Yeshiva University Archives has received a small collection of letters written by Yeshiva College alumnus and RIETS musmach Louis Werfel, the only Orthodox chaplain killed in action in World War II.  Known as “The Flying Rabbi” because of his frequent flights to visit servicemen in locations throughout North Africa, Chaplain Werfel perished when the plane he was traveling in while returning from conducting a Hanukkah service in Casablanca crashed in the Algerian mountains.

Werfel held leadership roles in both Yeshiva College and RIETS during his time at YU; in fact several of the letters are written on stationery from these student organizations and refer to aspects of his life at Yeshiva.  Others were written during his army service.  The letters are all to members of the Ellis family of Philadelphia, and attest to Werfel’s close relationship with them.  The Archives received the collection from a book dealer, who acquired them through an auction of materials from the estate of Ellis family members.

Werfel’s is one of the 14 names on a monument for fallen Jewish chaplains dedicated in Arlington National Cemetery’s Chaplains Hill last October.   Shortly after Werfel’s death, New York’s The Sun newspaper printed a tribute to him and to military chaplains in general.  This tribute was reprinted in the 1944 Yeshiva College Masmid yearbook, available online at

The letters may be viewed by appointment with the Archives.

Posted by Deena Schwimmer


Leave a Reply