The Yeshiva University Archives recently acquired the Herbert S. and Rebecca Collection, thanks to a generous gift from Michael Jesselson, a member of the YU Board of Trustees. Mr. Jesselson’s gift continues his family’s tradition of enriching the library collections.
Rabbi Herbert S. Goldstein (1890-1970) was a seminal figure in American Orthodox Judaism. He was best known as rabbi of the Institutional Synagogue, founded in Harlem in 1917, the forerunner of today’s West Side Institutional Synagogue. He and his wife, Rebecca (1891-1961), daughter of Harry and Jane Fischel, prominent Orthodox philanthropists and major contributors to Yeshiva College and the YU-affiliated Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary, were both active in the Orthodox Union (OU). The support for the OU furthered the long-term growth of Orthodoxy in this country, as documented in the collection.
Rabbi Goldstein was president of the OU and Mrs. Goldstein was president of its women’s branch during the 1920s. Rabbi Goldstein’s message at the Union’s annual convention in November 1927, a 21-page document, delineated several forward-looking ideas—including establishing a symbol that would become ubiquitous in the kosher consumer market. The document read, “In addition to the kosher crackers of the Loose-Wiles Sunshine Biscuit Company, we have persuaded Heinz (of 57 varieties fame) to place on the labels of such products, 26 in number, as do not contain animal fat and which are periodically inspected by us, the letter U in the letter O, indicating Orthodox Union.”
Rabbi Goldstein’s leadership model for the Union encouraged concrete action on behalf of Orthodox Jewry, based on the philosophy he espoused in his opening remarks at the 1927 convention: “Our faith is ancient and at the same time modern just as truth is ever old yet ever new. Every generation has called itself modern. The 15th century was the modernity of its time and the 20th century is the modernity of our time. Yet the Torah in its completeness has lived through all these modernities because it is truth.”