Richards, Bernard G.

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Bernard Gerson Richards (BGR) (1877-1971)

Bernard Gerson Richards, journalist, author and communal worker, was born March 9, 1877 in Keidan, province of Kovnoa (presently Kaunas), Lithuania (at that time part of the Russian empire), son of Sender Rabinovich and Chana Sirk. In Russia, he received a Cheder education. When he came to the United States, he furthered his education through self-study. Richards was involved with some of the major events in 20 th century American Jewish history. His career spanned over 50 years.

He first came to America with his mother and other members of his family to join his father and older brother in 1886, returned to Keidan with his mother and sister at the end of a year but emigrated for good in 1891. He supported himself as peddler, clerk in a dry goods store, and writer for Yiddish newspapers in New York, Denver, and Boston.

Richards was a Boston correspondent for several New York Yiddish dailies and was editor of the Boston Yiddish weekly, "Der Israelit." He was a reporter for the Boston Post for about five years and for The Boston Journal . Some of his writings were published in the Boston Evening Transcript and some of his writings were published in 1903 as "The Discourses of Keidansky." The Discourses were imaginary conversations with a philosopher of the Ghetto. The Discourses was a humorous and satirical commentary of all aspects of Jewish life. He wrote more Keidansky papers for the New York Evening Post, The New Era Magazine and The American Hebrew and a new volume "More Discourses of Keidansky" was scheduled for publication in early 1927. He also contributed to the Arena, The Forum Magazine, The Independent and The Reader Magazine .

While living in Boston, Richards helped establish the Jewish Educational Alliance there and was active in educational and communal work through this and several other youth clubs. He participated in the Socialist and Labor movements and wrote articles on these subjects for several newspapers. He contributed his first articles in Yiddish to Der Emes ("The Truth"), a weekly literary publication.

In 1903, Richards married Gertrude Gruzinskie of Boston and moved to New York. He was an editor of The Jewish World and The New Era Magazine . At the same time, Richards organized the Jewish Press Bureau, the first news agency of its kind that supplied news items, literary material and translations to Jewish and non-Jewish newspapers.

Richards founded The Chronicler, an English-Jewish weekly that was published from March 1906 to April 1907 along with Jacob De Haas, Dr. J.L. Magnes, Dr. Samuel Josep, Louis S. Posner and others seeking frank discussion of Jewish problems.

The New York Jewish Community (Kehillah) was organized on a representative basis from delegations of all local organizations. In 1908 the Jewish Community was organized under the chairmanship of Dr. Magnes with Jacob H. Schiff, Louis Marshall, Cyrus L. Sulzberger, Elias A. Cohen, Joseph Barondess, Bernard Semel, Leon Sanders, Samuel Dorf and others. Richards was Secretary of the organization and directed its work until 1913.

Richards then became Educational Director of the Society of the Jewish Institute that he helped organize to carry on Jewish educational work. At the same time, he continued his journalistic work with The New York Globe and the New York Tribune . He also contributed to Boston newspapers and to various English-Jewish publications including The Jewish Comment published in Baltimore, The American Hebrew and the Hebrew Standard . Richards contributed a regular weekly humorous column to the American Hebrew and Hebrew Standard . A series of "English-Yiddish Dialogues" and many other articles and sketches appeared in various publications.

At a Zionist conference on August 30, 1914, Richards along with Baruch Zuckerman and Nahun Syrkin presented a resolution calling for the organization of American Jewry across democratic lines. The resolution addressed problems stemming from World War I and ways to alleviate problems affecting the Jews. Under the leadership of Louis D. Brandeis, the resolution led to the formation and then to the establishment of the American Jewish Congress. As a founding member, Richards was closely tied with Dr. Stephen Wise, its founder and first leader. Richards was involved with the Democratic National Committee and FDR's first presidential campaign, in charge of the foreign language campaign materials.

In the ensuing years, Richards wrote numerous articles for general and Jewish magazines and newspapers. The problems of immigration and of European minorities were the subjects of many of his essays. He wrote a booklet entitled "Organizing American Jewry" that was issued by the American Jewish Congress and a short history entitled "Zionism in the United States," issued by the Zionist Organization of America.

Richards published in the Jewish Daily News a series of interviews on the plight of the Jews during the War and the need for action on their behalf. Among the interviews he held was one with Theodore Roosevelt.

When the movement for the American Jewish Congress took shape in 1915, Richards was asked to take charge of the work of organization. He resigned from the Society of the Jewish Institute to commit himself to the task. At the Session of the American Jewish Congress in 1918, Richards was elected Secretary to the Delegation to the Peace Conference. On March 3, 1919, Richards appeared with part of the European Delegation of the American Jewish Congress, before President Woodrow Wilson at the White House to present a memorandum to the President on the subject of Jewish disabilities in Eastern Europe and Jewish claims to Palestine and Richards went with this Delegation to Versailles, Paris from March to July 1919. Richards was chosen for the position of Executive Secretary in the new Congress organization and served from 1915 to 1932. He served as Executive Director of the American Jewish Congress for the following 25 years.

Richards was also actively involved with the Zionist movement. He served on the Executive Committee and on the Administrative Committee of the Federation of American Zionists, and played a significant role in the work. Richards was a member of the Jewish Publication Society of America, The Jewish Council of Greater New York, The Free Synagogue and several other institutions. He was also president of Bernard G. Richards Co., Inc., which issued a number of Jewish and general books of importance. Richards was an expert on problems relating to relief and social betterment and questions relating to phases of social adjustment.

Richards established the Jewish Information Bureau (JIB) in New York City around 1932 to 1933. The small organization acted as a clearinghouse of information on anything related to Jews or Judaism and answered questions from all over the world. After Richards' death, the Jewish Information Bureau continued to operate under the partial direction of his son Judah. The Jewish Information Bureau gained the distinction of being one of the most valuable collections of American and Judaica, the most intimate memorabilia and documentation on American Jewish history. The papers are at the American Jewish Historical Society.

Richards was a prolific writer, contributing to the literature of the day with his extensive writings (mostly in newspaper, magazine and journal articles) on Zionism, Yiddish culture, comments on Jewish issues, Judaism and Israel. His most successful writings were those written from the perspective of his observant fictional character Keidansky. He wrote a series of "Keidansky conversations" which first made their way into a book published in the 1920s.

Richards died on June 26, 1971. He was 94 years old. He was survived by four children: Ruth Eisenstein of New York; David, of Hollywood, Florida; Joseph, of Key Biscayne, Florida, and Judah of New York; seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Sources: 1. Biography, Bernard G. Richards. From AJHS Bernard G. Richards collection. Folder: Biographical information of BGR, undated 2. Biographical Note in Donor File of Bernard Gershon Richards Papers 3. Who's Who in World Jewry, 1938-1939 (REF E184.J5 W6) 4. "Bernard G. Richards, 94, Dies; A Jewish Leader and Author," New York Times, June 26, 1971 5. "BG Richards, 94, link to historic ethnic struggle," American Examiner-Jewish Week, July 1, 1971

  • March 9, 1877: Richards born.
  • 1886: Richards came to the United States.
  • February 8, 1903: Richards married Gertrude Gruzinsky
  • 1903: Richards authors "Discourses of Keidansky"
  • 1908 - 1913 : Kehillah is organized by BGR, served as Secretary.
  • 1915 - 1932 : Richards served as First Executive Secretary of American Jewish Congress.
  • 1919: BGR appointed Secretary of the American Jewish Delegation to the Peace Conference in Paris
  • 1928: Richards authors "More Discourses of Keidansky"
  • circa 1932 - 1933 : Richards founds the Jewish Information Bureau
  • 1935 - 1936 : Associated with National Emergency Council, Washington, D.C.
  • 1971: Richards died.

From the guide to the Bernard G. Richards, papers, undated, 1820, 1868, 1895-1996, 1999, (American Jewish Historical Society)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Houghton Mifflin Company. Reader reports on manuscripts submitted for publication. 1882-1931. Houghton Library
referencedIn Lipsky Family Papers, 1904-1992 (bulk 1925-1992) American Jewish Historical Society
referencedIn World Jewish Congress Records, 1918-1982 (bulk 1940-1980) The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives
creatorOf Bernard G. Richards papers, undated, 1820, 1868, 1895-1996, 1999 American Jewish Historical Society
referencedIn The Nation, records, 1879-1974 (inclusive), 1920-1955 (bulk). Houghton Library
referencedIn Hyman G. Enelow Papers., 1897-1933. The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives
referencedIn New York Times Company records. Arthur Hays Sulzberger papers, 1823-1999 New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division
referencedIn New York Times Company records. A.M. Rosenthal papers, 1955-1994, 1967-1986 New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith American Jewish Congress corporateBody
associatedWith Barondess, Joseph, 1867-1928 person
associatedWith Brandeis, Louis D. (Louis Dembitz), 1856-1941 person
associatedWith Democratic National Committee (U.S.) corporateBody
correspondedWith Enelow, Hyman Gerson person
associatedWith Federation of American Zionists corporateBody
associatedWith Houghton Mifflin Company. corporateBody
associatedWith Jabotinsky, Vladimir, 1880-1940 person
associatedWith Jewish Information Bureau corporateBody
associatedWith Jewish Publication Society of America corporateBody
associatedWith Lipsky Family family
associatedWith Magnes, J. L. (Judah Leon), 1877-1948 person
associatedWith Marshall, Louis, 1856-1929 person
correspondedWith Nation (New York, N.Y. : 1865). corporateBody
associatedWith New York Times Company corporateBody
associatedWith Roosevelt, Franklin D. (Franklin Delano), 1882-1945 person
associatedWith Rosenthal, A. M. (Abraham Michael), 1922-2006 person
associatedWith Schiff, Jacob H. (Jacob Henry), 1847-1920 person
associatedWith Slomovitz, Philip person
associatedWith Sulzberger, Arthur Hays, 1891-1968 person
associatedWith Winchovsky, Morris person
associatedWith Wise, Stephen S. (Stephen Samuel), 1874-1949 person
associatedWith World Jewish Congress corporateBody
associatedWith Zionist Organization of America corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
Kèdainiai (Lithuania)
Versailles (France)
Subject
Antisemitism
Occupation
Function

Person

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