Access and Provenance

Biographical Sketch

Scope and Content Note

Box and Folder Listing

A Finding Aid to the

Moses B. Sachs Papers 

Manuscript Collection No. 773

1945-1969 (bulk: 1945-1949). 0.4 Linear ft.


 The Moses B. Sachs Papers were donated to the American Jewish Archives by his son, Noam Zion, Jerusalem, Israel, in 2009. Noam Zion and Sharon Muller, by the act of donating the Moses B. Sachs Papers to the American Jewish Archives, assigned the property rights to the American Jewish Archives. All literary rights to material in the collection are retained by the individual authors or their heirs; all literary rights to material authored by Moses B. Sachs are retained by the Sachs heirs. Questions concerning rights should be addressed to the Executive Director of the American Jewish Archives. The papers are available to researchers in the reading room of the Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives.


Moses B. Sachs was born in Baltimore, Maryland on December 20, 1920 to Jacob and Molly Sachs. During his youth, Sachs became immersed in the Hebraist movement known as Tarbut Ivrit, an offshoot of American Zionism, which he encountered first as a member of the Gordonia labor Zionist youth movement, and pursued during his studies at the Baltimore Hebrew College, under the tutelage of Dr. Louis L. Kaplan. Sachs attended the University of Maryland, and following his graduation in 1940, he enrolled at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, receiving his ordination there in 1944. Wishing to serve in the chaplaincy during World War II, Sachs was required to serve one year as a pulpit rabbi in Houston, Texas prior to enlistment. It was there that he met his future wife, Frances Rose Schwied, whom he married in 1945.

Upon entering the chaplaincy, Sachs served first in Manila and then in Okinawa. In addition to servicing the needs of his Jewish soldiers, during this time he assisted Jewish refugees and worked with the U.S. Army to create a restoration program for the island of Okinawa. As part of this restoration effort, he organized a Tu Bishvat (“New Years of the Trees”) tree planting ceremony involving native Okinawans and U.S. soldiers.

Upon leaving the chaplaincy, Sachs and his wife traveled to Israel (then Palestine) in 1947. Soon after their arrival, Sachs was forced to abandon his plans to study Jewish thought with Martin Buber at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem due to ongoing Arab-Jewish strife. Instead Moses and Frances joined the Haganah the underground Jewish defense force devoted to the creation of a Jewish state. In addition to their service in the Haganah, the Sachs’ worked for the Youth and Hechalutz Department of the Jewish Agency for Palestine on diaspora Zionist education.

Returning to the United States in 1949, Sachs served at Congregation Anshe Emet in Chicago (as assistant to Rabbi Solomon Goldman) from 1950-1951, Congregation Am Echad in Waukegan, Illinois from 1951-1959, and at Congregation Bnai Abraham in St. Louis Park, Minnesota from 1959-1974. While at Bnai Abraham, Sachs implemented a creative, egalitarian Sabbath morning education program that taught hundreds of children to read Torah and lead services and to immediately put their new skills to use as teachers of slightly younger children. The program continues to serve as a model for Conservative synagogues in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. He was also an untiring advocate of the Ramah Hebrew summer camps and the conservative movement’s Leaders Training Fellowship (LTF) youth movement, which he encouraged hundreds of Minneapolitans to attend.

In the 1960s, Rabbi Sachs became more politically active. In the early years of the decade he joined the civil rights movement, marching together with a small group of rabbis in support of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. in Birmingham and Selma, Alabama. By 1968 he had become a tireless advocate for the free Soviet Jewry movement. In the 1970s he founded and led the Minnesota Soviet Jewry Action Committee. As part of this work Rabbi Sachs arranged a number of highly publicized telephone calls to Jewish Refuseniks (some of which involved Senators Hubert Humphrey and Walter Mondale).

In anticipation of his decision to make aliyah in 1974, Sachs earned a doctorate in counseling psychology from the University of Minnesota. Once in Israel, Sachs attempted to introduce family and cognitive therapy into Israeli psychiatric hospitals, with limited success. Subsequently, he worked with delinquent youth in the northern Israeli town of Bet Shean and as a private therapist in Jerusalem. He later published two books, Under Seige and After, containing a selection of his letters home from Palestine and Israel from 1947-1949, and, Brave Jews, documenting the efforts of Soviet Jewish activists during the 1960s and 1970s to make and maintain contact with Jewish Refuseniks waiting for the opportunity to emigrate.

Moses B. Sachs died in Jerusalem on August 1, 2009.

(This biographical sketch relied heavily upon, and often quoted verbatim from, a short biography of Moses B. Sachs written by his son, Noam Zion).


Moses B. Sachs (1920-2009) was a rabbi, chaplain, Zionist and psychologist. His papers contain correspondence and other materials concerning his chaplaincy service in Okinawa from 1945-1947, together with his time in Israel from 1947 to 1949 working with the Haganah, as well as his involvement in the civil rights movement in Birmingham, Alabama during the 1960s. Span dates for the collection are 1945-1969, with the bulk of the material covering the years 1945-1949.

The majority of the Moses B. Sachs papers consist of letters he wrote while serving in the U.S. Army chaplaincy in Manila and Okinawa from 1945-1947. These letters provide a vibrant, first-person account of life in this zone, both for the military personnel serving there and those who lived there. Included among these letters are copies of a newsletter, Oiy Knawan, that Rabbi Sachs wrote and published for U.S. military personnel stationed on the island.

Two separately cataloged files, SC-15598, and SC- 15605, contain additional letters and papers of Rabbis Sachs’ chaplaincy service together with his involvement in the civil rights movement in Birmingham, Alabama during the 1960s. Included among these files is a copy of Sachs’ book, Under Siege and After: Life in Jerusalem, 1947-1949. This volume is a compilation of letters of Frances and Moses Sachs during their time in Jerusalem working in the Haganah and their efforts to create a Jewish state in Palestine.

The Rabbi Moses B. Sachs papers contain first-hand accounts of two of the most important events of the 1940s: the battle for the Pacific and its aftermath during World War II, and the creation of the state of Israel. Included also are personal accounts of one rabbi’s involvement in the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Though a small collection, the Moses B. Sachs papers are rich in content. They are a valuable resource for students of the chaplaincy, World War II, the creation of the state of Israel, and civil rights.

Related Archival Collections

Another collection of Moses B. Sachs papers is housed at the Jewish Historical Society of the Upper Midwest, St. Louis Park, MN. This collection contains the bulk of his Soviet Jewry papers, as well as Jewish education materials (1953-1973), and synagogue bulletins from the Am Echod Synagogue in Waukegan, IL and the Bnai Abraham Synagogue in St. Louis Park, MN.


Box Folder	Contents
1	1	Correspondence. January-April 1946.
	2	Correspondence. May-July 1946.
	3	Correspondence. August-October 1946.
	4	Correspondence. November-December 1946.
	5	Correspondence. January-February 1947.
	6	Correspondence. March-June 1947.
	7	“Oiy-Knawan Newsletter.” 1946-1947.
	8	Miscellaneous correspondence. 1945-1947.
	9	Photographs (Okinawa). 1945-1947.

**SC-15598	Papers concerning Rabbi Sachs' tenure as a chaplain in Manila and Okinawa 
together with his rabbinical career in Birmingham and his involvement in the civil rights 
movement of the 1960s.

**SC-15605	“Under Siege and After: Life in Jerusalem, 1947-1949: Frances' and Moshe's 
Letters and Family correspondence,” gathered and compiled by Moses B. Sachs; assisted by 
Elisha Mallard.

Copyright © 2009 Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives