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Rabbi Isaac Klein papers

 Collection — Box: 1-15
Identifier: MS-0149

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of extensive writings by Klein on traditional Jewish practice and law. This includes manuscript material for his books Guide to Jewish Religious Practice (1979), The Ten Commandments in a Changing World (1963), The Anguish and the Ecstasy of a Jewish Chaplain (1974), and his translation of The Code of Maimonides (Mishneh Torah): Book 7, The Book of Agriculture (1979). Also represented are speeches, sermons, articles, and remarks from the conservative Jewish viewpoint on subjects such as medical ethics, dietary laws, adoption, and marriage and divorce. Meeting minutes, annual reports, bulletins, and sermons relating to Klein's rabbinical vocations in Springfield, Massachusetts and Buffalo, New York are also included. The papers contain photographs, wartime letters, and military records of Klein documenting his service in World War II as a director of Jewish religious affairs in Germany.


  • 1925-1979


Language of Materials

Collection material in English, Hebrew, and Yiddish.

Terms of Access

Rabbi Isaac Klein Papers, 1925-1979 are open for research.


Copyright of papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns. Researchers must obtain the written permission of the holder(s) of copyright and the University Archives before publishing quotations from materials in the collection. Most papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures unless otherwise specified.

Biographical Note

Rabbi Isaac Klein was born in a village in Czechoslovakia on September 8, 1905. He migrated to the United States in 1920, determined to further his already considerable Judaic education. This brought him eventually to the Isaac Elchanan Yeshiva (now part of Yeshiva University). Meanwhile he completed high school and received his bachelor's degree from the City College of New York. He earned his way through school by teaching part time.

As he was nearing ordination at the Yeshiva he transferred to the Jewish Theological Seminary of America where he was ordained in 1934. Previously, in 1932, he had married Henriette Levin and was blessed by three children: Hannah (Mrs. Paul Katz), Miriam (Mrs. Saul Shapiro), and Rivkah (Mrs. Gerald Berkowitz).

Rabbi Klein's first pulpit was Kodimoh Congregation, Springfield, Massachusetts, where he served until 1953 except for government service. He proved to be an outstanding chaplain and the story of those years is told in one of his many books. In 1950-1951, appointed by President Truman, he directed Jewish religious affairs in the American occupied sector of Germany. During his Springfield years, Rabbi Klein accomplished two outstanding feats. He received a Ph.D. in 1948 from Harvard University under the sponsorship of the late Professor Harry B. Wolfson. Even more difficult, Rabbi Klein was one of only two men in the century-old history of the Seminary to receive full ordination (S'micha).

In 1953 Rabbi Klein accepted the pulpit of Temple Emanuel in Buffalo, New York. In 1968 this synagogue merged with Temple Beth David to become Temple Shaarey Zedek. Rabbi Klein retired in 1972, spending his winters in California where he taught at the University of Judaism, lectured widely and, despite failing health, wrote many books and articles. His magnum opus, A GUIDE TO JEWISH RELIGIOUS PRACTICE, was published posthumously. A towering figure among the Conservative rabbis of his generation, Rabbi Klein leaned toward tradition both in personal practice and his influence on the movement.

Rabbi-Klein died in Los Angeles on January 23, 1979 and was buried in Buffalo, New York.


18 Linear Feet (13 cartons, 1 manuscript box, 1 custom box)


Collection of Rabbi Isaac Klein includes school notebooks, correspondence, photographs, military service records, speeches, articles, manuscripts, and other writings relating to his life and teachings in conservative Judaism.


While loosely organized into categories (biographical information, education, publications, Rabbinical Assembly, religious matters, and Temple Emanuel) within this finding aid, the physical arrangement of the collections' files has been maintained as processed by the staff of the State University of New York College at Buffalo (Buffalo State) Archives.

  1. Biographical Information
  2. Education
  3. Publications
  4. Rabbinical Assembly
  5. Religious Matters
  6. Temple Emanuel

Acquisition Information

The collection, as well as the larger Jewish Archives of Greater Buffalo Collection, was transferred from State University of New York College at Buffalo (Buffalo State) Archives in 2006 by the Jewish Federation of Western New York.

Accruals and Additions

No further accruals are expected to this collection.

Related Materials

Processing Information

Processed by staff of the State University of New York College at Buffalo (Buffalo State) Archives.


Finding Aid for the Rabbi Isaac Klein papers
Finding aid prepared by staff of the State University of New York College at Buffalo (Buffalo State) Archives.
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the University Archives Repository

420 Capen Hall
Buffalo New York 14260-1674 US
716-645-3714 (Fax)