Henry Hurwitz, Plate 16 (1886 - 1961)

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Death: Died
Occupation: Editor, The Menorah
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About Henry Hurwitz, Plate 16

SOURCE: http://americanjewisharchives.org/collections/ms0002/

Henry Hurwitz

Henry Hurwitz was born July 14, 1886 in a small village in Lithuania (about twenty miles from the capital city of Kovno). His family immigrated to the United States in 1891, and he attended Boston and Gloucester, Massachusetts public schools, graduating in 1904 as valedictorian of Gloucester High School. He received his B.A. from Harvard in 1908 and continued his education at the Harvard Law and Business School obtaining an M.A. in 1911, with a specialty in diplomacy and international law. While at Harvard, Mr. Hurwitz was elected to Phil Beta Kappa in his junior year, twice won the Coolidge Boylson and Summer prize in debating, oratory and essay, and was captain of the Harvard Inter-varsity debates against Yale and Princeton.

In 1906, Mr. Hurwitz and several other Jewish students at Harvard (including Horace M. Kallen and Abraham Simon) met and organized the Harvard Menorah Society for the Study and Advancement of Jewish Culture and Ideals. After receiving his master's degree, Mr. Hurwitz continued with the promotion of the Menorah idea and in 1913 helped to establish the Intercollegiate Menorah Association (IMA) which expanded the objectives of the Harvard Menorah Society to a national scale.

Henry Hurwitz served as president of the IMA until 1914 when the constitution was amended to include the office of chancellor, a position which Mr. Hurwitz was to retain throughout his career. As Chancellor, Mr. Hurwitz undertook the direction of fund-raising activities, the promotion of Menorah societies throughout the country, and the initiation and implementation of the many Menorah-sponsored activities such as the Menorah Board of Lecturers, the Menorah Summer School, and the Menorah Educational Conference.

In 1915, the IMA founded the bi-monthly Menorah Journal with Mr. Hurwitz as editor-in-chief. The Menorah Journal was designed to fulfill two purposes: first, to serve as the official organ of the Association; and, second, to serve as the academic exponent of Jewish culture and ideals in America. Through the publication of the best and most informative articles produced in Jewish history, religion, literature, and modern life, the Journal aimed to stimulate an awareness of an interest in Jewish issues, to discuss Jewish problems from all points of view, and to encourage Jewish writers and artists to find themselves within their Jewish heritage.

The first issue was brought out in January, 1915 with Louis Brandeis contributing the leading article, "A Call to the Educated Jew," and with greetings from such notables as David Philipson, Stephen S. Wise, Cyrus Adler and Kaufmann Kohler.1 The editorial statement of this issue well described the aims and aspirations of the Journal: "Scholarly when scholarship will be in order, but always endeavoring to be timely, vivacious, readable; keen in the pursuit of truth wherever its source and whatever the consequences; a Jewish forum open to all sides, devoted first and last to bringing out the values of Jewish culture and ideals, of Hebraism and of Judaism and striving for their advancement..."2

In 1917, due to the increase in the number of Menorah societies and the continued need for a scholarly Jewish periodical, The Menorah Bulletin was created to take over as the organ of the IMA, leaving The Menorah Journal to serve solely as the exponent of Jewish culture and ideals.

In 1924, a Menorah Writers and Artists Fund was established to sustain The Menorah Journal as the medium for publishing the writings of Jewish thinkers and artists. With the rise of Nazism in the 1930's, the Journal further enamored itself with Jewish audiences by publishing contributions written by many refugee writers and artists.

The Journal was not, however, without its controversies, during its existence. The debate over the publication for A.H. Silver's 1926 article "Why do the Heathen Rage?' caused the Journal to be criticized as anti-rabbinical and anti-reformist. Elliot E. Cohen and several other editors resigned in 1930 due to a policy conflict. And, Oscar I. Janowsky's "Zionism Today: A Clarification" (1944) along with Hurwitz's participation in the american Council for Judaism in the 1950's caused the Journal to be labeled Zionist and anti-Zionist respectively.

The Menorah Journal remained a bi-monthly through 1927 when, for four years, it was published monthly. In 1931, due to financial difficulties caused both by the depression and an ideological change within American Jewry, the Journal was reduced to a quarterly and continued to be published erratically as such until Henry Hurwitz's death in 1961. A Valedictory Issue, dedicated to Henry Hurwitz, was published in 1962. In 1963, The Menorah Journal was officially ended with the dissolution of the Menorah Association, Inc. along with its subsidiary Menorah Journal, Inc.

In 1928, Henry Hurwitz helped to organize the Federation of Lithuanian Jews of America. The major purpose of this organization as stated in its draft constitution was "to extend aid to the Jews of Lithuania economically and culturally, and in such other ways as may be deemed desirable from time-to-time."3 The Federation also hoped to build a bridge between the American Jews of Lithuanian descent and their kinsmen in Lithuania and thus establish a type of cultural exchange for the benefit of both. Mr. Hurwitz was elected as the first president of the Federation, a position which he held through 1936.

Henry Hurwitz also participated in various other organizations including the American Jewish Congress, the World Union of Jewish Students (of which he as president in 1929), and the Overseas Press Club. But these activities were only secondary to his dedication to the promotion of the Menorah ideal and the publication of The Menorah Journal.

Circa 1918, Henry Hurwitz married Ruth Sapinsky (pen name Ruth Sapin), a native of New Albany, Indiana. Ruth Sapin Hurwitz wrote short stories and articles on educational and welfare topics for The Menorah Journal and collaborated frequently with her husband in Menorah activities. She died in June, 1961. The Hurwitz's had two sons: Henry Hurwitz, Jr. (1919- ) and David L. Hurwood (1922- ). Henry Hurwitz died on November 19, 1961 in New York City. He was survived by his two sons and a sister, Mrs. Samuel Maude.

The Menorah Movement The Menorah movement began with the founding in 1906 at Harvard University of the Harvard Menorah Society for the Study and Advancement of Jewish Culture and Ideals. The Society was established, according to tradition, by several Jewish students who, upon meeting informally, agreed that the revitalization of the study of Jewish history and culture was necessary in order to adequately present the development of human knowledge and civilization. Beyond this major purpose of winning for the field of Jewish history and culture its rightful place in the University, the group also aimed at raising the morale of Jewish students by providing to them the opportunity to become better acquainted with Jewish life and thought.

Shortly before the founding of the Harvard Menorah Society and equally as spontaneous, Jewish student organizations were formed at other universities notably Minnesota and Illinois. When these societies became aware of each other, they set up sporadic communications, a nd thus, the Menorah ideal was gradually spread throughout the country.

In 1911, the president of the Harvard Menorah Society expressly undertook as one of the tasks of his administration, the furtherance of intercollegiate Menorah organizations. In 1912, several conventions were held around the country in order to discuss the formation of a national Menorah organization. In 1913, at a convention at the University of Chicago, the Intercollegiate Menorah Association (IMA) was formally established. Henry Hurwitz, one of the founders of the Harvard Menorah Society and active in the formation of the IMA, was elected as its first president, and for the rest of his career devoted himself entirely to the promotion of the Menorah movement.

The object of the IMA, as defined by its constitution, was "the promotion in American college and universities of the study of Jewish history, culture, and problems, and the advancement of Jewish ideals."4 The IMA saw its major functions as: 1) to regulate the nature and purpose of every constituent Menorah society, and 2) to stimulate and assist the Menorah societies in carrying out their purposes. The administration of the Association was formally under the control of an Administrative Council composed of one student representative from each constituent society, but, in actuality, it was Henry Hurwitz who managed most of IMA's affairs.

In April, 1913, Irving Lehman, Justices of the Supreme Court of the State of New York, organized a Graduate Advisory Menorah Committee which undertook to supply the 1913-1914 IMA budget. Thereafter the budget was to be derived from the Menorah societies through the collection of membership dues, and from whatever funds could be raised by various Menorah campaigns. Henry Hurwitz, who in 1914 through an amendment to the constitution became the Chancellor of the IMA, was director of these Menorah fund drives.

The IMA's profound dedication to the education of Jewish students to their heritage can be seen by the many and diverse activities it sponsored. The basic element to any Menorah society was its program of lectures. In 1913, the IMA had already organized the Menorah College of Lecturers which compiled a list of available lectures and paid their traveling expenses to the schools. Along with these lecturers, many Menorah societies were also able to obtain qualified lecturers from the faculty of members of their community.

Study circles were another common element to most Menorah societies. Through the use of IMA provided bibliographies, syllabi and pamphlets, and the standardized Menorah libraries (available upon request from IMA), these study circles were able to hold stimulating and informative discussions while also producing papers and essays for outside distribution. Intercollegiate Menorah debates, Menorah-sponsored plays, concerts and musicals also added to the Jewish students' awareness and appreciation of their heritage. The IMA offered prizes for the best undergraduate essay on the subject of Jewish history or Jewish achievement. To further motivate Menorah activities at the schools, the annual Irving Lehman Trophy (a seven-branched candelabrum) was presented to the Menorah society judged to have done the best work during the year.

The IMA, in conjunction with local Menorah societies, also sponsored sundry conventions and conferences throughout the country. These conventions and conferences consisted of debates and symposia between the Menorah societies represented; addresses by IMA officials and/or others concerning Jewish history and culture; and business meetings where each Menorah society presented a report of its work for the past year. Discussion of mutual activities and problems, religious services, and Menorah lunches and dinners were also a vital part of each convention and conference. Through 1919 convention in New York City, it was decided to hold future national conventions biennually with district conferences in the alternate years. Although the conventions and conferences were not held as regularly as anticipated, they continued sporadically through 1929 when the IMA was formally ended.

In 1915, the IMA undertook the publication of The Menorah Journal which was to serve both as the official organ of the Association and as the academic exponent of Jewish culture and ideals. In 1917, this dual function of the Journal was split with The Menorah Bulletin being created to assume the role as the IMA's organ and the Journal continuing in the role of academic exponent of Judaism. Henry Hurwitz was editor-in-chief of The Menorah Journal throughout its existence, and under his management, it became recognized as one of the most important publications in English devoted to Jewish culture and learning.

The formation of the Intercollegiate Association in 1913 was not only welcomed by the Jewish communities in American colleges and universities, but it was also generally well-accepted by college and university authorities who saw it as fitting into the scholarly objectives of their institutions. By 1913, there were 30 societies affiliated with the IMA, and, within four years this number had more than doubled. Eleven Graduate Menorah societies had also been organized in various cities for those who had graduated but were still interested in maintaining their Menorah ties.

The growth of the IMA was such that a total reorganization was required in 1917. A new constitution was ratified and a Board of Governors was created to oversee general IMA policies, annual budgets, and special projects. The new constitution gave almost all administrative control to the Board, removing most of the control from the student-run Administrative Council. The Board consisted of four members of the general community, five recent graduates who had been associated with IMA while in college, and two students. Members were selected by the Administrative Council and the officers were elected by the Board itself.

In 1918, at a gathering of some 40 university professors and instructors called together by the IMA, the Menorah Educational Conference (MEC) was formed. Its major purpose, beyond working with the IMA to guide and stimulate the work of the Menorah societies and to encourage the inclusion of Jewish subjects into the regular curriculum, was to help create the necessary educational literature for Menorah students. The group was to meet semi-annually with the presentation of a Leopold Zunz Memorial Lecture by a Jewish scholar (to be published in The Menorah Journal) becoming a part of the December conference meeting. Nathan Isaacs was elected chairman and remained in this position throughout MEC's existence.

With the rise of the Hillel Foundation in the 1920's which encouraged social as well as scholarly programs, the IMA, with its sole dedication to the development of an intellectual elite, began to fade. In 1926, there were only 51 member societies, resulting in another reorganization of the Board of Governors and the Executive Council (1927).

Despite its steady decline, the IMA continued throughout the 1920's to successfully create and sponsor various programs. In 1922, the Menorah Summer School was begun. It consisted of six weeks of courses, seminars, and discussions between students and teachers concerning Jewish history, literature, and problems. Its three-fold purpose was to train Menorah members to participate in and head study circles and debates; to teach them to pursue Jewish studies in the Menorah spirit of free inquiry; and to provide a public "intelligently appreciative" of the efforts of scholars, teachers, and others working in Jewish fields. The School held sessions in 1922 and 1923 and, then, due to a lack of funds, was not able to be held again until its final sessions in 1930.

In 1927, the Menorah Forum was organized for the sustained secession of Jewish questions during the year. Although the initial response for the Forum was good, the idea was never fully developed.

With the collapse of most of the Menorah societies by the late 1920's, the intercollegiate phase of the Menorah movement ended. In 1929, another reorganization was effected which resulted in the incorporation of the IMA, the MEC, The Menorah Journal, the Menorah Summer School, and, when endowed the Menorah Foundation, into the Menorah Association, Inc. The Board of Governors continued as the governing body, but as before, it was Henry Hurwitz who, basically, managed its affairs. In 1931, The Menorah Journal, Inc. was formed as a subsidiary to the Menorah Association, Inc.

The Menorah Association, Inc. (MA), as stated explicitly in its certificate of incorporation (1929, October 23; New York, New York) was to continue the basic objectives of the IMA: "to advance Jewish culture and ideals...to promote the knowledge and appreciation of the endeavor and achievement of the Jewish people in all fields of human activity."5 The MA's projects were as unique and diversified as the IMA's but the enthusiasm which greeted them as not as great. Throughout its existence, the MA was plagued by a lack of interest on the part of the general Jewish community, and Henry Hurwitz was forced to double his efforts both in promoting the Menorah ideal and in securing funds for its continuance.

Many new programs were begun, but none reached the level of impact intended and many never got off the ground. In 1933, the Menorah Writers and Artists Committee was formed. In 1945, the Menorah Faculty Council with I. L. Kandel as chairman, was founded to continue the work of the MEC as well as sponsor and help direct the proposed Menorah School or College of Jewish History, Culture and Social Research, the Menorah Summer School, and the Menorah School for Adult Education. A Menorah College -- a scholarly group to discuss and teach Jewish culture and history -- was suggested sometime around 1946. The idea of a Menorah Research Institute was discussed in 1949. And, in 1951, there were attempts to start a British Menorah Association.

Two of the more successful MA activities were its refugee work in the early 1940's for which it received over $3500 in grants to aid scholars, writers, and artists; and its creation in 1958 of the Menorah Collegium which sought to "present authoritative and dispassionate evaluation of various aspects of Jewish heritage."6 With the United States entrance into World War II, the MA's refugee work has halted and the Monorah Collegium, which had proposed a five-year program, did not last through 1961.

In November, 1961, Henry Hurwitz, the major promoter of the Menorah movement, died and the Menorah Association, Inc., along with the Menorah Journal, Inc., was formally dissolved by the Board of Trustees in 1963.

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Henry Hurwitz, Plate 16's Timeline