Geographic Connection to Pennsylvania: Homestead, Allegheny County
Marcus was a leader in the study of Jewish History and wrote more than a dozen books. The American Jewish Archives are named in his honor.
Awards: Frank L. Weil Award of National Jewish Welfare Board; Lee M. Friedman Medal; Phi Epsilon Pi National Service Award
Jacob Rader Marcus was born in New Haven, Pennsylvania, on March 5, 1896. Marcus' life spanned nearly a century, dying less than four months before his 100 birthday. After becoming a Rabbi at the Hebrew Union College, Marcus, received a magna cum laude doctorate in German-Jewish history. Marcus is best remembered for founding the American Jewish Archives at the Hebrew Union College of Cincinnati, Ohio. During his nearly 70 year tenure at the Hebrew Union College, Marcus was the first to ever teach an American Jewish history class. Marcus wrote and edited several books, some of which are still used as text books.
Jacob Rader Marcus, born March 5, 1896, in New Haven, Pennsylvania, to parents Aaron and Jennie Marcus, spent a long life dedicated to American Jewry. At a young age Marcus and his family moved to Wheeling, West Virginia. Marcus received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Cincinnati before being drafted for World War I. Upon returning from two years of service with the U.S. Army, Marcus was ordained a Rabbi and accepted a faculty position at the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati. Marcus then returned to Germany, this time as a student rather then a soldier, and received a magna cum laude doctorate from the University of Berlin in German-Jewish history. Marcus returned to Cincinnati, in 1926, and began teaching Bible and modern history classes.
In 1926, Marcus also began to write and publish what would become an extensive list of Jewish history texts. At first Marcus' texts were focused on German-Jewish history. Most notable are The Rise and Destiny of the German Jew in 1934 and Communal Sick-Care in the German Ghetto in 1947. In 1938, Marcus also wrote the first source book of medieval Jewish history ever published in English. The Jew in the Medieval World is still being used as a text book for courses taught at the Hebrew Union College.
It was in 1942, when Marcus taught the first American Jewish history class ever to be offered at any university. Shortly after, Marcus became recognized as an expert in this field and, in 1947, Marcus founded the American Jewish Archives. For over five decades Marcus was dedicated to archiving and protecting congregational documents, pictures and genealogies of American Jews. The American Jewish Archives has now become the largest collection of information on New World Jewry consisting of detailed information on over 350 years. Marcus has been able to thoroughly research and publish over 25 volumes of American and European Jewish history, as well as, over 250 scholarly articles. In 1970, Marcus published The Colonial American Jew, a three volume history followed by a four volume study, United States Jewry, 1776-1984. These seven volumes alone represent a pursuit of Jewish history that will likely never be equaled.
Marcus was the recipient of several distinguished awards throughout his career. In 1947, Marcus became the founding director of the American Jewish Archives and in 1959 Marcus was appointed to the Milton and Hattie Kutz Distinguished Service Chair in American Jewish History both of which he retained until the time of his death. Marcus was president of the American Jewish Historical Society, the Central Conference of American Rabbis and a 50 year member of American Historical Association. Marcus had two Festschrifts written in his honor and eight honorary degrees.
Jacob Rader Marcus married Antoinette Brody in 1925 and had one daughter, Merle Judith. Both his wife and daughter preceded Marcus in death, Antoinette in 1953 and Merle Judith in 1965. Jacob Rader Marcus died November 14, 1995, at the age of 99 years. Following the death of its founder, the American Jewish Archives was renamed "The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives."
The Rise and Destiny of the German Jew. Cincinnati: Union of American Hebrew Congregations, 1934.
The Jew in the Medieval World: A Source Book, 315-1791. Cincinnati: Union of American Hebrew Congregations, 1938.
Communal Sick-Care in the German Ghetto. Cincinnati: The Hebrew Union College Press, 1947
Early American Jewry, Volume 1: The Jews of New York, New England, and Canada, 1649-1794. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1951.
Early American Jewry, Volume 2: The Jews of Pennsylvania and the South, 1655-1790. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1953.
On Love, Marriage, Children...and Death, Too: Intimate Glimpses into the Lives of American Jews in a Bygone Age as Told in Their Own Words. Cincinnati: Society of Jewish Bibliophiles, 1964.
Studies in American Jewish History: Studies and Addresses. Cincinnati: The Hebrew Union College Press, 1969.
The Colonial American Jew, 1492-1776: Volume I, II, and III. Detroit: Wayne State UP, 1970
Israel Jacobson: The Founder of the Reform Movement in Judaism. Cincinnati: The Hebrew Union College Press, 1972.
The American Jewish Woman, A Documentary History. Hoboken, NJ: Ktav 1981.
United States Jewry, 1776-1985. Detroit: Wayne State UP, 1989.
To Count a People: American Jewish Population Data, 1585 — 1984. Lanham, MD: UP of America, 1990.
Heller, Scott. "'High-Grade Neurotic' Stakes his Claim as Master of Jewish History." The Chronicle of Higher Education 39 (1992): A11. 10 Mar. 2006.
Historical Studies: Award Jacob Rader Marcus. National Foundation for Jewish Culture. 1994. 30 Jan. 2006.
"Jacob Rader Marcus." The Gale Literary Database: Contemporary Authors Online. 22 Aug. 2003.
Photo Credit: "Jacob Rader Marcus (1896 – 1955)." Photograph. Licensed under Fair Use. Cropped to 4x3, Filled background. Source: Online Resource. The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of American Jewish Archives. Cincinnati, OH.