TABLE OF CONTENTS
Manuscript Collection No. 435
Solomon Bennett Freehof was born to Isaac and Golda Blonstein Freehof in London, England on August 8, 1892. Freehof descended from the "Alter Rebbe", Rabbi Shneurr of Lyday (1745-1813) who was the founder of the Lubavitch-Habad Hasidism. He immigrated to the United States in 1903 with his family. Following a period of study with William Rosenau of Baltimore, Maryland, Freehof entered studies at the University of Cincinnati (graduated 1914) and the Hebrew Union College (graduated 1915).
After graduation, Freehof joined the Hebrew Union College (HUC) faculty, where he remained until 1924. In 1922, he earned his Doctor of Divinity degree at HUC. Freehof took a brief absence from his HUC teaching duties to serve as a World War I military chaplain in the American Expeditionary Forces. His experience as a chaplain would carry over into administrative duties overseeing chaplains during World War II. That, in turn, led to his strong interest in the interpretation of Jewish law for other rabbis.
Freehof first served at Kehillath Anshe Mariv (K.A.M.) Temple in Chicago, Illinois from 1924-1934. In 1934, Freehof accepted the pulpit at Rodef Shalom in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where he was to remain until his retirement in 1966. After retirement, Freehof became rabbi emeritus. As a pulpit rabbi, Freehof urged a return of the rabbi to the role as teacher, rather than as a pastoral psychiatrist for individual congregants.
Jewish organizations played a major role in Freehof's life. Freehof was active in the Central Conference of the American Rabbis, serving as president from 1943-1945 and as the chair for the Committee on Liturgy (1939-1941) during the major revisions of the Union Prayerbook and later the chair of Responsa Committee in 1955. Additionally, he was the president of the World Union for Progressive Judaism (1959-1964) and the first American to hold this office.
As an acknowledged expert on halakhic issues, Freehof wrote responsa for the Reform movement and its rabbis for numerous years. Several of his publications related to this topic including: Reform Jewish Practice and its Rabinnic Background, The Responsa Literature, A Treasury of Responsa and Recent Reform Responsa. His volumes answering the questions of Reform rabbis ranged from the first edition of Reform Responsa (1960) to the seventh edition, New Reform Responsa (1980). Freehof also wrote commentaries on the Scriptures, including the biblical books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, the Psalms and Job and hundreds of publications on Jewish life and practices.
Solomon Freehof married Lillian Simon, his secretary at K.A.M. Temple in Chicago in 1934.
The Solomon B. Freehof Papers consist of addresses, correspondence, oral histories and responsa of Rabbi Freehof, who was the rabbi at Congregation Rodeph Shalom in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania from 1934-1964. There is one folder of sermons from Freehof's tenure at his first pulpit in Chicago, Illinois and no material relating to his pulpit in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Freehof was active in Jewish affairs as both the first American president of the World Union for Progressive Judaism and president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR). Materials in this collection center on his CCAR presidential years during World War II. There are two folders of correspondence detailing with the Committee on the Chaplaincy during World War II. Another folder deals with issues relating to Congregation Beth Israel of Houston, Texas and their refusal to admit Zionists as congregational members. Material relating to his presidency of the World Union of Progressive Judaism can be located in the World Union for Progressive Judaism records (Manuscript Collection No. 16.)
Freehof's responsa, while only a minor sampling of his total output during his life, comprise the majority of the collection. The responsa are indexed in one folder. A typical responsa includes a letter from a rabbi and the response by Freehof. Topics include intermarriage, burial traditions, congregational dues and good Jewish literature.
This collection is arranged in two (2) series:
Terms of Access
The collection is open for use; no restrictions apply.
Terms of Reproduction and Use
Copyright restrictions may apply. Authorization to publish, quote, or reproduce, with exceptions for fair use, may be obtained through the American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati, Ohio. Please address queries to the Executive Director of the American Jewish Archives. For more information, see the American Jewish Archives copyright information webpage.
Engel, Steven W. "Reform Responsa: Views of the Non Jews. Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion term paper. 1988. Small Collections.
Freehof, Solomon. "Is American Jewish Culture Possible?" Lecture. 1954. TR-218.
Freehof, Solomon. Lecture. Cincinnati, Ohio. April 1972. TR-887.
Freehof, Solomon. Nearprint Biographies File.
Freehof, Solomon. Oral history interview. 1978. C-72 to C-73.
Freehof, Solomon. Oral history interview. undated C-817.
Freehof, Solomon. Picture Collection.
Freehof, Solomon. Responsa lectures. Tape recordings. undated C-3306 to C-3309.
Freehof, Solomon. Sermon recordings. 1965. TR-854.
Freehof, Solomon. Synopsis of an interview conducted by Ida Selavan. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 1977. SC-14126.
Footnotes and bibliographic references should refer to the Solomon Bennett Freehof Papers and the American Jewish Archives. A suggestion for at least the first citation is as follows:
[Description], [Date], Box #, Folder #. MS-435. Solomon Bennett Freehof Papers. American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati, Ohio.
The Solomon B. Freehof Papers were donated to the American Jewish Archives by Solomon Freehof, Pittsburgh, Pa., date unknown and Susan Stone, Euclid, Ohio in March 2002.
Processed by American Jewish Archives staff.
The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the AJA's online catalog.
Persons and Families
Freehof, Solomon Bennett -- 1892-1990
Rodef Shalom Temple (Pittsburgh, Pa.)
Jews -- Pennsylvania -- Pittsburgh
Responsa -- History and criticism
Genres and Forms
Jewish sermons, American
Rabbis -- Pennsylvania -- Pittsburgh