Collection 2015.3 - Sholom A. Singer papers

Identity area

Reference code

US IlHpHS 2015.3


Sholom A. Singer papers


  • 1924-1987 (Creation)

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Extent and medium

14.5 linear feet

Context area

Name of creator


Biographical history

Archival history

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Donated by Hillel Singer, March 2015

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Sholom Alchanan Singer was born into an orthodox Jewish family in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1924. Yiddish was the language spoken at home and his father, William, was a cantor. His mother, Miriam, was an artist and pianist. Singer inherited his parents' musicality, singing liturgical and opera music. Singer attended public school until second grade, when his parents decided to send him to Yeshiva. After earning his orthodox rabbinic ordination, he became interested in the teachings of Reform Rabbi Stephen Wise. This led him to attend Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion, completing his studies in 1951, as a Reform rabbi. He also earned advanced degrees in secular studies, completing a bachelor's degree at Yeshiva University, a master's at Columbia University, and his Ph.D. in intellectual history at the University of Chicago. He had quite an accomplished academic career: He was an associate professor of history at DePaul University. He also taught at Lake Forest College, Northeastern Illinois University, and Spertus College of Jewish Studies. He was a guest lecturer at Carleton College, Princeton University, and Cambridge University England and at Oxford Centre for Graduate Jewish Studies at Oxford University. He was awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity from Hebrew Union College in 1976. He lectured extensively and published many articles and two books. Singer and his family, which included his wife, Vivian, and three children, came to B'nai Torah in Highland Park in 1957. At the time, the 3-year-old congregation used office space at a storefront location on Central Avenue. Services were held at Lincoln School. The permanent building on Oak Street was purchased in 1959. Singer added innovations to the Reform prayer service, including the "temple in the round," a drama-sermon. Adult study opportunities were offered, including a series of eight lectures on various topics by experts, and the Sunday morning Round Table, a series of 10 lectures held two Sundays a month. After Israel’s Six Day War in 1967, the Singers led a trip to Israel, in part to share their love for the country. Singer felt strongly that Jews living outside Israel should maintain a residence there, leading to the congregation maintaining an apartment in Jerusalem. B'nai Torah also served as the headquarters for the American Association for Ethiopian Jews for many years, thanks to Rabbi Singer. This organization, which ran from 1969-1993, aimed to educate the world about the Beta Israel. B'nai Torah also ran a busy religious school. In a letter addressed to the congregation during the High Holiday services in 1987, he wrote, "As for life, it is not always what we want, but it is all that we've got. Use it wisely. Make the best of it." (Excerpted from "Rabbi brought faith, intellectualism to congregation" Chicago Tribune, November 17, 2014)

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


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Language of material

  • English
  • Hebrew
  • Yiddish

Script of material

  • Hebrew
  • Latin

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Finding aids

Allied materials area

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Dates of creation revision deletion


  • English


  • Latin


Archivist's note

Processed by Eve Mangurten.

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Physical storage

  • Box: 1-5
  • Box: 6-7
  • Box: 8-9
  • Box: 10-13
  • Box: 14-15
  • Box: 16-17