- The bulk of this collection relates to Commander Elihu Rickel’s time in China, and in particular Tianjin, in 1945-1946, while serving as a chaplain with the U.S. Marine Corps. While there, he sought to raise awareness about the condition of the Jewish community in Tianjin, which was comprised primarily of Jews who had fled Europe in the late 1930s. The second series of documents in this collection contains, in part, a report that Rickel wrote about the community, a letter he sent to Rabbi Stephen Wise, and a journalistic account of Rickel’s ministry among the Jewish community. By this time, many of the émigrés in the Jewish community in Tianjin were hoping immigrate to the United States, and the third series of documents contains dossiers, usually consisting only of a resume or other biographical summary, which were likely written in part as applications for affidavits of support in order to obtain entry visas.
In addition to the material related to China, the first series of documents dates from Rickel’s earlier ministry in Buffalo, New York, as the rabbi at Temple Beth El, and specifically, to a series of interfaith memorial events dedicated to Jewish Holocaust victims in Europe. These meetings took place in late 1942, prior to Rickel’s induction into the Marine Corps and his subsequent service as a chaplain.
Extensive documentation about Rickel’s subsequent career as a chaplain is not included in the present collection, and remains with the Rickel family.
- Credit Line
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Alice Rickel
- Collection Creator
- Elihu H. Rickel
Elihu H. Rickel was born in Montreal on April 8, 1910, but was raised in Cleveland. His father, Harry Rickel, served as cantor of the B’nai Jeshurun Congregation in that city. Following studies at New York University and Columbia University, he earned a degree as rabbi and master of Hebrew letters at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York in 1935. He was subsequently named rabbi of Temple Beth El in Buffalo, New York, where he served from 1939 to 1951.
During World War II, he was commissioned as a chaplain in the U.S. Navy in 1943, serving initially with the U.S. Marine Corps at Parris Island, South Carolina. He was then sent with the Third Marine Division to Guam, and was present at the invasion of Iwo Jima in early 1945, when he was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for heroism. Following the end of the war, Rickel was sent with the First Marine Division to China, where among other activities, he ministered to Jewish displaced persons in Tianjin and other locations. In 1946 he returned to Temple Beth El in Buffalo to serve as rabbi, but asked for another leave of absence from the congregation at the outbreak of the Korean War, when he returned to active duty in 1951. Initially he served with the First Marine Division in Korea, but after the end of that war, he remained in active duty for the next two decades, until his retirement in 1969. During those years , he served at various Marine and Navy installations, including with the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, as assistant district chaplain of the Eleventh Naval District in San Diego, and at the U.S. Naval Training Center at Great Lakes, Illinois, among other locations.
Commander Rickel received the “Chaplain of the Year” award from the Four Chaplains Award Committee in 1959, and was granted an honorary doctorate from the Jewish Theological Seminary in 1972. He died in Aventura, Florida, on January 23, 2003.
- System of Arrangement
- The collection is arranged in three series: I. Memorial meetings (Buffalo, NY, 1942), II. China: General documents, and III. China: Biographical statements. Individual files are arranged in alphabetic order by title within those series.
Rights & Restrictions
- Conditions on Access
- There are no known restrictions on access to this material.
- Conditions on Use
- Material(s) in this collection may be protected by copyright and/or related rights. You do not require further permission from the Museum to use this material. The user is solely responsible for making a determination as to if and how the material may be used.
Keywords & Subjects
- Holder of Originals
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
- Legal Status
- Permanent Collection
- Alice Rickel donated the Elihu H. Rickel papers to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2013.
- Record last modified:
- 2023-07-05 07:55:47
- This page: