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Carol Kahn Strauss Family Collection

 Collection
Identifier: AR 25211

Scope and Content Note

This collection documents the history of the Kahn family from the late 19th century through the end of the 20th century, focusing mainly on the lives of Alfred and Lotte Kahn and their children Steve Kahn and Carol Kahn Strauss. The collection is divided into three series: family papers, materials related to the Congregation Habonim, and family photographs.

Materials in Series I: Family papers include a family tree, vital records, correspondence, military records from World War I, education and work records, emigration papers, clippings, speeches, notes, and ephemera. Also included are several short personal remembrances written by Alfred Kahn recalling World War I, vacations with his first fiancée in the 1920s, his time as a young lawyer in residence in the early 1930s, and his emigration with Lotte Kahn. A full memoir of about 100 pages is also included.

Series II: Congregation Habonim includes anniversary journals, programs for special events and High Holy Day services, bulletins and clippings, renovation plans, flyers for outings, and a membership directory. Papers created by Carol Kahn Strauss during her presidency include letters to the congregation, personal correspondence, a handbook for presidents of congregations, notes, agendas, minutes, and outreach letters. Also included are papers created by Lotte Kahn in her roles as chairperson for the 45th Anniversary Committee and of the Journal Committee.

Series III: Family photographs consists of photo albums and loose photographs depicting the Kahn and Landau families from around 1880 to 1969.

Dates

  • 1826-1999

Language of Materials

The collection is in English and German.

Access Restrictions

This collection is open to researchers.

Access Information

Collection is digitized. Follow the links in the Container List to access the digitized materials.

Biographical Note

The Kahn family can be traced back to the early 19th century in rural Westphalia. Alexander Kahn (1816-1909), a butcher, moved to Dortmund (Germany) in 1840, where he lived until his death at the age of 93. He married Berta née Zuckerberg (1827-1890), and they had eight children. Their son Abraham (1866-1919) was a businessman in Dortmund. In 1895, Abraham married Wilhelmine Strauss (1866-1956), and the couple had two sons, Walter (1896-1953) and Alfred (1899-1983).

Alfred Kahn entered Realgymnasium in Dortmund in 1910. Both he and his brother Walter served in the German army during World War I. After the end of the war, Alfred completed his final examinations at his Realgymnasium and found a job in an iron wholesale business. He left this job to study law at the Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster, and eventually earned a law degree from the University of Erlangen in 1930. In 1921, Alfred got engaged to Rosa (alternatively Rosel) Baum, whom he had known since his high school years. Rosa contracted pneumonia and, after spending years in a sanatorium, died of the disease in 1931. Alfred’s nascent legal career was cut short after the Nazi party took power in 1933. In 1937, he married Lotte Landau (1912-2004). In December 1938, Alfred and Lotte immigrated via Holland to the United States and settled in New York City.

Alfred’s mother Wilhelmine Kahn and Lotte’s parents Moritz and Ida Landau were on a ship to the United States when Pearl Harbor was bombed and the U.S. entered the war. Their ship was rerouted to Cuba, where they lived for three years before joining Alfred and Lotte in New York.

Alfred’s brother Walter Kahn became a doctor, earning a degree in medicine from the University of Bonn. During World War I, he served as a military doctor, and after his emigration he set up a practice with offices in Chelmsford and Lowell, Massachusetts. He married Margaret (alternatively Grete) Kamp in 1922. They had one son, Ernst, in 1926.

Alfred and Lotte Kahn’s son Steve was born in 1940 and their daughter Carol in 1944. After initial struggles as new immigrants, the family’s economic condition improved when Alfred established a law practice specializing in restitution claims and Lotte made a name for herself as a stockbroker.

Their son Steve studied law at New York University and then pursued a career in advertising and publishing, focusing on teen popular culture during the 1960s and 1970s and then writing books on how to succeed in business in the 1980s. He married Evelyn Grunfeld, and they had a son, Andrew. Steve Kahn died of a heart attack in 1988.

Carol Kahn Strauss studied political science and international relations and took on positions in administration, including work as the Senior Editor at the Hudson Institute and as the book editor at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. She was elected the President of the Congregation Habonim in 1984 and continued in this role until 1992. She served the Leo Baeck Institute as the Executive Director from 1994 until 2012, when she became the International Director.

The Kahn family was very active in the Congregation Habonim, a Jewish synagogue founded in 1939 by immigrants who had fled Nazi persecution. Lotte and Alfred Kahn knew the founding rabbi Hugo Hahn from their childhood and young adult years in Dortmund, and they joined the newly-formed congregation shortly after their immigration to the United States. Both Steve and Carol were confirmed in this congregation, and Lotte and Carol served the congregation in many roles throughout their lives.

References

“Carol Kahn Strauss.” Leo Baeck Institute. Retrieved 10 April 2013 from http://www.lbi.org/about/staff-directory/carol-kahn-strauss

Extent

2 Linear Feet

Overview

This collection documents the history of the Kahn family from the 19th century to the end of the 20th century. The bulk of the materials relate to Alfred and Lotte Kahn, who fled Germany for New York City in 1939, where Alfred made a career as a lawyer and Lotte as a stockbroker. Paper materials include a family tree, vital records, correspondence, memoirs, education and emigration records, World War I military records, clippings, speeches, and ephemera. Papers showing the activities of the Kahn family in the Congregation Habonim in New York City are also included, as well as a large amount of family photographs ranging from the 1880s to 1969.

Arrangement

The collection is arranged alphabetically by folder title, most of which are taken directly from the labels on the folders in which the items were originally organized.
  1. Series I: Family papers, 1826-1995. This series is organized by the individual to whom the records relate. Where more than one folder relates to a single person, those folders are arranged chronologically.
  2. Series II: Congregation Habonim, 1958-1999. This series is arranged in chronological order.
  3. Series III: Family photographs, circa 1880s-1969. This series consists of photo albums and loose photographs. The photo albums are placed first and arranged in rough chronological order. About half of the loose photographs either fell out of the photo albums during processing or were found tucked into the back of the albums. These loose photographs were placed into envelopes labeled according to the album from which they came. Loose photographs that were not associated with an album were placed into envelopes according to the family member and era which they depict. All folders of loose photographs were then arranged in chronological order.

Separated Material

Alfred Kahn's World War I medals were given to the LBI Arts and Objects Collection, as well as an original silhouette cut by Lotte Kahn depicting a couple in a horse-drawn carriage.

A copy of Lotte Kahn’s book Women and Wall Street (1963) was separated to the LBI Library.

Copies of the following books by Steve Kahn were separated to the LBI Library:
  1. Kahn, Steve. Tops in Pops Plus A Rock ‘n’ Roll Roundup. New York: MacFadden Books, 1961.
  2. ibid. Flip’s Groovy Guide to the Groops! New York: Signet Books, 1968.
  3. ibid. Flip’s Groovy Guide to the Guys! New York: Signet Books, 1969.
  4. ibid. New York, N.Y. 10022. New York: Pocket Books, 1979.
  5. ibid. The Mall. New York: Pocket Books, 1983.
  6. ibid. The Secure Executive: The Secret of Becoming One, Being One, Staying One. New York : G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1986.
The following three items were moved to the LBI A/V collection:
  1. VHS tape titled “Habonim Congregation: Dedicated to the Builders of Habonim Past, Present and Future”
  2. LP record titled “Erich Kunz sings German University Songs and other songs of Liberty, Love and Laughter” Volume 4.
  3. LP record titled “Shirey Kehillat Habonim: Favorites from the Liturgy of Congregation Habonim sung by Cantor Erwin Hirsch, assisted by the Choir under the direction of Martha Hirsch.” 35th Anniversary, 1939-1974.
A Spanish-German dictionary from 1912 and a miniature copy of six Grimms' fairy tales were removed. Copies of the title pages and publication information for these items are included in the collection.

Processing Information

Duplicates were removed. Original folders were removed where necessary. A binder holding clippings about Lotte Kahn’s career was removed and the contents were kept (box 1, folder 21). Clippings that were too delicate to handle were copied onto acid-free paper, and the originals were removed. Empty envelopes were removed. Loose photographs were placed in archival envelopes. The pages of photo albums were lined with acid-free paper to protect the photographs they contain. Loose photographs were placed in archival photograph envelopes. About half of these loose photographs either fell out of the photo albums during processing or were found tucked into the back of the albums. In these cases, the loose photographs were placed into envelopes labeled according to the album from which they came. Loose photographs that were not associated with an album were placed into envelopes according to the family member and era which they depict.
Title
Guide to the Carol Kahn Strauss Family Collection 1826-1999 AR 25211
Status
In Progress
Author
Processed by Leanora Lange
Date
© 2013
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Language of description note
Description is in English.
Sponsor
Made possible by the Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives Grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources through The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support "Illuminating Hidden Collections at the Center for Jewish History."

Revision Statements

  • March 25, 2015 : dao links added by Emily Andresini.

Repository Details

Part of the Leo Baeck Institute Repository

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