zionism, Miami Beach (South Florida was a hotbed for the civil rights/desegregation movement, the debate over separation of church and state/prayer in public schools, and the nuclear disarmament and peace movement in the 1950s and 1960s), and Temple Beth Sholom.8
In 1944, Kronish was elected spiritual leader of Beth Sholom Center, then a small storefront Conservative synagogue that was established in Miami Beach in 1942. In 1945, under Rabbi Kronish's leadership, the synagogue shifted from Conservative to Reform Judaism and the name was changed to Temple Beth Sholom. Between the mid-1940s and 1967, the congregation grew from 40 households to over 1200 congregant households.9 As a result of this growth in membership, the Temple built a new sanctuary which opened in 1957 (the first of several infrastructure projects over the years).
During Rabbi Kronish's tenure, Temple Beth Sholom established programs and activities common to Reform synagogues including the founding of local chapters of the Sisterhood and Men's Club and implementing educational programs such as Hebrew school and religious classes for children, teens, and adults. Rabbi Kronish taught adult education classes such as "The Great Jewish Books," "Contemporary Jewish Thought," and "300 Years of American Jewry."10 The Temple also offered a lecture series on current events and weekly library readings. Writer Isaac Bashevis Singer was a periodic guest. In the mid-1970s, the Temple's education arm was renamed the Rabbi Leon Kronish School of Living Judaism in honor of his leadership.11
Cultural programming was also a focus for the Temple. An art gallery was founded and, in the 1960s, the Culture and Fine Arts Series was established (led by the efforts of Temple staff member and congregant Judy Drucker). In 1970, it was renamed the Great Artist Series and renowned musicians, singers, and dancers from all over the world performed in it including Mstislav Rostropovich, Itzhak Perlman, and Pinchas Zuckerman.
Self-described as the "the Liberal congregation on the beach" (the byline on their newsletter from the 1940s through the 1990s), the Temple was active in social justice, civil rights, and environmental issues in the last half of the 20th century and their programming and community outreach activities reflected this. Building bridges and bonds between the Jewish Diaspora and Israel was a key focus for Rabbi Kronish and subsequently he established the Israeli-in-Residence program at the Temple, as well as organized pilgrimages to Israel for youth and adults.
Beyond his service at Temple Beth Sholom, Rabbi Kronish was actively involved in numerous professional and Jewish organizations. For the State of Israel Bonds Organization, a fundraising organization that raises money to support infrastructure projects and other programs in Israel, Kronish served as Assistant Chairman for Israel Bonds, National Chairman of Israel Bonds Rabbinic Cabinet, and National Co-Chairman of the Israel Bonds Campaign. His activities with Israel Bonds enabled him to travel extensively in the United States and Israel. Through Israel Bonds, Kronish met many Israeli and American dignitaries including David Ben-Gurion, Golda Meir, and Yitzhak Rabin.
For his alma mater, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Kronish served as the President of the Alumni Association and was on the Board of Governors. Other national activities included serving as the National Senior Vice-President of the American Jewish Congress and as the National Chairman of Board of the American Israel Histadrut Foundation. Locally, he served as President of the Rabbinical Association of Greater Miami and as President of the American Jewish Congress Southeast Council. For the Greater Miami Jewish Federation, Kronish was on the Executive Committee. He also served as Associate Chairman of the Combined Jewish Appeal-Israel Emergency Fund.
In 1940, Kronish married Lillian Austin, also of Brooklyn. Lillian Kronish (1917-2009) was very active in Temple Beth Sholom activities including the synagogue's Sisterhood chapter. The Kronishes had three children; Jordan, who died at age 17 in 1960, Ronald (1946-), who is a rabbi and is the founder and director of the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel, and Maxine Snyder (1951-2004), who served in various capacities in Hillel and in Jewish educational organizations before her untimely death. Leon and Lillian Kronish had five grandchildren. In 1978 and 1984, Rabbi Kronish suffered two major illnesses that ultimately affected his long-term health (a heart attack and a stroke, respectively). He died on May 23, 1996 following an illness.
- Encyclopedia of American Jewish History, Volume 1, page 440.
- 1940 US Census. National Archives and Records Administration. Accessed November 10, 2014. http://1940census.archives.gov/
- Leon Kronish Papers (P-990), Box 1, Folders 2, 4, and 5.
- "Gesher Vakesher, Bridges and Bonds, the Life of Leon Kronish," in Temple Beth Sholom 53rd Anniversary Journal, Tribute to Rabbi Leon Kronish, page 2. Leon Kronish Papers (P-990), Box 1, Folder 4.
- Ibid., page 5.
- Ibid., page 6.
- Ibid., page 9.
- Ibid., pages 2-3.
- Ibid., page 17.
- Leon Kronish Papers (P-990), Box 43, Folders 8-10.
- Leon Kronish Papers (P-990), Box 34, Folder 13.
- Temple Beth Sholom 53rd Anniversary Journal, Tribute to Rabbi Leon Kronish, 1995.
- Norwood, Stephen H. and Eunice G. Pollack (Editors). Encyclopedia of American Jewish History, Volume 1. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO, 2008.
28.7 Linear Feet (52 manuscript boxes, 1 half manuscript box, 1 record carton, and 1 oversized folder)
Language of Materials
The Leon Kronish Papers incorporate the personal and professional papers of Rabbi Leon Kronish with the organizational records of Temple Beth Sholom in Miami Beach, Florida, where he served as spiritual leader for over fifty years. Included are sermons, correspondence, memorandums, newsletters, worship service manuals, programs, pamphlets, greeting cards, administrative records, financial records, notes, clippings, scrapbooks, photographs, and sound recordings.
This collection is arranged into two series as follows:
- Series I: Personal and Professional Papers, 1932-1997
- Subseries 1: Personal, Family, and Biographical Material, 1932-1997
- Subseries 2: Correspondence, undated, 1946-1995
- Subseries 3: Sermons, Sermon Ideas, and Writings, undated, 1945-1983
- Subseries 4: Professional Affiliations, 1952-1982
- Subseries 5: Subject Files, 1949-1983
- Subseries 6: Photographs, 1940-1995
- Series II: Temple Beth Sholom Records, 1944-1996
- Subseries 1: Administrative and Financial, undated, 1953-1986
- Subseries 2: Memorandums, 1972-1984
- Subseries 3: Anniversaries and Ceremonies, 1945-1983
- Subseries 4: Worship, 1945-1984
- Subseries 5: Lifecycle Events, 1945-1986
- Subseries 6: Education 1947-1987
- Subseries 7: Sisterhood, 1946-1972
- Subseries 8: Newsletters and Printed Matter, 1944-1996
- Subseries 9: Photographs, 1944-1968
- Subseries 10: Sound Recordings of Services, 1950-1984
Located in AJHS New York, NY.
The collection was donated by Rabbi Leon Kronish's wife, Lillian Kronish, in 2002. (Accession number, 2002.012)
Approximately 1.5 linear feet of duplicate material was deaccessioned. The photographs have been moved to the AJHS Photographs Collection. The sound recordings are housed in the AJHS Audiovisual Collection.
Materials were refoldered and rehoused in acid-free folders and boxes. Rusty paper clips were removed and replaced when needed. Original folder titles were chiefly retained, though occasionally titles were modified or devised by the archivist to enhance access. 2.5 linear inches of material was treated for mold at the Center for Jewish History's Werner J. and Gisella Levi Cahnman Preservation Laboratory. This material was intellectually reintegrated into the collection, but remains physically separated in Box 53 of the collection.
- Administrative records
- Central Conference of American Rabbis
- Clippings (information artifacts)
- Jewish religious education
- Miami Beach (Fla.)
- Printed ephemera
- Reform Judaism
- Sound recordings
- State of Israel Bonds Organization
- Synagogues -- Organization and administration
- Temple Beth Sholom (Miami Beach, Fla.)
- Union of American Hebrew Congregations
- Guide to the Leon Kronish (1917-1996) Papers, 1932-1997 P-990
- Processed by Patricia Glowinski.
- © 2012
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Language of description note
- Description is in English.
- Processed as part of the Leon Levy Archival Processing Initiative, made possible by the Leon Levy Foundation
- November 2020: RJohnstone: post-ASpace migration cleanup.
Part of the American Jewish Historical Society Repository
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