The Legacy of Dr. Jacob Rader Marcus

Dr. Marcus always stressed a four part personal credo:
a) always prepare carefully and thoroughly, b) the most important thing in life is integrity, c) be a gentleman to everyone, and d) remember to laugh; view the world, your work, and yourself with a smile.”

In addition to principled scholarship Dr. Marcus devoted his life to the Reform rabbinate. Indeed, when he died at age 99 (four months shy of his 100th birthday), he was not only the world’s oldest living Reform rabbi, he was the longest tenured faculty member at a U.S. university.

Despite his extensive scholarly commitments Marcus continued to devote himself to his rabbinic responsibilities, serving as vice-president of the CCAR (1947–49) and president (1949–51). In 1978 the CCAR named Marcus “Honorary President”— a title in which he took enormous pride. Several months before his death the Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion honored Marcus by renaming the American Jewish Archives The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives.

In 1995 Dr. Alfred Gottschalk, then President of HUC–JIR delivered one of the most eloquent eulogies for Dr. Marcus:

Jacob R. Marcus, dean of American Jewish historians, was a pioneer in the research on American Jewry. Founder and Director of the American Jewish Archives, he created a premier research institute and documentation center on American Jewry. Beloved mentor and patriarch of the American Reform rabbinate, he left an indelible imprint on his many colleagues and friends. He is irreplaceable.

Throughout his career Marcus regarded his students, the men and women of the American Reform rabbinate, as surrogate children, especially after his only daughter Merle died in a house fire in 1965. To Marcus all his students, both men and women, were his “boys.”