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Jakob Katz and Gerti Birnbaum Correspondence

Identifier: LBIJER 913

Scope and Contents

In the correspondence, Katz and Birnbaum discuss their relationship, daily life, what they have been reading, friends, and family, as well as their plans for the future, particularly regarding migration to Palestine. In her letters Birnbaum frequently writes about her work as a kindergarten teacher and her Hebrew lessons, while Katz writes mainly about his academic work, meetings, and English lessons. After Birnbaum migrated to Palestine in July 1935, she wrote to Katz about her impressions of the new country and her acclimatization there. His letters of that period address, besides the usual subjects, the political situation in Europe and his preparations to join her in Palestine.


  • Creation: undated, 1933-1936


Language of Materials

The collection is in German with some inserts in Hebrew.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open to researchers.

Conditions Governing Use

The collection has been digitized.

Biographical / Historical

Jacob Katz was born in 1904 to an orthodox family in Magyargencs, Hungary, and received a traditional as well as a general education. In 1928 he moved to Frankfurt, and after studying in a yeshiva he enrolled at the University of Frankfurt and submitted his doctoral dissertation in 1934. He became engaged to Gerti Birnbaum and in June 1935 moved to London to conduct further research, while Gerti was about to leave Germany for Palestine. In early 1936 he migrated to Palestine as well, married Gerti, and for several years worked as a teacher in Tel Aviv. In later years he become a well-known historian of modern Jewry and Orthodox Judaism, served as rector of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and in 1980 received the Israel Prize. From 1981 to 1992 Katz served as president of the Leo Baeck Institute Jerusalem. He passed away in 1998.

Gerti Birnbaum was born in 1913 in Frankfurt; her mother's maiden name was Schwarzschild. She trained as a kindergarten teacher and became engaged to Jakob Katz during his studies at Frankfurt University. In 1935 she migrated to Palestine and lived in Jerusalem until their wedding. The couple moved to Tel Aviv and Gerti founded and ran a puppet-theater for children, based on stories written by her husband. In 1951 the couple settled in Jerusalem and in the 1960s Gerti began to work as a librarian at the Israel Museum, where she remained until her retirement. Gerti Birnbaum-Katz passed away in 1999.


7 Folders


The collection contains the correspondence between Jakob Katz and his fiancée Gerti Birnbaum, and comprises 195 letters in seven folders. Katz's letters were written in Frankfurt, in Magyargencs (Hungary), and in London; Birnbaum's' letters were written in Kissingen, Antwerp, Amsterdam, Kreuznach, Berlin, Jerusalem, London, Frankfurt, and Tel Aviv. The earliest letter is dated July 1, 1933, and the last was written on February 18, 1936. Some letters are undated or appear to have been written by a third person.


This collection is arranged in 1 series.

  1. Series I: Correspondence; 1933-1936
Processed by Meirav Reuveny
© 2021
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Leo Baeck Institute Repository

15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States