Rachel Wischnitzer Collection
Scope and Content Note
This collection contains paper-based and visual materials primarily recording the professional life of art historian Rachel Wischnitzer and her husband historian Mark Wischnitzer, as well as their education and immigration to the United States.
Series I focuses on Rachel Wischnitzer’s work as a curator, museum consultant, lecturer, and professor, as well as her research and publications. The paper-based materials, with the exception of one folder found in Subseries 2, cover the time after Rachel Wischnitzer’s immigration to the United States from Germany via France in 1940. The majority of this material is correspondence with other individuals in her field, museums with which she worked, her publishers, and various libraries and archives. Subseries 3 pertains to her work as a professor of fine arts at Yeshiva University’s Stern College for women, and contains correspondence, lecture notes, syllabi, course descriptions, and slide lists. Also included in this series is a large amount of visual material—photographs, lantern slides, and negatives—compiled by Rachel Wischnitzer and used as reference materials, illustrations for her publications, and as visual aids for her lectures. Common topics include synagogues, book plates and illuminated manuscript pages, ceremonial and liturgical objects, and art.
Documents pertaining to Mark Wischnitzer’s professional activities, particularly his role as Secretary General of the Hilfsverein der Deutschen Juden and work as editor of several publications, can be found in Series 2. Professional correspondence in this series covers his work as editor and discussion of books and articles he wrote. The series also includes a photograph album with photographs of Hilfsverein representatives, as well as a folder of letters and telegraphs Mark Wischnitzer received on the occasion of his 50th birthday in 1932, while he was Secretary General of the Hilfsverein. Personal records in this series include records of Mark Wischnitzer’s education at the Gymnasium in Brody and universities in Vienna and Berlin, as well as official documents testifying his service during World War I, years of work for the Hilfsverein, certificates confirming different versions of his name, and marriage certificate, as well as a folder of correspondence pertaining to his efforts to emigrate from France to the United States in 1940.
- Creation: undated, 1894-1991
- Creation: Majority of material found within 1940-1989
- Wischnitzer, Rachel, 1885-1989 (Person)
Language of Materials
The collection is in English, German, French, and Russian, with smaller amounts of Hebrew and Yiddish, and a handful of items in Italian, Spanish, Polish, Finnish, and Latin.
This collection is open to researchers.
Collection is digitized. Follow the links in the Container List to access the digitized materials.
Rachel Wischnitzer née Bernstein was born in Minsk, Russia, on April 15, 1885, to Wladimir Bernstein and Sophie Bernstein née Halpern. Upon her graduation from Gymnasium in Warsaw in 1902, she studied at the University of Heidelberg (1902-1903), Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels (1903-1905), and the École Spéciale d'Architecture in Paris (1905-1907), from which she received her diploma in architecture. She continued her education with courses in art history at the University of Munich (1909-1910). Returning to Russia, she worked on the staff of the Evreiskaia Entsiklopediia (Russian-language Jewish Encyclopedia), to which she contributed articles on architecture, artists, and ceremonial objects, as well as reviewing art publications for the magazine Russkaya Mysl.
On June 5, 1912, Rachel Bernstein married Mark Wischnitzer, who served as one of the editors of the Russian Jewish Encyclopedia. Mark Wischnitzer (also Markus Wischnitzer and Mordko Wisznicer) was born in Rovno, Russia, on May 10, 1882. His parents were Jakob Lejba (also Jakob Leib and Leon) Wischnitzer and Fajga (Fanny) Wischnitzer née Kulikovitzer (Kulikowiczer). He attended the K.K. Kronprinz-Rudolf-Gymnasium in Brody from 1894 till 1901, then continued his studies at the University of Vienna and Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität in Berlin, from which he received his doctorate in 1906.
Mark Wischnitzer served in the Austrian Army during World War I, during which time Rachel Wischnitzer lived in Vienna and Berlin. After the war, the couple lived for a year in London, where Mark was pursuing research. Rachel studied Hebrew illuminated manuscripts at the British Museum and Bodleian Library, as well as contributed articles to The Christian Science Monitor. From London, the Wischnitzers moved to Berlin, where Mark Wischnitzer became Secretary General of the Hilfsverein der Deutschen Juden, in 1921.
While in Berlin, the Wischnitzers launched the companion art journals Rimon (Hebrew) and Milgroim (Yiddish). The journals were published from 1922 through 1924, with Rachel serving as art editor and Mark serving as managing editor. Rachel also worked as art editor of the Encyclopedia Judaica published in Berlin from 1928 through 1934, and as curator of the Berlin Jewish community’s museum from 1933 through 1938. The Wischnitzers' only child, Leonard James Wischnitzer (later Winchester), was born in Berlin on January 5, 1924.
The family immigrated to Paris in 1938; Rachel Wischnitzer and Leonard continued on to the United States in 1940, with Mark Wischnitzer following a year later. Rachel Wischnitzer returned to school, earning her master’s degree from New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts in 1944. Her master’s thesis, entitled The Messianic Theme in the Paintings of the Dura Synagogue, was published in 1948. Her other major works include Synagogue Architecture in the United States (1955) and Architecture of the European Synagogue (1964). Rachel Wischnitzer taught fine arts at Yeshiva University’s Stern College for Women from 1956 until her retirement in 1968.
Mark Wischnitzer died October 15, 1955, in Tel Aviv, Israel. Rachel Wischnitzer died November 20, 1989, in New York.
11 Linear Feet
The Rachel Wischnitzer Collection contains correspondence, lecture notes, photographs, lantern slides, and negatives documenting Rachel Wischnitzer’s career as an art historian, curator, professor, consultant, and author. Also included are correspondence, records, and photographs pertaining to her husband Mark Wischnitzer’s work as a historian, editor, and Secretary General of the Hilfsverein der Deutschen Juden.
Materials in the collection arrived at the Leo Baeck Institute in labeled folders. Each folder was labeled "RW" for Rachel Wischnitzer or "MW" for Mark Wischnitzer; the collection was then divided into two series accordingly. Due to the small amount of material pertaining to Mark Wischnitzer present in the collection, Series 2 was not further divided into subseries. Rachel Wischnitzer's correspondence was filed in labeled folders by individual or subject; this separation has been maintained. For items found in Series I, Subseries 1-4, folder contents have been kept together and folder titles maintained. Glass plate negatives and lantern slides found in the collection came to the Institute lacking an original order. Glass plate negatives have been sorted by size; lantern slides are organized topically.
- Series I: Rachel Wischnitzer, undated, 1910s-1991
- Subseries 1: Correspondence (Individuals), undated, 1938-1989
- Subseries 2: Correspondence (Subject), 1922-1991
- Subseries 3: Stern College for Women, undated, 1956-1984
- Subseries 4: Photographs, undated, circa 1930-1985
- Subseries 5: Lantern Slides and Negatives, undated, 1910s-circa 1968
- Series II: Mark Wischnitzer, undated, 1894-1969
One box of publications (books, serials, and offprints), including the Wischnitzers' art journals Rimon and Milgroim, were removed to the LBI Library. One box of woodcut blocks and one box of awards and personal effects were removed to the LBI Art Department.
Two folders of student papers and a folder containing maps of Belarus, Israel, Italy (Rome and Venice), and New York City were removed from the collection and discarded.
Upon receipt of the collection, LBI staff transferred the collection material from the boxes in which it arrived into archival boxes. During processing, paper materials were transferred from the original folders into archival folders; folder contents were kept intact and folder titles retained. Lantern slides and glass plate negatives were placed into envelopes and four-flap enclosures, respectively, and housed in appropriate storage boxes.
- Guide to the Rachel Wischnitzer Collection undated, 1894-1991 (bulk 1940-1989) AR 25657
- Processed by Sarah Glover
- © 2016
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Language of description note
- Description is in English.
- as part of the Leon Levy Archival Processing Initiative, made possible by the Leon Levy Foundation. The Leo Baeck Institute DigiBaeck project was supported in part by funds from the Metropolitan New York Library Council (METRO) through the New York State Regional Bibliographic Databases Program.
- June 2018:: Links to digital objects added in Container List.