Adler, Cyrus, 1863-1940

Alternative names
Birth 1863-09-13
Death 1940-04-07

Biographical notes:

President of the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City, 1924-1940; resident of Philadelphia, Pa.

From the description of Cyrus Adler letters, 1939-1940. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 609596710

American Jewish communal leader, Semitics scholar, and President of Jewish Theological Seminary of America.

From the description of Papers, 1879-[ca. 1977], 1885-1940 (bulk). (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 81498048

Prominent American Jewish academic; founder of the Jewish Publication Society; representative at the Versailles Peace Treaty; non-Zionist co-chair of the Jewish Agency and faculty at both Jewish Theological Seminary and Johns Hopkins.

From the description of Cyrus Adler correspondence, 1921 Feb 3 and 14. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 312149241

From the description of Cyrus Adler correspondence, 1938. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 312120925

From the description of Cyrus Adler correspondence, 1917 Jan. 3-1920 July 15. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 312144396

From the description of Cyrus Adler correspondence, 1897. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 312120986

Cyrus Adler was born in Van Buren, Arkansas on September 13, 1863, and his family eventually settled in Philadelphia, Pa. He had close ties to the Sulzberger family. Both families belonged to the Congregation Mikveh Israel in Philad.

graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1883 and later earned an M.A. at Penn and a Ph.D. from the "Semitic Seminary" at Johns Hopkins University. He was appointed Instructor in Semitics at Johns Hopkins from 1887 until 1890.

Adler was involved with a great number of Jewish and civic organizations. In 1908 he became President of the newly-formed Dropsie College for Hebrew and Cognate Learning in Philadelphia, where he remained until his death. He convinc.

of the College to begin publication of the Jewish Quarterly Review, of which he became editor in chief. Adler wrote on a wide variety of topics. He married Racie Friedenwald and had one daughter. He died April 7, 1940 at the age of 76.

From the description of Papers, 1866-1942, 1907-1939 (bulk). (University of Pennsylvania, Center Judaic Studies). WorldCat record id: 249070225

Cyrus Adler (1863-1940)

Cyrus Adler was born in Van Buren, Arkansas, on September 13, 1863. His father, Samuel, was a merchant and cotton planter who had settled in Van Buren in 1840. The family fled Civil War fighting and poor economic conditions in Arkansas for a return North several months after Cyrus was born. Unfortunately, Samuel Adler did not long survive the trip. Following her husband's death in January 1867, Sarah Adler took her family back to Philadelphia to live with her unmarried brother, David Sulzberger. Cyrus grew up surrounded by the traditional Ashkenazic religious practices of his maternal Sulzberger relatives, who had emigrated from Germany; he was particularly influenced in this regard by his uncle and an older second cousin, Mayer (a prominent Philadelphia judge). From them he also absorbed a love of scholarship which would shape the rest of his life.

Young Cyrus first attended a day school run by the Hebrew Education Society of Philadelphia, where he studied Hebrew and Judaism in addition to traditional public school subjects, and then transferred to the public grammar school several blocks away. During his high school years, he began the task of preparing an author's catalog to the library collection of Isaac Leeser, which had been donated to the Library of the Philadelphia YMHA. Impressed with the results of his young nephew's efforts, David Sulzburger arranged for the catalogue to be printed. Adler later referred to this work as having "laid the foundation of my interest in libraries, in cataloguing and in bibliographies."

Cyrus Adler attended college near home, at the University of Pennsylvania, from which he earned an A. B. in 1883 and an M.A. in 1886. Having developed a keen interest in Semitics, he went on to study Assyriology under Professor Paul Haupt in the newly established graduate program at The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, where Adler also taught Semitics from 1884 to 1893. Upon obtaining his Ph.D. from Hopkins in 1887, Adler was appointed Honorary Assistant Curator of Semitics at the United States National Museum of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington. His devotion to the Smithsonian led to his subsequent appointment there as Curator of Historic Archaeology and Historic Religions at the U.S. National Museum (1889-1908), Institute Librarian (1892-1905), and Assistant Secretary (1905-1908). In the interim, Adler also served as Special Commissioner to the Orient for the World's Columbian Exhibition of 1893, for which he organized the Oriental Department, and served on the editorial board of the Jewish Encyclopedia from 1899 to 1905. In 1908, he accepted the post of President of the newly formed Dropsie College for Hebrew and Cognate Learning in Philadelphia and moved back to Philadelphia.

Adler's involvement with Jewish history and culture was not limited to his own scholarly endeavors. In 1888, he helped to found the Jewish Publication Society of America, and edited the first seven volumes of The American Jewish Year Book . He was also instrumental in the founding of the American Jewish Historical Society in 1892, the first organization to promote the scientific study of the history of Jews in the Western Hemisphere. He edited The Jewish Quarterly Review, a scholarly journal whose publication was assumed by Dropsie College. Following the death of Solomon Schechter in 1916, Adler became Acting President of The Jewish Theological Seminary - a post which eventually turned permanent in 1924. In 1906, he was one of the founders of the American Jewish Committee, eventually succeeding Louis Marshall as President in 1929. Adler found himself in frequent disagreement with American Zionist leaders during this period, but continued to serve on behalf of world Jewry, acting as co-chair of Council for the Jewish Agency from 1929 to 1931.

Adler was a bachelor for more than half his life, finally marrying Racie Friedenwald of Baltimore in 1905, at age 42. Adler and his wife had one child, a daughter named Sarah born the year after their marriage. In his later years, failing health caused Cyrus Adler to slow his lifelong hectic pace of academic and communal activities, and he largely retired from public life after 1933. During his retirement, he delighted in spending time with his small granddaughter, Judith Wolfinsohn. Adler died at age 77 in April 1940.


Adler, Cyrus. I Have Considered the Days . Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1941.

Neuman, Abraham A. Cyrus Adler: A Biographical Sketch . New York: The American Jewish Committee, 1942.

S. v., "Adler, Cyrus," Who's Who in American Jewry, 1938-1939 (New York: National News Association, Incirca, 1938), pp. 10-13.

S. v., "Adler, Cyrus," Universal Jewish Encyclopedia, vol. 1 (New York, 1941), pp. 88-89.

S. v., "Adler, Cyrus," Encyclopedia Judaica, vol. 1 (Jerusalem: Keter Publishing House, 1972), pp. 272-27

  • 1863: Born in Van Buren, Arkansas, to Samuel Adler and his wife Sarah Sulzberger Adler (of Philadelphia)
  • 1867: Samuel Adler dies. Sarah Adler moves her family to Philadelphia
  • 1883: Obtains A.B. from the University of Pennsylvania
  • 1884 - 1893 : Fellow, Instructor and Associate Professor of Semitic languages at The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland
  • 1886: Obtains M.A. from the University of Pennsylvania
  • 1887: Earned Ph.D. in Semitics from Johns Hopkins University in February; began teaching at Johns Hopkins and the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York
  • 1888: Appointed Honorary Assistant Curator for Oriental Antiquities at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.circa
  • Prepared exhibition of biblical archeology for Government building at the Cincinnati Exposition
  • Founding member of the Jewish Publication Society of America
  • 1889 - 1908 : Curator of Historic Archaeology and Historic Religions at the United States National Museum, Smithsonian Institution
  • 1890 - 1892 : Special Commissioner to Turkey, Persia, Egypt, Tunis and Morocco for the World's Columbian Exhibition at Chicago; organized Oriental Department for the fair
  • 1892: Founding member of the American Jewish Historical Society
  • 1892 - 1898 : Secretary of the American Jewish Historical Society
  • 1893: Appointed Librarian of the United States National Museum, Smithsonian Institution
  • 1898: Represented the United States at the Conference on the International Catalogue of Scientific Literature, London
  • 1898 - 1922 : President of The American Jewish Historical Society
  • 1899 - 1905 : Editor of the American Jewish Year Book
  • 1899 - 1906 : Departmental editor for The Jewish Encyclopedia
  • 1902 - 1905 : President of the Board of Trustees, Jewish Theological Seminary of America
  • Sept. 1905: Married Racie Friedenwald of Baltimore
  • 1905 - 1908 : Assistant Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution
  • 1906: Helped found the American Jewish Committee
  • Daughter Sarah born
  • 1908: Appointed President of Dropsie College for Hebrew and Cognate Learning in Philadelphia; moved back to Philadelphia
  • 1908 - 1915 : Chaired the Board of Editors for new JPS translation of the Bible
  • 1910: Became Co-Editor of The Jewish Quarterly Review with Solomon Schechter
  • 1913: Helped found the United Synagogue of America
  • 1916 - 1940 : Editor of The Jewish Quarterly Review
  • 1916 - 1924 : Acting President of Jewish Theological Seminary; Chair of Executive Board of the American Jewish Committee
  • 1917: Became Chairman of the Army and Navy Committee of the National Jewish Welfare Board
  • 1919: Represented the American Jewish Committee at the Paris Peace Conference
  • 1923: Elected President of the American Oriental Society
  • 1924: Appointed President of the Jewish Theological Seminary
  • 1929: Appointed President of the American Jewish Committee
  • 1929 - 1931 : Co-chair of the Council of the Jewish Agency for Palestine
  • 1932: Daughter Sarah marries violinist Wolfe Wolfinsohn in January
  • 1933: Granddaughter Judith Wolfinsohn born on November 26th
  • 1939: Summoned by President Roosevelt to confer on strategies for peace in post-War America
  • 1940: Died on April 7.
  • 1925: Honorary Doctorate in Hebrew Letters, Hebrew Union College
  • 1930: Honorary Doctorate of Letters, University of Pennsylvania
  • 1933: Silver Buffalo Award, Boy Scouts of Americirca

From the guide to the Cyrus Adler Papers, undated, 1883-1937, (American Jewish Historical Society)


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