Guide to the Papers of the Sylvia Rosner Rothchild Oral History Project,
undated, circa 1993-1996

Processed by Shannon Struble

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 Shannon Struble as MS Word document, October 26, 2016. Finding aid was encoded by Shannon Struble on November 12, 2016. Description is in English.

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Rothchild, Sylvia
Title: Sylvia Rosner Rothchild Oral History Project Papers
Dates:Undated, circa 1993-1996
Abstract: Sylvia Rosner Rothchild (1923-2009) was an award-winning author and oral historian who focused on the relationships between American and Jewish identity and culture. She published five books and thousands of articles and book reviews during her lifetime, including two collections of oral histories based on testimonies gathered from Holocaust survivors and Soviet Jewish émigrés. This collection primarily consists of transcripts of interviews conducted by Rothchild with members of the Harvard-Radcliffe Hillel Worship and Study Minyan from 1993 to 1996, along with her completed writings based on the interviews and related biographical and background materials.
Languages: The collection is in English.
Quantity: .25 linear feet (1 half-manuscript box)
Identification: P-817
Repository: American Jewish Historical Society
Location: Located in AJHS Boston, MA
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Biographical Note

Sylvia Rosner was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1923 to Bertha Newberger Rosner and Samuel Lionel Rosner, who had immigrated to the United States from Austria-Hungary. She studied science at Brooklyn College, but left before graduating. In 1944, she married Seymour Rothchild. After a brief time in Rochester, New York, the couple moved to Sharon, Massachusetts and had three children: Alice, Judith, and Joseph.

Beginning in 1951, and continuing until just before her death in 2009, Sylvia Rothchild published stories and essays in such magazines as Commentary, Hadassah Magazine, Present Tense, and Moment, as well as over 1,000 book reviews in the Jewish Advocate and The Boston Globe. Her first book was a biography for children about Yiddish writer I. L. Peretz titled Keys to a Magic Door: Isaac Leib Peretz, which won the National Jewish Book Award in 1960. She published a novel, Sunshine and Salt, in 1964, and in 1990, she collected 12 stories written in the 1950s and eight written in the 1980s into the volume Family Stories for Every Generation.

Rothchild produced two books based on oral histories: Voices from the Holocaust, published in 1981, and A Special Legacy: An Oral History of Soviet Jewish Emigres in the United States, published in 1985. The former consisted of testimonies of Holocaust survivors gathered in the William E. Wiener Oral History Library of the American Jewish Committee, and the latter focused on interviews with Soviet émigrés, also held in the Wiener Oral History Library and taped by Rothchild herself.

Rothchild also conducted oral history interviews about the Worship and Study Minyan at Harvard-Radcliffe Hillel, of which she was a member. The group was a havurah formed in the 1960s by Rabbi Ben Zion Gold, director emeritus of the Harvard-Radcliffe Hillel, as a way to create a community, or “spiritual home,” to replace the one he had lost when he left his native Poland. The interviewees were congregants who had been with the group since the beginning, as well as those who were relative newcomers, and the interviews focused on the effect the Worship and Study Minyan had on stimulating interest in Judaism among its diverse members.

The interviews formed the basis of an essay, “The Two Way Street: Unexpected Developments in American Jewish Life,” along with a short article “Continuity and Stability at Harvard,” both written by Rothchild. The transcripts and writings from this project are the focus of this collection. The remainder of Rothchild's personal papers and manuscripts are located at the Mugar Library at Boston University.

Due to her written explorations of Jewish culture and identity in America and contributions to the Jewish community as a whole, Rothchild was honored by a number of organizations, including B’nai Brith, from which she received the Women’s Pacesetters Award in 1982; Hadassah, which awarded her the Women of Achievement Award in 1987; and Brooklyn College, which presented her with the President’s Medal in 1991. Rothchild was a gifted lecturer, and she gave talks around the United States, as well as teaching for many years at Hebrew College, which granted her an honorary doctorate in 1992.

In addition to writing and lecturing, Rothchild was an amateur painter and semi-professional cellist. She performed with her husband, who played violin, in the Sharon Civic Orchestra, Boston Civic Orchestra, and Boston Philharmonic Orchestra.

Sylvia Rothchild died on March 1, 2009 at the age of 86. Her husband Seymour died in 2001. Both are buried in the Sharon Memorial Park.


Material from the collection.

Kates, Judith. “Sylvia Rosner Rothchild (1923-2009).” Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia, March 20, 2009. Accessed October 26, 2016. <>

Marquard, Bryan. “Sylvia Rothchild, novelist, reviewer, and cellist; at 86.” The Boston Globe, March 3, 2009, B.14.


1923Sylvia Rosner is born.
1944Sylvia marries Seymour Rothchild.
1951Sylvia begins publishing her writings in major publications.
1959Keys to a Magic Door: Isaac Leib Peretz is published.
1964Sunshine and Salt is published.
1981Voices from the Holocaust is published.
1982Sylvia receives the Women's Pacesetters Award from B'nai Brith.
1985A Special Legacy: An Oral History of Soviet Jewish Emigres in the United States is published.
1987Sylvia receives the Women of Achievement Award from Hadassah.
1990Family Stories for Every Generation is published.
1991Sylvia receives the President's Medal from Brooklyn College.
1992Sylvia receives an honorary doctorate from Hebrew College.
1993-1996Sylvia interviews members of the Worship and Study Minyan.
1997Sylvia produces "The Two Way Street: Unexpected Developments in American Jewish Life."
2001Seymour Rothchild dies.
2009Sylvia Rosner Rothchild dies.
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Scope and Content Note

The Sylvia Rosner Rothchild Oral History Project papers primarily consist of transcripts of interviews conducted by Rothchild with members of the Harvard-Radcliffe Hillel Worship and Study Minyan from 1993 to 1996. The collection also includes the background story behind the oral history project and articles written by Rothchild about the congregation, as well as a biography of Rothchild herself.

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The collection is arranged into one 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

Boston Jewish Community Relations Council Records, I-123

Concerned Jewish Students of Greater Boston Records, I-157

Mosaic Journal Records, I-178

New England Jewish Free Press Records, I-158

Rothchild, Sylvia (1923-2009) Papers, Howard Gottleib Archival Research Center, Boston University

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Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form:
Identification of item, date (if known); Sylvia Rosner Rothchild Oral History Project Papers; P-817; box number; folder number; Jewish Heritage Center at NEHGS.

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Acquisition Information

Donated by Sylvia Rosner Rothchild, 2003.

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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: Sylvia Rosner Rothchild Oral History Project Papers, undated, circa 1993-1996

Box 1, Folders 1-8.

Arranged according to its original order.

Scope and Content:

See Collection Scope and Content Note.

11Biographical Article and "A Great Happening in Boston"undatedrequest_box
12Background to Oral History Project and "The Two-Way Street"undatedrequest_box
13-8Interview Transcriptsundated, 1993-1996request_box
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