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Rabbi Samuel Mendelsohn Papers

Identifier: SC-MS-058

Scope and Contents

This collection contains over two hundred sermons, lectures, addresses and letters written by Rabbi Samuel Mendelsohn in the 1870s-1880s. Sermons were written for congregants at Beth-El in Norfolk, Virginia and later at the Temple of Israel in Wilmington. Rabbi Mendelsohn's lectures and addresses were often performed for his congregants, but he also made addresses at other synagogues or public venues, such as the Thalian Hall Center for the Performing Arts, then known as The Opera House, in Wilmington, NC. His pieces spoke on not just religion but also philosophy and social issues, as well as Jewish history and education. Also included are Jewish press newspaper articles highlighting Jewish achievement or culture and a few reels of microfilm.


  • Creation: 1871-1969
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1871-1887


Language of Materials

A few documents are entirely in German. Most sermons and other documents have Hebrew included with English.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research use.

Copyright Statement

Copyright 1989 University of North Carolina at Wilmington, all rights reserved (subject to exceptions). Certain items in this collections were conveyed to UNCW without the accompanying copyright. Where the donor did not convey copyright to UNCW, copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.

Biographical Note

Samuel Mendelsohn (1850-1922) was a rabbi, author, and Jewish scholar born in Shillelen, Kovono, Russia on March 31, 1850 to Fiewel and Jetta M. Mendelsohn. He was educated at the rabbinical college in Wilna, the rabbinic school in Berlin, and graduated from Maimonides College, Philadelphia, PA in 1873. In 1883, he received the honorary doctor of laws degree from the University of North Carolina.

His first rabbinic post was the Hebrew Congregation Beth-El in Norfolk, Virginia, where he served from 1873 to 1876. One of his teachers, Dr. Marcus Jastrow (1829-1903), influenced him to come to Wilmington to lead the fledgling congregation, Mishcan Yisrael on February 29, 1876. Mishcan Yisrael, later Temple of Israel, is the oldest Jewish congregation in the state. Dr. Mendelsohn served the congregation and the community for forty-seven years.

A prolific author and recognized Jewish scholar, Mendelsohn published several pamphlets and a large number of articles on subjects of general Jewish interest and Talmudical research. His works have appeared in Ha-zofeh, Jewish Messenger, Jewish Record, South Atlantic Magazine, American Israelite, Revue Des Etudes Juives, and Open Court. He is best known among Jewish scholars for three works, The Criminal Jurisprudence of the Ancient Hebrews; compiled from the Talmud and other Rabbinical writings, and compared with Roman and English penal jurisprudence (1891), his translation of the biblical book of Haggai, and an index of biblical citations for Jastrow’s A Dictionary of the Tragumin, the Talmud Babli, and Yerushalmi, and the Midraschic Literature (1903). Dr. Mendelsohn was also a collaborator in the completion of the Jewish Encyclopedia.

Rabbi Mendelsohn was very active in fraternal and charitable organizations. He was a member of the Cornelius Harnett Council, Royal Arcanum and served as secretary for the group for 35 years, as well as grand chaplain of the Grand Lodge of North Carolina, Odd Fellows, Fraternal Mystic Circle, and the North State Lodge, Independent Order of B’nai B’rith. He also served as Director of the Associated Charities of Wilmington and supreme president of U. S. Benevolent Fraternity.

In June 1922, Mendelsohn was elected rabbi emeritus of Temple of Israel due to failing health. Hailed as the Dean of the Wilmington Clergy, Rabbi Mendelsohn died on September 30, 1922.


1850 March 30
Mendelsohn born in Shillelen, province of Kovono, Russia to Fiewel and Jetta M. Mendelsohn.
1872 November 21
Mishkan Yisrael founded in Wilmington, NC.
Mendelsohn graduated from Maimonides College, Philadelphia, PA.
Mendelsohn served as the rabbi for Congregation Beth el, Norfolk VA.
1875 March
Ground breaking for Temple of Israel, Wilmington, NC.
1875 June 15
Cornerstone laid for Temple of Israel.
Mendelsohn served as rabbi for Temple of Israel, Wilmington NC.
1876 May 12
Temple of Israel dedicated.
1878 June 9
Temple of Israel affiliated with the Union of American Hebrew Congregations.
1879 May 11
Mendelsohn married Esther Jastrow, niece of his mentor, Dr. Marcus Jastrow, in Wilmington, NC.
1880 December 8
Dr. Charles Jastrow Mendelsohn (1880-1939), noted author and cryptographer, born to Samuel and Esther.
Mendelsohn receives an honorary degree of doctor of law from the University of North Carolina.
The Criminal Jurisprudence of the Ancient Hebrews, published by M. Curlander, Baltimore, MD, one of Mendelsohn’s best known scholarly works.
Mendelsohn compiled the Index of Scriptural Citations for Dr. Marcus Jastrow’s (1829-1903) A Dictionary of the Targumin, the Talmud Babli, and Yerushalmi, and the Midraschic Literature.
Published Die Funkition der Rulsadern und der Kreislauf des Blutes in altrabbinicher Literature, Publisher G. Fischer.
1922 June
Elected Rabbi Emeritus, Temple of Israel, due to failing health.
1922 September 22
Rabbi Samuel Mendelsohn died in Wilmington, NC.


8 Containers (Contains 4 document boxes and 4 oversize folders.)


Arranged into five series that are organized chronologically. 1. Sermons; 2. Lectures; 3. Addresses Essays, and other Written Works; 4. Newspapers; and 5. Microfilm.

Acquisition Information

This collection was donated by the Museum of World Cultures and the Temple of Israel in 1989.

Digital Access

Portions of this collection have been digitized and/or are born-digital. These items are identified by a black icon beside the item title when browsing via the collection organization hierarchy (to the right in desktop view; on the bottom in mobile view).

To view or access all of the digitized and/or born-digital materials in the collection directly, please select "View Digital Material" in the blue header above, just below the collection title.

Processing Information

This collection was originally processed by Lana Donaldson Taylor in 1990. In 2015, this collection was rehoused with current archival standard materials by Maya Rodgers. It was reprocessed by Tess Will in Spring of 2023.

Rabbi Samuel Mendelsohn Papers
Tess Will
2023 March 23
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Randall Library Special Collections Repository