Skip to main content

William A. Rosenthall papers

 Collection
Identifier: Mss 1087

Collection Overview

Biographical files, correspondence, sermons, articles, newspaper clippings, photographs, and other papers of William A. Rosenthall, rabbi, scholar, and collector of Judaica. Materials document 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. Also present are Rosenthall's expansive topical files on Jewish history and culture, which include original documents and some photocopies. Topics vary widely and include Israel and the Arab-Israeli conflict, Zionism, Jewish practices and beliefs, Jewish communities located around the world, Jewish history and individuals, Jewish relationships with other ethnic and religious populations, anti-Semitism, women and gender equality, and Jews in military service.

Dates

  • 1791-2008
  • Majority of material found within 1930-2000

Creator

Language of Material

Materials in English, Hebrew, Yiddish, German, and Spanish

Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research.

Copyright Notice

The nature of the College of Charleston's archival holdings means that copyright or other information about restrictions may be difficult or even impossible to determine despite reasonable efforts. Special Collections claims only physical ownership of most archival materials.

The materials from our collections are made available for use in research, teaching, and private study, pursuant to U.S. copyright law. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source.

Biographical and Historical Note

William A. Rosenthall was born in Kenton, Ohio, on March 8, 1927, to Gordon and Florence Rosenthall. He enlisted in the army in June 1945 upon completing high school, and subsequently enrolled at Brooklyn College in Brooklyn, New York. After two years, Rosenthall transferred to Syracuse University, where he earned his bachelor's degree in English, graduating magna cum laude in 1950. In 1951, he entered the rabbinical program at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati, Ohio. He graduated in 1956 as president of his class with a bachelor's and master's of Hebrew letters and was ordained as a rabbi. He held the position of assistant rabbi at Washington Hebrew Congregation in Washington, D.C., for a year, then resigned in order to pursue study in Europe and Israel. During his time in Washington, Rosenthall met Irene Ostrower, whom he married in 1957. Their son Gordon was born in 1963 and daughter Marcia in 1966.

After returning to the United States in 1958, Rosenthall became rabbi of Woodsdale Temple in Wheeling, West Virginia. He left the position in 1962 to become the executive director of the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ), a post he held for more than a decade. When the WUPJ headquarters moved overseas in 1972, Rabbi Rosenthall resigned as executive director, but remained active in the organization's governing body. He also remained active in the International and Latin American Commissions of the American Jewish Committee and the Latin American Committee of the Anti-Defamation League.

Rosenthall next held interim positions at synagogues in New York before relocating to Charleston in 1976 to become the rabbi of Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim (KKBE). This was Rosenthall's last and longest tenure, extending from 1976 to 2005. In Charleston, Rosenthall spearheaded efforts to promote interfaith cooperation and served as president of the Christian-Jewish Council of Charleston and the Ministerial Association of Greater Charleston. He served on the boards of the Carolina Art Association and The Charleston Museum and on the Collections Committee of the Gibbes Museum of Art, and he assisted in establishing the Yaschik/Arnold Jewish Studies Program at the College of Charleston. He was also involved in the Charleston Jewish Fund as part of the Community Relations Committee.

Rabbi Rosenthall's great passion was collecting Judaica, including prints, postcards, medals, stamps, and books and other published materials, depicting every aspect of Jewish life and culture. Rosenthall began collecting as a young man and continued adding to his Judaica collection throughout his life. As a scholar and collector, Rosenthall lectured on Jewish graphic arts and exhibited portions of his collection at the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston, Savannah College of Art and Design, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute for Religion in Cincinnati, and the Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington.

After almost three decades of serving the congregation, William Rosenthall retired from KKBE in 1992, but remained rabbi emeritus until his death on April 30, 2005.

Extent

20 linear feet (47 document boxes, 1 flat box, 1 oversize folder, 3 reel to reel audio tapes)

Abstract

Biographical files, sermons, correspondence, articles, photographs, and other papers of William A. Rosenthall, rabbi, scholar, and collector of Judaica. Materials document Rosenthall's rabbinates, particularly his sixteen-year tenure at Charleston's Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim, and involvement in the World Union for Progressive Judaism, Hebrew Union College, and other faith- or art-based organizations. Also included are Rosenthall's expansive topical files on Jewish history and culture. Topics of Rosenthall's sermons and files vary widely and include Israel and the Arab-Israeli conflict, Zionism, Jewish practices and beliefs, Jewish communities located around the world, Jewish history and individuals, Jewish relationships with other ethnic and religious populations, anti-Semitism, women and gender equality, and Jews in military service.

Collection Arrangement

  1. Biographical files, 1917-2008
  2. Correspondence, 1940-2002
  3. Professional papers, 1952-2001
  4. Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim records, 1791-2004 (bulk 1976-1992)
  5. Organization files, 1929-2004
  6. World Union for Progressive Judaism records, 1928-2002
  7. Sermons and address, circa 1950-2003
  8. Topical files on Jewish culture and history, 1881-2004

Acquisitions Information

Materials donated in 2007 by Irene O. Rosenthall.

Related Material

Related materials in Special Collections include the William A. Rosenthall Judaica Collection (Mss 1086),the Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim congregation records, 1798-2002 (Mss 1047), a 1997 oral history interview with William Rosenthall (Mss 1035-167), several published works by Rosenthall, and two digital collections hosted by the Lowcountry Digital Library: the William A. Rosenthall Judaica Collection- Postcards and the William A. Rosenthall Judaica Collection- Prints and Photographs.

Processing Information

Processed by Sarah Dorpinghaus, March 2011.

Creator

Source

Title
Inventory of the William A. Rosenthall Papers, 1791-2008
Status
Completed
Author
Processed by: Sarah Dorpinghaus; machine-readable finding aid created by: Sarah Dorpinghaus
Date
2011
Description rules
DACS
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Language of description note
English
Sponsor
Funding from the Council on Library and Information Resources supported the processing of this collection and encoding of the finding aid.

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

Contact:
Special Collections
College of Charleston Libraries
66 George Street
Charleston South Carolina 29424
(843) 953-8016
(843) 953-6319 (Fax)