Respondent
Jacob, Walter
Interview Date
July 22, 1996
Abstract
Respondent Rabbi, Rodef Shalom Temple; born 1930, Augsburg, Germany.
[T1S1] Respondent provides information on parents and brother: father, Ernest, born Gottingen, Germany, 1898; mother, born Hamburg, Germany, 1903; brother Herbert, born Augsburg, Germany, 1933. Respondent notes father 16<sup>th</sup> generation Rabbi; describes synagogue in Augsburg; damaged 1938, survived WW II, restored; details parents courtship and marriage. Respondent mentions after arrival in Springfield, MO, father taught history at Drury College; mother teacher; provides information on paternal grandfather. Respondent explains Judaism in Germany: liberal; recalls services in synagogue, notes life centered around it. Respondent details witnessing Kristallnacht, 1938; discusses leaving Germany.
[T1S2] Respondent continues discussion on leaving Germany; damage to father's synagogue, notes restoration, 1985; Respondent attended rededication. Respondent explains father's trip to London and family joining him, 1939; describes living arrangements with Uncle. Respondent reflects on trip from England to United States via ship, arrived New York, 1/3/40, settled in Long Island, father looked for position as Rabbi.
[T2S3] Respondent gives name of mother, Anette Frederika Lowenberg, notes she wrote account of Kristallnacht. Respondent describes move to St. Joseph, MO, June 1940, father principal of Orthodox school; reminisces on life there; discusses move to Springfield, MO, father Rabbi small Reform synagogue. Respondent notes father taught German at Drury College
[T2S4] Respondent notes father's small congregation in Springfield, MO.; becoming father's secretary, handled all duties, notes father's work. Respondent describes rebuilding of German Synagogue, his attendance, comments on 50<sup>th</sup> anniversary of Kristallnacht, 1988. Respondent details childhood in Springfield, MO, notes father tried to dissuade him from becoming Rabbi, discusses decision.
[T3S5] Respondent mentions confirmation in Springfield, MO, notes father's congregation both orthodox and reform. Respondent describes attendance at Drury College and application to Hebrew Union College. Respondent discusses job with forest service and graduation from Hebrew Union College; received call from Dr. Freehof to come to Pittsburgh. for interview. Respondent continues description of life at Hebrew Union College; summer work; provides names of places served as student Rabbi, arrival in Pittsburgh., 1955, temporary position.
[T3S6] Respondent explains interview with Dr. Freehof, notes: necessary to do 2 years in military service, describes Rodef Shalom Temple and discusses Rabbi Freehof; mentions formal dress at Sunday services and various summer experiences at Temple. Respondent discusses experience as military Chaplain: requirements; sent to Clark Air Base, responsible for naval bases in Taiwan and Manila, no war but much tension, looked for Jews and notes involvement of Jewish Welfare board.
[T4S7] Respondent discusses Hebrew Union College: courses offered, military training and methods of counseling, rituals; time of transition for College. Respondent comments on return to Pittsburgh., 1957; summer spent in England, met cousins of future wife Irene's family (related to Respondent), decision to marry, marriage in London, 10/30/58; details wedding. Respondent explains wife had no visa to come to USA; returned alone; details her arrival.
[T4S8] Respondent provides background information on Irene, her work in Israel and her establishment in Pittsburgh. Respondent discusses his position as Assistant Rabbi: duties involved; notes complex structure: gives details; mentions status of acquiring Doctorate. Respondent provides names and birth dates of 3 children: Claire, 1959: severely retarded; adopted Kenny, 1962; Daniel, 1966; discusses arrangements for Claire; her death, 1974. Respondent reflects on religious customs at home, family vacations, travels with children, camping, skiing and close family contacts with brother.
[T5S9] Respondent comments on brother's death, 8/29/96: his education and career; interests and publications. Respondent explains structure of Rodef Shalom Temple Junior Congregation: entity unto itself; structure of dues and its relationship to Senior Congregation.
[T5S10] Respondent provides information on Rabbi Fred Schwartz, also Assistant Rabbi; notes Respondent and Rabbi Schwartz interested in positions of their own; mentions Rabbi Schwartz found position in Chicago; Rabbi Freehof ready to retire. Respondent details interview to become Rabbi of Rodef Shalom Temple; acceptance and problems incurred; provides names of helpful people and discusses installation by father. Respondent comments on eliminating Book Reviews; introduction of Saturday morning services and early Friday evening services; introduced Bar and Bat Mitzvah: integrated into service.
[T6S11] Respondent discusses changes made in services, attention to holidays, involvement of families in activities, changes in prayer books: much controversy. Respondent names Rabbi Pomerantz: his creativity; comments on Israeli flag being placed on Bima; mentions no objection to congregants wearing Tallit (prayer shawl) or Kipot (head covering). Respondent reflects on Stanley Levin, principal of religious school; lists other activities: social action, civil rights.
[T6S12] Respondent continues discussion of activities: his speeches to general community, personal visits to hospitals and shut-ins, visits to bereaved families; notes difficulty of making calls. Respondent explains conversion classes and mixed marriages; expectations for converts; discusses matrilineal vs. patrilineal descent. Respondent repeats discussion on Rabbi Fred Pomerantz: his expertise with young people; notes Milton Sussman's involvement with youth group; mentions cantorial soloist and organist.
[T7S13] Respondent reflects on Vigdor Kavaler: discusses many new programs he introduced. Respondent elaborates on skills of Rabbi Pomerantz and continues discussion of programs started by Mr. Kavaler. Respondent notes generosity of Rodef Shalom Temple: lets many groups use facilities, lists groups. Respondent comments on meetings of board of directors: his involvement. Respondent discusses procedure in hiring a Rabbi: how selection is made.
[T7S14] Respondent notes Rabbi Staitman's first position: head of religious school, then assistant Rabbi. Respondent describes interviews for new Rabbi; explains how Rabbi Pine was chosen, then Rabbi Bush. Respondent recounts early involvement with Soviet Jewry late 60's into 70's, notes UJF (United Jewish Federation) not equipped to help at that time; notes congregation supportive of newcomers. Respondent acknowledges help of Lillian Friedberg. Respondent explains how he handles various situations that occur; notes national changes in reform services: more traditional, more Hebrew used.
[T8S15] Respondent begins lengthy discussion on Horizon Home: how it came about and need for daughter's school when D.T. Watson Home could no longer care for her. Respondent details setting up small group for establishment of Horizon Home: State not supportive, hard to find site, difficulty in getting funding. Respondent discusses fund raising efforts, finding building on N. Negley Ave., and zoning for group home. Respondent discusses money raised and getting community involved; comments on details of establishing facility. Respondent notes eight satellite facilities: central administration on N. Negley Ave., comments on need for guidelines.
[T8S16] Respondent continues discussion of Horizon Homes. Respondent defines Responsa: leading form of development of Jewish law; legal code, questions and answers, written down, uses traditions of past; gives examples of some Responsa; comments on rebuttals. Respondent describes writing over 500 Responsa and chairing committee, 1976-1990. Respondent mentions establishment of Dr. Solomon B. Freehof Institute of Halacha. Respondent explains Halacha: Jewish law in general, Responsa: a segment of it
[T9S17] Respondent notes summaries of Responsa now published in other countries; explains publication. Respondent mentions Pittsburgh. Platform: 1885; convened in Pittsburgh. set tone for Reform Judaism; explains Rabbi has final word in matters of rituals in Temple; notes his flexibility in trying different types of programs and daily services: 5:30PM.
[T9S18] Respondent comments on Gay/Lesbian congregation: services held at Temple; notes he will not perform gay marriages. Respondent defines marriage: official union of male and female; explains legitimization of children and how they are protected: gives examples.
[T10S19] Respondent president CCAR (Central Conference of American Rabbis) 1991-1993; 1,700-1,800 Rabbis involved; describes various positions, work involved, activities; focuses on scholarly topics, need for common system of conversion and for changes in Israel and long debates there. Respondent continues discussion on CCAR: details finances, internal issues, regional meetings and comments on need for reform standards in regard to behavior: what kind of behavior is expected from Reform Jews; gives examples; comments on travels as president of CCAR; notes involvement with Union of American Hebrew Congregations.
[T10S20] Respondent describes reconstructionist movement: liberal in theory, started by Rabbi Mordechai Kaplan; also Leo Beck movement in England. Respondent provides additional information on Hebrew Union College: new programs, expansions, new campuses. Respondent details trying to start Reform Jewish All Day school at Rodef Shalom Temple: difficulties involved, comments on Sunday AM school: many problems.
[T11S21] Respondent comments on reform prayer book: focus on changes; new prayer book published every 1/4 century. Respondent discusses his first book: CHRISTIANITY THROUGH JEWISH EYES: deals with every aspect of Christianity, still used today, gave royalty to Hebrew Union College. Respondent notes no experiences with anti-Semitism during entire career in America. Respondent mentions Zionism: supports it in broad sense, not on particular policy.
[T11S22] Respondent describes cantorial soloist: Mimi Lerner; gives background information: child of survivors, born in Paris and educated in US; taught music while developing career, now music director, sang with Metropolitan Opera, teaches music to adults and children at temple. Respondent provides brief discussion on Lillian Friedberg: involved in Jewish Community Relations Council, after her retirement, Respondent comments on trying to fill her role. Respondent outlines official position of CCAR in regards to intermarriage: resolution passed that Reform rabbis should not officiate at these marriages, however, some rabbis will do them, gives examples. Respondent mentions Harold Goldman, principal of religious school, wife, Barbara Goldman; very creative; comments on attitudes of parents, some negative.
[T12S23] Respondent provides thoughts on Israel: explains Biblical history; danger of nationalism, relationship of Diaspora to Israel. Respondent discusses Biblical Botanical Garden: gives background, started 15 years ago by Respondent and wife, always interested in gardening, mentions writing GUIDE TO GARDENS IN NORTH AMERICA. Respondent gives lengthy explanation of garden from its inception and how Respondent and wife did gardening. Respondent outlines special programs for garden: started newsletter "Papyrus"; comments on Symposiums and request by Oxford University Press to prepare article on Biblical flora.
[T12S24] Respondent continues discussion on budgeting for garden, brochures published and garden publicity. Respondent explains establishment and funding for exhibits of Rodef Shalom Gallery around Levy Hall. Respondent notes Associated American Jewish Museums: gives names of exhibits. Respondent discusses founding of Associated American Jewish Museums, 1972: traveling exhibits, explains difficulties, aborted idea, revived 1994. Respondent mentions forthcoming exhibits at temple; comments on future of Garden; notes cataloging of Judaica by Israel Museum; comments on local group cataloging temple items.
[T13S25] Respondent discusses forthcoming Symposium in Pittsburgh.: recording small synagogues in W. PA before they become extinct; provides details: work involved, purpose, funding, support and organizations involved. Respondent mentions temple registered as National Historical landmark, 1970s. Respondent explains in detail restoration project of Rodef Shalom Temple: decisions involved, how architect was chosen, notes only free standing dome; Guastavino tile; problems encountered, costs, preparation and money spent. Respondent reflects on fire; mentions generous contributions. Respondent discusses YMandWHA (Young Men and Women's Hebrew Association) it's change of name JCC (Jewish Community Center) and move from Oakland to Squirrel Hill; advantages and disadvantages.
[T13S26] Respondent reflects on Jewish Home for Aged (now Charles M. Morris Nursing and Rehabilitation Center) and new facility being built. Respondent recalls Montefiore Hospital, now UPMC (University of Pittsburgh Medical Center), departure of Jewish physicians, expresses positive feelings about change. Respondent describes position on board of WQED: 1968-1994, notes downsizing 1980-1990. Respondent explains association with WQEX and fundamentalists interest in purchasing it, notes function of station and discusses cable TV. Respondent outlines position in Munich, Germany: "Ober Rabbiner" (head Rabbi), provides information on responsibilities there, visits frequently; present population of Jews in Germany 100,000; notes structure of Jewish community, changes and problems.
[T14S27] Respondent continues discussion on Germany, details background of Walter Homolka: general Rabbi and publisher of prayer book in 3 languages. Respondent comments on his installation as Rabbi in Munich; names dignitaries in attendance and speech delivered by Respondent in German. Respondent notes forthcoming lectures in Germany. Respondent provides additional information on German Jewry and comments on his position there.
[T14S28] Blank tape
[T15S29] Respondent adds additional comments to previous tapes; notes Honorary degrees.
[T15S30] Respondent reflects on sons' Bar Mitzvahs: part of continuum in Jewish home. Respondent repeats information on father and his retirement. Respondent sheds light on cruise to Far East to conduct Passover Seder; notes before joining cruise, Respondent and wife traveled to Burma; details trip and his impressions.
[T16S31] Respondent describes cruise, Passover Seder, people aboard and number of people attending. Respondent notes other cities visited during cruise. Respondent comments on ordination of Walter Homolka as Rabbi in Munich, Germany; will take place in Pittsburgh,: Respondent and Professors from London and Israel will participate; notes conferences and Symposia to be held in Germany.
[T16S32] Respondent reflects on Symposium given in his honor and names participants; papers to be published in Germany. Respondent comments on Associated American Jewish Museums and forthcoming exhibit of Ketubot at Rodef Shalom; notes future exhibit: Small Town Synagogues; 60 towns within 100 miles from Pittsburgh. Respondent comments on installation of Walter Homolka as Rabbi in Germany; discusses shipping Torah; provides information on new German/Hebrew prayer book.
[T17S33] Respondent reports on reform prayer books being published in Europe and conducting conversion classes in Germany, rejections by orthodox Jews; notes Christian conversions. Respondent reminisces on first Bar Mitzvah he conducted in Germany; encouraged others to study, many learning liberal Judaism. Respondent lists numbers of orthodox and reform Jews in Budapest, Hungary; comments on beauty of large Synagogue: Budapest. Respondent discusses reform movement in many European countries.
[T17S34] Respondent completes tape with short discussion on Synagogues in Germany, very little volunteer effort. Respondent English editor of NOT BY BIRTH ALONE: deals with conversion.
Subjects
Associated American Jewish Museums; Augsburg (Germany); Biblical Botanical Garden (Rodef Shalom Temple (Pittsburgh, Pa.); Central Conference of American Rabbis; Freehof, Solomon Bennett, 1892-; Gay community; Hebrew Union College; Homolka, Walter; Horizon House (Pittsburgh, Pa.); Jacob, Irene, 1928-; Kavaler, Vigdor W.; Kristallnacht, 1938; Lerner, Mimi, 1945-2007; Munich (Germany); Rabbis; Synagogues; Responsa; Springfield (Mo.); Synagogues; Rodef Shalom Congregation (Pittsburgh, Pa.)
Birth Date
1930
Profession
Rabbi
Length (hours)
17
Interviewer1
Dinman, Gabrielle
Interviewer2
Harrison, Mary
Indexer
Berger, Betty
Collateral Materials
Box 102 FF 38
Identifier
ais196440.207
Rights
All rights reserved. University of Pittsburgh