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Leo Breslauer Collection

Identifier: AR 25910

Scope and Contents

The Leo Breslauer Collection contains the papers of this rabbi, including both professional and personal papers. Most of the collection focuses on his rabbinical work, especially at his congregations in Fürth and Washington Heights. Other prominent topics in this collection are the fate of the Fürth Jewish community during the Holocaust and discussion of the Orthodox Jewish stance against the creation of the modern country of Israel. The collection includes correspondence, manuscripts and notes, official documents, educational and professional papers, documentation from or about the congregations in Fürth and Washington Heights, photographs, and a large amount of published materials.

Several organizations in this collection have varying spelling among the papers in the collection, reflected in this finding aid. Folder titles will keep the spelling used in the documents inside them, while the narrative notes and titles use the following forms of names. The congregation led by Leo Breslauer in Washington Heights was variably spelled Kehilath Yaakov, Kehillath Yaakov and K’hilas Yaakov; in the notes of this finding aid the first spelling will be used. The organization Agudat Israel is also spelled Agudas Israel, Agudath Israel, and Agudah Israel among the papers of this collection; in the notes of this finding aid, Agudat Israel will be used. The organization Israel Am Hatora is spelled Israel Am HaTorah in this finding aid.

Documentation of Leo Breslauer’s work as a rabbi will be found in many areas of this collection. Documents that pertain to his education and early work will be found in Series I, including copies of his educational certificates, including his certificate of rabbinical ordination from the Rabbiner-Seminar in Berlin. Series II holds the papers of the two congregations he led in Fürth and Washington Heights, in Subseries 1 and Subseries 2, respectively. Papers related to these congregations include correspondence, manuscripts and drafts, notes, teaching materials, publications, and reports, among other papers. Many of the papers from his time as rabbi in Fürth relate to Jewish law regarding such topics as food preparation or mikveh, among others. Papers that describe the history of the Fürth Jewish community and the mistreatment of community members by the Nazis during the 1930s, are also present. The papers from his time as rabbi of Kehilath Yaakov include letters from men serving in the U.S. Army, documents about the organization Israel am HaTorah, and documents related to the congregation’s newsletter Maurosho. Copies of issues of the newsletters Maurosho and Am HaTorah will be found among the many publications of Series IV, as will some publications relating to the Fürth Jewish community. Notable among the papers of Kehilath Yaakov in Series II is a notebook that records deaths and marriages of congregants, with some notes for talks given at funerals and weddings. Series II additionally holds documents about the organization Agudat Israel, in which Leo Breslauer was active; Series IV includes teaching materials for leaders in this organization.

Series I contains the personal papers of Leo Breslauer and his immediate family members. Here will be found official documents, such as passports for Leo Breslauer and his wife Erna, along with a family register and family correspondence. Some of the family correspondence relates to the search for separated family members during the 1940s, while some document the Breslauers’ escape from Germany to the United States. Several folders relate to Leo Breslauer’s health and restitution for its loss. A number of unidentified photographs are also in this series.

Series III holds examples of Leo Breslauer’s writing and assembled research. Included are copies of his dissertation as well as drafts of writings about Jewish history, theological topics, and research and writings related to Zionism and Israel. This series includes many notes and notebooks, including a box of index cards.

Series IV consists of the collection’s many publications, books, and newspaper clippings and newspapers.


  • 1850-1995
  • 1914-1980


Language of Materials

The collection is primarily in German, Hebrew, and English, with a small amount of Yiddish.

Access Restrictions

Open to researchers.

Use Restrictions

There may be some restrictions on the use of the collection. For more information, contact: Leo Baeck Institute, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY 10011 email:

Biographical Note

Leo Breslauer was born in Kempen in the province of Posen, Prussia, in 1894 (today Kępen, Poland), the son of the merchant Isidor Breslauer and his wife Klara (née Scheyer). After completing his studies at the Königliches Gymnasium zu Posen (Royal High School of Posen) in 1913, he attended the Thora Lehranstalt (known as the Breuer Yeshiva or the Frankfurt Yeshiva) in Frankfurt am Main until March 1914. From May 1914 he was enrolled at the University of Berlin, initially to study philosophy, but in June 1915 transferred to study medicine instead, presumably due to the outbreak of World War I; the following semester he continued these medical studies in Bonn. In December 1916, he began his military service. From summer 1914 until September 1917, he also studied at the Rabbiner-Seminar in Berlin. In November 1917, he returned to enroll in philosophy courses at the University of Kiel. On July 10, 1918, the Rabbiner-Seminar in Berlin ordained him as a rabbi. In 1921 he received his doctorate in philosophy from the University of Kiel, after completing his dissertation on a comparison of the concept of intention in Judaism, Islam, and Greek philosophy: “Kawwana, Nijja und Prohairesis (in vergleichender, terminologischer und psychol.- historischer Beleuchtung)” [“Kavanah, Niyya and Prohairesis (in comparative, terminological and psychological-historical illumination)”].

In 1920, Leo Breslauer married Erna Wiener of Breslau; they would have four children: Georg, Ella, Ilse, and Gottfried.

From 1917-1923 Leo Breslauer served as a religion teacher, and later a rabbi, for the Kiel Jewish Community. From 1920-1923 he headed the Talmud Thora school in Kiel. In 1923, he left Kiel to become a rabbi of the Schaumre-Hadass congregation in Fürth, Bavaria. He also taught religion at the Israelitische Realschule in Fürth. On November 10, 1938 (“Kristallnacht”) the Jewish men of the community were assembled and attacked; Leo Breslauer was heavily wounded and thereafter had lifelong health problems.

By the beginning of 1939, Leo Breslauer had received an invitation and contract from the Buffalo Council of Jewish Congregations to assist as rabbi for their community in Buffalo, New York. He and his family had left Fürth by the middle of January for the town of Borculo, Netherlands, where they stayed for the next six months. In June 1939 the family left Borculo to travel to the United States. In 1943 he became rabbi of the newly founded Orthodox congregation Kehilath Yaakov (alternatively spelled Kehillath Yaakov and K’hilas Yaakov), in the Washington Heights neighborhood of northern Manhattan (New York City). Much of the congregation was made of former residents of Fürth and Bavaria. In 1949 he founded with others the organization Israel Am HaTorah.


4.75 Linear Feet

1 Boxes (1 oversized box.)


The Leo Breslauer Collection documents the professional career of Rabbi Leo Breslauer, and to a smaller extent, his personal life, especially in relation to his and his family’s departure from Germany. Prominent topics include his rabbinical work at congregations in Fürth, Germany and in New York City, his writings, and his thoughts on Zionism.


The collection is arranged in four series:

  • Series I: Personal, 1850-1880, 1911-1994
  • Series II: Professional, undated, 1857, 1890, 1895, 1907-1980, 1995
    • Subseries 1: Fürth, undated, 1857, 1895, 1914-1979, 1995
    • Subseries 2: Kehilath Yaakov (Washington Heights), 1907-1980
    • Subseries 3: Agudat Israel, 1920-1951, 1982
    • Subseries 4: Other Rabbinical Work, undated, 1890, 1918-1945, 1959, 1972
  • Series III: Writing, Notebooks and Research, undated, 1914-1916, 1921, 1930-1969
  • Series IV: Published and Printed Materials, 1899, 1908, 1912-1988
    • Subseries 1: Books with Notes and Inserted Research Materials, 1899, 1908, 1916-1978
    • Subseries 2: Anti-Zionist Publications, undated, 1965-1980
    • Subseries 3: Newspaper Clippings and Flyers, 1932, 1943-1955, 1965-1988
    • Subseries 4: Publications, 1912-1977

Related Materials

Multiple collections and books held in the Leo Baeck Institute’s archives and library pertain to individuals from Jewish communities in Fürth or to congregations in Washington Heights. These may be found through a search of the catalog.

The Jacob Wiener Collection (AR 5889) includes an anniversary booklet for Congregation Kehillath Yaakov.

Processing Information

Processing of this archival collection was begun in winter 2020, but was put on hold in March 2020. Processing resumed in 2023. Since little original order was observed among the folders, during processing similar topics or document types were gathered together to form series and subseries, and folders were arranged alphabetically.

Guide to the Papers of Rabbi Leo Breslauer
Processed by Dianne Ritchey with assistance from Melanie Litta and Moritz Rinaldo
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