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Above image: The text on the back of the photograph reads, “Chaplain Nathan Landman, Air Force Jewish Chaplain for France, Spain, and Libya, examines the traditional Shofar (ram’s horn) and other High Holy Day religious equipment prior to taking off from Evreux-Fauville Air Base to Tripoli, Libya on the first leg of a 3,000 mile circuit in which he conducted eight services at five bases before returning to Evreux for Yom Kippur.” from the collections of the American Jewish Historical Society.

Holiday History: Bulletins and Sermons from the NJWB
by Rachel Rudman, M.A., Reference Services Research Intern, Center for Jewish History

Over the next couple of weeks, I will post a series of articles that explore bulletins and sermons on Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot from the records of the National Jewish Welfare Board (NJWB), housed in the American Jewish Historical Society collections at the Center for Jewish History. These announcements reflect the desire of community leaders to place the Jewish holidays in the context of issues concerning American Jewry at the time. They show which events were most relevant to Jewish communities at specific time periods, as well as American Jewry’s reaction to national and global struggles.

For example, in the middle of WWII, the NJWB published an announcement titled, “G.I. High Holy Days, 1943.” This document describes the ways in which the organization enabled the observance of the holiest days of the Jewish year by American Jewish soldiers and sailors worldwide. Large supplies of religious materials—such as prayer shawls and books, shofars and skull caps—were made available at military establishments, and Jewish chaplains led thousands of high holiday services across the globe. This document reveals the concern that those in the military would not be able to observe the high holidays, as well as the action taken by the NJWB to ensure holiday observance by Jewish servicemen during WWII. (AJHS I-337, subgroup 1, series C, subseries 4, box 168, Folder 8. Click here for the finding aid.)        

Another example comes from a NJWB publication called, “The Jewish Holidays,” by Mordecai Soltes. Published in 1931 and revised in 1937 and 1943, the first three editions refer to Palestine and give short histories of Zionism, the Balfour Declaration and various Jewish organizations in the Yishuv (Jewish community in Palestine). The fourth edition, however, published in 1951, changes all wording from “Palestine” to “Israel” and shifts focus, reflecting new priorities in the young state. (AJHS I-337, subgroup 1, series C, subseries 4, box 168, Folder 10. Click here for the finding aid.)

For a glance into historical events through the eyes of Jewish communities during their holiest times, check back for posts specific to Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot. Also look for a post or two featuring children’s trivia questions about the holidays, and see how many you can answer!

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