William A. Rosenthall papers are now available

I am pleased to announce that the William A. Rosenthall papers have been processed. Alas, our digital services librarian is revamping the stylesheets for our EAD finding aids; therefore, we are not yet able to make the finding aid available through the library catalog.  A PDF version is available here.

The collection consists of biographical files, correspondence, sermons, articles, newspaper clippings, photographs, and other papers created and compiled by William

Page 1 of Rosenthall's Rosh Hashanah sermon delivered during his rabbinate in Panama (1965).

Page 1 of Rosenthall’s Rosh Hashanah sermon delivered during his rabbinate in Panama (1965).

Rosenthall. The materials chiefly relate to Rosenthall’s rabbinates, particularly his sixteen-year tenure at Charleston’s Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim. The collection also includes materials regarding Rosenthall’s involvement in numerous faith- or art-based organizations, such as the Charleston Jewish Federation, The Charleston Museum, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Christian-Jewish Council of Charleston, and the World Union for Progressive Judaism, of which Rosenthall was Executive Director from 1962 to 1973.

Article on the ordination of Debra Hachen, the first daughter of a rabbi to become a rabbi herself (1980).

Article on the ordination of Debra Hachen, the first daughter of a rabbi to become a rabbi herself (1980).

Also present are Rosenthall’s expansive topical files on Jewish history and culture. Topics include Israel and the Arab-Israeli conflict, Zionism, Jewish practices and beliefs, various Jewish communities, Jewish history and individuals, Jewish relationships with other ethnic and religious populations, antisemitism, women and gender equality, and Jews in military service.

And while he is known for his prolific collecting of Jewish art (materials which comprise the William A. Rosenthall Judica collection), Rosenthall was quite an artist himself.

rosenthall sketch 02

Sketch by Rosenthall.

Sketch of synagogues by Rosenthall.

Sketch of synagogues by Rosenthall.

Where it all began…

While scanning a portfolio of postcards from Germany and Austria, our intern Heidi Wilson (CofC undergraduate, historic preservation program) discovered the very first item of Rabbi Rosenthall’s Judaica collection!

Rosenthall discussed his collecting in a 1997 oral history interview with Dale Rosengarten.

“WR:      My collecting—aside from philately which, how shall I say, charmed me from early youth, my Grandmother Rosenthall, née Moss, had gone to Europe a few years before my birth and had, in our attic in Ohio, huge boxes of travel folders, souvenirs, and hundreds upon hundreds upon hundreds of postcards. One of the postcards, among others, intrigued me because it showed the interior of a very beautiful synagogue with round balconies in Augsburg in Germany [ed.: Mainz, Germany], which she had visited. Eventually I asked her for it and, of course, she gave it to me.

Then when my father died and the household was in disruption, we moved and it got lost. I kept trying to find it periodically and, in the meantime, started collecting other Jewish postcards. Low and behold, one year or month or day, I found it, although I had lost some boxes, incidentally, in the moves. That started the postcard area, but that was related to graphics in general.

And, let’s say by the time of my marriage, I had already started to pick up a print here, a print there, and then going to Europe and Israel immediately thereafter increased this. Then the years following, living in New York for so many years and traveling to Europe, basically, and Israel so often, it just kept accumulating. I lay it all, basically, to a double entry that would be my interest in stamps and the search for my grandmother’s postcard. So now I have more than three thousand different Jewish postcards and the print collection, I think, in private hands in the United States, is the largest Jewish interest.

DR:         What would you say motivated your collecting?

WR:        The same thing that motivated my eventual entry into the rabbinate, I guess: an interest in Jewish history and affairs. I was the only Jewish boy in my hometown and, therefore, questions of identity entered into it. There was a Jewish girl a couple of years younger that I used to run from [laughter] every time I saw her because she was kind of, shall we say, pursuing [laughter]. But that fact, that I had to represent Jewry among the young, I think, had a lot to do with it, and I was very pleased to do it.

DR:         It was really more from the angle of your Jewish identity than it was from—

WR:        You see I was always interested in drawing and so forth, and in painting. There were a few things around the house, not much. So from early school, from early elementary school, I was usually the class artist. When I was in high school, I edited the yearbook, but I also was the artist thereof, and was interested in general art always and did painting and drawing. I don’t do much now, although I go to the Gibbes classes every now and then. I may do something again if I feel up to it—soon.”

JHC’s newest interns

JHC welcomed three new interns last month.

Jocelyn Leving, Spanish and English double major, College of Charleston
Joshua Minor
, School of Library and Information Science, University of South Carolina
Heidi Wilson
, Historic Preservation and Community Planning major, College of Charleston

Heidi, Joshua, and Jocelyn will be digitizing and rehousing postcards, prints, photographs, and other images from the Rosenthall portfolios, which will then be made available through the Lowcountry Digital Library. They are currently digitizing postcards of synagogues and tombs. Stay posted for updates on their progress.

Second portfolio uploaded to Lowcountry Digital Library

We are pleased to announce that the second Rabbi William A. Rosenthall portfolio has been uploaded to the Lowcountry Digital Library. This is the first portfolio digitized under the CLIR grant.

Most of the images are photographs and prints of European synagogues. Also included are several depictions of rabbis, Jewish cemeteries, and Jewish ghettos. While all the images are fascinating representations of Jewish culture, individuals, and architecture, we’ve selected a few here to demonstrate the breadth of the collection.

Stay posted for more updates on our progress.

A new year, a new volunteer, and a new website!

Special Collections is ringing in 2011 with the creation of a website to document the progress and discoveries made while processing the William A. Rosenthall Judaica collection and William A. Rosenthall papers. Many thanks to Irene and Gordon Rosenthall and Dean of Libraries David Cohen for encouraging us to publicize our progress with the collections. We also thank Chris Vinson for his technical assistance in launching the website.

In November 2009, the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) awarded the Jewish Heritage Collection a generous grant to process and catalog its “Hidden Collections”—foremost among them the William A. Rosenthall Judaica collection and William A. Rosenthall papers. The project team, consisting of Special Collections staff, archivists, archival assistants, consulting scholars, and student volunteers and interns, has begun processing and digitizing Rabbi Rosenthall’s vast collection. Portions of Rosenthall’s collection of Judaica images are currently being added to the Lowcountry Digital Library.

We would also like to welcome our newest volunteer, Joanna Knight, a senior history student from Columbia University. Joanna is working on the massive Rosenthall portfolios rehousing and digitization project. This involves removing the contents of the portfolio (typically prints, etchings, lithographs, photographs, or postcards), scanning and digitally processing each item, creating item-level metadata, and placing items in new archival-safe portfolios. After an entire portfolio is scanned and processed, it will be uploaded to the Lowcountry Digital Library and made available to the public.

Please stay tuned for more information and updates.