Joseph L. Baron Papers, 1910-1960


Joseph Louis Baron was born in Vilno, Poland (then Lithuania), May 27, 1894, one of the five children of Hirsch Leib and Ida Rachel Baron. In 1907, Baron came with his family to America where they settled in New York City. Being the son of a rabbi, Baron was well educated before his arrival in America. While living in New York, he attended the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Yeshiva and then spent five years at Columbia University where he received a B.A. in 1914 and an M.A. in 1916. While pursuing his Master's degree at Columbia, he also studied at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. During his student years Baron helped found the national youth organization of Young Judea, served on the staff of the New York Board of Education and contributed articles to several New York newspapers and magazines.

In 1916, Baron entered Hebrew Union College and continued his graduate work at the University of Cincinnati. While there, he edited the Hebrew Union College Monthly and organized the Young Judea Council of Cincinnati and the Jewish Center of Norwood, Ohio. During his junior year, World War I broke out and Baron was called to Temple Sholom of Chicago to relieve Rabbi Abram Hirshberg, who served in the U.S. Army Chaplaincy for several months. Baron also conducted weekly services at Bellaire and Zanesville, Ohio.

Baron was ordained in May 1920. He spent the next three successive summers studying problems of social service under Rabbi Stephen S. Wise in the Free Synagogue of New York City. In 1932, he ended his formal education with a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago.

Baron's first pulpit after ordination was that of Tri-City Temple Emanuel which served the Jewish residents of Davenport, Iowa, and Moline and Rock Island, Illinois. During his six-year tenure, he established the Tri-City Jewish Charities, the Tri-City Scribe, the Ezra School, the Emanuel Religious School, the Davenport Lodge of B'nai B'rith, and the Council of Jewish Youth Clubs. He also was involved with extension work for the students of the University of Iowa and helped found Congregation Judah of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. It was during this time that the Union of American Hebrew Congregations adopted Baron's plan for a system of adolescent youth clubs now known as the National Federation of Temple Youth.

In September of 1926, Baron left Davenport to assume the position of Associate to Rabbi Samuel Hirshberg at Temple Emanu-El (later Emanu-El B'ne Jeshurun) in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He remained in Milwaukee until his death in 1960.

During Baron's 35 years in Milwaukee, he was extremely active in temple, community, and state activities. At the Temple, he established a temple office, a library, a museum, and the Temple Bulletin. He also modernized the religious school, designed the pattern for the stained-glass windows in the temple sanctuary, and organized the Temple Brotherhood. For the Milwaukee community, he taught philosophy at the local State Teachers' College and later the University of Wisconsin--Milwaukee; he helped establish the Milwaukee Round Table of the National Conference of Christians and Jews, the Milwaukee Jewish Council, the Milwaukee Chapter of the American Jewish Committee, and the Yavneh School for Unaffiliated Jewish Children; and he served on various boards and committees including the Social Planning Committee of the Milwaukee County Council of Social Agencies, the Religious Committee of Centurama, Abraham Lincoln House (later the Milwaukee Jewish Community Center), Federated Jewish Charities, the Jewish Welfare Fund, Boy Scouts, YMCA, and YWCA. On the state level, Baron helped establish a number of synagogues and organizations including Temple Beth El in Madison, Temple Emanu-El in Waukesha, the Wisconsin Rabbinical Association, the Wisconsin Conference of Liberal Synagogues, the Wisconsin Society for Jewish Learning, the Wisconsin Jewish Archives, and the Department of Hebrew Studies at the University of Wisconsin. He also served on the Governor's Commission on Human Rights.

Aside from all of these activities (the list not being all-inclusive), Baron was on the Jewish Chautauqua Society Lecture Tour to university campuses for several years. He served on boards related to Hebrew Union College and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, as well as others including the Yiddish Scientific Institute, the Academic Committee of Hebrew University, the American Arbitration Association, the Religious Committee of Columbia University, the Jewish Statistical Bureau, and the United Jewish Appeal. Baron also pursued scholarly activities; besides publishing several articles in journals and encyclopedias, he was the author of five books: Death in Jewish Folk Religion (1932), In Quest of Integrity (1936), Candles in the Night (1940), Stars and Sand (1943), and A Treasury of Jewish Quotations (1956).

After a long series of illnesses, Baron was made rabbi emeritus of his congregation in 1951. He remained active, continuing his scholarly pursuits and serving his congregation through pastoral duties, until his death on July 12, 1960. He was survived by his wife, Bernice S. Baron, and his children, Rachel Baron Heimovics and John Herschel Baron.