Guide to the Collection of the Morrison Family and Jacob Levin, undated, 1887-1989

Processed by Leah Ellenbogen

Jewish Heritage Center at NEHGS

99-101 Newbury St.

Boston, MA 02116



© 2019  Jewish Heritage Center at NEHGS, Boston, MA. All Rights Reserved.
Machine-readable finding aid created by Leah Ellenbogen as MS Word document, July 2012. Finding aid was encoded by Christine McEvilly on October 16, 2012. Description is in English.

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Levin, Jacob
Morrison, Morris
Morrison, Ralph
Morrison, Robert
Morrison, Sidney
Title: Morrison Family and Jacob Levin, Collection
Dates:undated, 1887-1989
Abstract: The Morrison family originated in Poland but lived in the Boston area. Morris Morrison immigrated to the United States in 1889, and eventually established his own insurance firm. He married Etta Levin (daughter of Jacob Levin) and was briefly involved in politics at the beginning of the 20th century. His brother, Ralph, was a shochet in Boston. Etta and Morris had three sons, but only two, Robert and Sidney, are represented in this collection. This collection includes memoirs, correspondence, newspaper clippings, and naturalization certificates.
Languages: The collection is in English, Yiddish, and Hebrew.
Quantity: .5 linear feet (1 Manuscript Box)
Identification: P-394
Repository: American Jewish Historical Society
Location: Located in AJHS Boston, MA
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Biographical Note1

Morrison Family and Jacob Levin (undated, 1887-1989)

Jacob Levin, 1853-1921

Born in Russia or Poland (Russian Poland), possibly in the town of Korria, Jacob Levin (also Levine or Levins) immigrated to the United States around 1882 and was naturalized in Boston in 1887. His wife, Annie (Stark) Levin and their first child, Etta (born in 1880 or 1881) joined him in 1883. Once in the United States, the Levins had four other children–Bernard, Eva, Lillian and Agnus—between August 1883 and October 1889, born either in their first place of residence in New Jersey or in Boston. Once settled in Boston, Levin worked mainly as a salesman and manufacturer, and was involved in Jewish communities in various suburbs of Boston where he lived over the years. He donated to Jewish charitable organizations, including the Benoth Israel Sheltering Home and the Boston Home for Aged and Infirm Hebrews and Orphanage, where he was an Associate Member at least between 1890 and 1891. His eldest daughter Etta married Morris Morrison, making Robert, Ralph and Sidney Morrison his grandsons. He died in 1921.

Morris L. Morrison, 1872-1949

Morris Morrison was born in 1872 in Chaniya, Russian Poland (near Brest-Litovsk) to Moishe Velvel, a miller, and Shayna Chaya (Jennie Lenn), a seamstress and midwife. Three weeks before Morrison was born, Moishe died in a mill accident, leaving Shayna a widow with three children – an older sister and brother, Raphael, along with baby Morris, then known as Moshe or Maishe, after his deceased father. After a difficult life in Chaniya, Morrison immigrated to the United States around 1889. Upon arrival, he changed his name from Moshe to Morris Lenn Morrison, modeled on his Hebrew name of Moshe ben Moshe (Moshe son of Moshe) with his mother’s maiden name as his middle name. This combination of Old and New World was typical of Morrison. A classically-trained Eastern European yeshiva student beginning with cheder at age four, he easily navigated and referenced typical Judaic texts like Torah, Talmud, Pirkei Avot (Ethics/Chapters of the Fathers) and Rambam (Maimonides) throughout his life, while also investing himself in the American Jewish community and working in his own insurance firm. By 1910, Morrison was heavily involved in Boston politics, even going so far as to run for a seat in the 1910 election as a Democratic representative in the General Court for the 21st district of Boston. He moved to Florida and remained involved with the Jewish community there before returning to live with his wife, Etta, in Brookline. She died in 1948, and Morris followed slightly over a year later. His children remembered him as a constantly giving, uncomplaining and invested member of their family and community.

Ralph Morrison (1870/1871-?)

Morris Morrison’s older brother Ralph was born Raphael in 1870 or 1871. A few years after his birth, he was registered as the only male in his family in order to avoid military conscription for himself and his brother. After he emigrated in 1902 or 1903, he and his wife Lena had four daughters (Bertha, Mirian, Francis and Anna) and two sons (Fred and Sumner). Ralph was a shochet accredited by Rabbi B. Boruchoff of Malden, and worked for Sturtevant & Haley, a subsidiary of the meat-packing giant Swift and Co. He corresponded with rabbis from various Jewish communities, both in and out of Massachusetts.

Robert M. Morrison (1904/1905-1986)

Born in Boston in 1904 or 1905, Morris and Etta (Levin) Morrison’s oldest son was consistently involved in Jewish and Zionist organizations from very early in his life. He was a member of the primarily Jewish Sigma Alpha Mu (Sammy) fraternity as a student at Harvard. From at least 1927, he was connected to such groups as the Federated Jewish Charities, Young People’s League of the United Synagogue of America, Zionist Organization of America, Jewish Big Brother of Boston, Temple Ohabei Shalom of Brookline, Massachusetts, Yeshivat Torat Israel and Temple Israel of Boston. He continued to work with such associations for most of his life.

Sidney L. Morrison (1911-1996)

The third Morrison son, Sidney was also involved in Jewish communal life, although his participation was less documented than his father's and brother's. His largest works involved family history, including organizing and copyrighting the two volumes of his father's autobiography, Shtetl Tintypes and “M.L,” as well as typing up his own memoirs, entitled Saga of Sid Morrison. The husband of Ruth Dvilinsky Morrison since 1937, Sidney died in 1996.


July 1853 Jacob Levin born in Russia/Poland.
June 14, 1872 Morris Lenn Morrison born in Chaniya, Russian Poland.
May 1880/1881 Etta Levin (Morrison) born in Russia/Poland to Jacob and Annie (Stark).
October 21, 1887 Jacob Levin naturalized as US citizen.
May 23, 1896 Morris Morrison naturalized as US citizen.
April 15, 1902 Morris Morrison and Etta Levin marry in Everett, Massachusetts.
January 29, 1903 Eva G. Morrison born
February 5, 1903 Eva G. Morrison dies
March 25, 1904/1905 Robert Martin Morrison born in Everett, Massachusetts.
1907 Ralph E. Morrison born.
May 1910 Morris Morrison named principal assessor of the City of Boston by Mayor John Fitzgerald.
October 1, 1911 Sidney L. Morrison born.
May 5, 1921 Jacob Levin dies; buried in Adath Jeshurun Cemetery in West Roxbury, Massachusetts.
March 1927 Robert Morrison appointed to Board of Governors of Federated Jewish Charities.
December 1927 Robert Morrison elected second vice president of Young People’s League of the United Synagogue of America.
April 15, 1932 Robert Morrison marries Norma Falk at Beacon House, Boston, Massachusetts.
1933 Sidney Morrison graduates Harvard University.
1937 Sidney Morrison and Ruth Dvilinsky marry in Brockton, Massachusetts.
June 1946 Morris Morrison elected to the Board of Trustees of the Associated Jewish Philanthropies (precursor to Combined Jewish Philanthropies).
June 17, 1948 Etta Levin Morrison dies; buried in Adath Jeshurun Cemetery in West Roxbury, Massachusetts.
November 3, 1949 Morris Morrison dies of a heart attack; buried in Adath Jeshurun Cemetery in West Roxbury, Massachusetts.
1982-1983 Morris Morrison’s memoir Shtetl Tintypes published as a series of articles in the Broward Jewish Journal, and as a volume self-published by Sidney Morrison.
1986 Robert Morrison dies.
1989 Morris Morrison’s memoirs from 1889-1941 published as a book called M.L.
December 19, 1990 Sidney Morrison compiles a book of his own memoirs, The Saga of Sid Morrison.
August 27, 1996 Sidney Morrison dies in Boca Raton, Florida
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Scope and Content Note

This collection contains the papers of Morris, Robert and Sidney Morrison, and Jacob Levin. It consists of personal correspondence between the Morrison’s and various rabbinical and Jewish organizational figures. There are also more official notifications of gratitude for donations or services to, as well as appointments to positions in, different Jewish and Zionist groups. Also included are important documents such as naturalization certificates, and papers of personal significance, such as a program from a fraternity dinner. Three autobiographies are included, along with a scrapbook of newspaper clippings from 1909-1911. Most documents are in English, although there are some in Hebrew and Yiddish.

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The collection is arranged into six series as follows:

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Access and Use

Access Restrictions

The collection is open to all researchers by permission of the Director of Collections and Engagement of the American Jewish Historical Society, except items that are restricted due to their fragility.

Use Restrictions

Information concerning the literary rights may be obtained from the Director of Library and Archives of the American Jewish Historical Society. Users must apply in writing for permission to quote, reproduce or otherwise publish manuscript materials found in this collection. For more information contact:
American Jewish Historical Society, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY, 10011

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Related Material

Rabbi Ber Boruchoff Papers, P-157

United Kosher Butchers Association Records, I-118

Temple Israel, Boston, Massachusetts Records, I-458

Temple Ohabei Shalom, Brookline, Massachusetts Records, I-459

Combined Jewish Philanthropies Records, I-220

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Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form:
Identification of item, date (if known); Morrison Family and Jacob Levin, Collection; P-394; box number; folder number; Jewish Heritage Center at NEHGS.

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Acquisition Information

Scrapbook and miscellaneous materials donated by Robert Morrison in 1979 and 1980. Additional materials donated by Sidney Morrison in 1992.

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Access Points

This collection is indexed under the following controlled access subject terms.

Click on a subject to search that term in the Center's catalog. Return to the Top of Page

Container List

The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.

Click the box in the request column to learn more about viewing materials at the Jewish Heritage Center at NEHGS.


Series I: Levin, Jacob, 1887-1896; 1927-1947

Box 1, Folders 1-2.

Arranged chronologically.

Scope and Content:

This series contains Jacob Levin’s naturalization certificate as well as receipts for donations to the Boston Home for Aged and Infirm Hebrews and Orphanage, and the Benoth Israel Sheltering Home.

1 1 Citizenship papers/donation receipts 1887-1896 request_box
1 2 Correspondence 1927-1947 request_box
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Series II: Morrison, Morris, undated, 1909-1989

Box 1, Folders 3-6, 12.

Arranged chronologically and by type.

Scope and Content:

This series contains letters from Jewish communal leaders around the United States, thank you notes for charitable donations, notices regarding Jewish organizations and mementos such as a ballot from the 1910 election in which he was a candidate. Also included are the two volumes of autobiography that Morris’s son Sidney put together: Shtetl Tintypes (covering his birth until his immigration) and M.L. (a primarily politically focused, rather than personally focused, account of his life from 1889-1941, continuing directly after and acting as a second volume to Shtetl Tintypes. The compilation was a project begun by Morrison’s son Robert and completed by his son Sidney.) Of particular interest is a scrapbook of newspaper clippings from the early twentieth century. Mostly concerning political life in the Boston area, specifically events and dealings related to Jews, the scrapbook is a repurposed ledger/accounting book from 1908, presumably from the Morrison Insurance Company, and contains fragments from the Boston American, Globe, Herald, Journal, Post, Record and Traveler, and the Jewish Advocate, along with some Yiddish newspapers of the time.

1 3 Autobiography/“Shtetl Tintypes”/ Ch. I-XXIV (pgs. 1-101) 1982 request_box
1 4 Autobiography/“Shtetl Tintypes”/ Ch. XXV-XLIV with glossary and index (pgs. 102-199) 1982 request_box
1 5 Autobiography/1889-1941/Prologue-Ch. LXXXII (pgs. 200-329) 1989 request_box
1 6 Autobiography/1889-1941/ Ch. LXXXIII-CXXIII (pgs.330-496) 1989 request_box
1 12 General/Scrapbook undated, 1909-1911 request_box
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Series III: Morrison, Ralph, 1904?-1917?

Box 1, Folder 7.
Scope and Content:

This series contains the personal papers of Ralph Morrison, including a Hebrew certificate authorizing him as a shochet, a ritual slaughterer of kosher meat, and some letters from rabbis in Boston and New York, written in Yiddish.

1 7 Correspondence/Diploma for shochet 1904?-1917? request_box
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Series IV: Morrison, Robert, 1927-1957

Box 1, Folder 8.
Scope and Content:

This series includes the correspondence of Robert Morrison, both personal (e.g. a confirmation from the cantor for his wedding) and official (appointments to positions in various Jewish/Zionist organizations). Also included are a program from the 1954 40th anniversary convention of the Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity, of which Robert and his brother Ralph were apparently members, and one from the dedication of the Rabbi Joshua Loth Liebman Wing at Temple Israel of Boston, at which Robert spoke.

1 8 Correspondence/Programs 1927-1957 request_box
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Series V: Morrison, Sidney L., 1945, 1990

Box 1, Folders 9-10.

Arranged chronologically.

Scope and Content:

This series has a personal document in the form of an invitation to Community Night at Congregation Agudas Achim (Sidney acted as a member of the committee) and a “collection of thoughts” entitled The Saga of Sid Morrison, most of which pertain to Morrison’s work opportunities over the years.

1 9 Correspondence 1945 request_box
1 10 Autobiography/Saga of Sid Morrison 1990 request_box
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Series VI: Miscellaneous Correspondence, undated, 1924-1931

Box 1, Folder 11.
Scope and Content:

This series has a collection of letters, the recipients of which are unknown. They are handwritten in Hebrew or Yiddish, and were sent by high ranking rabbis in the United States and Europe.

1 11 Miscellaneous undated, 1924-1931 request_box
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