Southern Methodist University

Collection on Levi A. Olan

A Guide to the Collection


Creator: Bridwell Library
Title: Collection on Levi A. Olan
Inclusive Dates: 1929-2013
Bulk Dates: 1948-1981
Abstract: The collection on Levi Arthur Olan consists of publications by Rabbi Olan, typescripts and audio recordings of his radio sermons, and personal papers. Levi A. Olan (1903-1984) was a respected rabbi, author, educator, and community leader known as "the conscience of Dallas."
Accession No: BridArch 208.11, 2015.07
Extent: 8 boxes (7 linear feet)
Language: Material is in English
Repository Bridwell Library, Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University

Biographical Note

Levi Arthur Olan was born March 22, 1903, in Cherkassy, Ukraine. He and his parents, Max and Bessie Leshinsky Olan, immigrated to the United States seeking to escape anti-Jewish violence, settling in Rochester, New York. Levi Olan attended the University of Rochester, Hebrew Union College, and the University of Cincinnati (B.A., 1925).

After being ordained in 1929 at Hebrew Union College, Rabbi Olan served Temple Emanu-El in Worcester, Massachusetts for twenty years, guiding the congregation through the Great Depression and World War II. From 1949 until his retirement in 1970, Levi Olan led Temple Emanu-El in Dallas, Texas. His ministry in Dallas included a long-running series of radio broadcasts, The Temple Emanu-El Program.

For more than two decades, Rabbi Olan served as lecturer in Judaism at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University, working out of an office at Bridwell Library. To honor Rabbi Olan’s great love of books, friends, family members, and colleagues established the Levi A. Olan Collection of Fine Books at Bridwell Library in 1963. That same year Texas Governor John Connally appointed Olan to the Board of Regents of the University of Texas, a position he held until 1969.

As a theologian, Rabbi Olan was respected and prolific. His publications included On the Nature of Man (1948); Rethinking the Liberal Faith (1949); Judaism and Modern Theology (1956); Reinhold Niebuhr and the Hebraic Spirit (1956); Judaism and Immortality (1971); and Prophetic Faith and the Secular Age (1982). Olan served as president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis from 1967 to 1969.

An outspoken civil rights activist, Rabbi Olan has been called “The Conscience of the City [of Dallas].” In recognition of his many accomplishments, Olan received honorary degrees from Hebrew Union College, Southern Methodist University, and Austin College in Sherman, Texas. SMU’s 1968 citation reads:

Distinguished religious leader, educator, humanitarian, he has extended the honored role of rabbi (Teacher) beyond the bounds of his congregation to include the whole Southwest region. As an eloquent preacher and lecturer, he has communicated the best of the Jewish heritage to a wide audience with great integrity and compassion. As a university regent and dedicated public servant, he has upheld the human cause in many crises and has won for himself our admiration and true affection. It is this rare combination of talent and devotion that we delight to recognize this day with the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.

Levi Olan married Sarita Messer on June 9, 1931, and the couple had three children (Elizabeth Hirsch, Frances Olan, and David Olan) and four grandchildren. Rabbi Olan died in Dallas October 17, 1984, at the age of 81.


"Rabbi Levi Olan Dies at 81" The Dallas Morning News. Thursday, October 18, 1984.

An Inventory to the Levi A. Olan Papers. American Jewish Archives [online resource]. Available at accessed 12/2/2010.

Gerald Klein, "OLAN, LEVI ARTHUR," Handbook of Texas Online, accessed April 01, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

Through print, manuscript, and audio materials, the collection on Levi A. Olan gives evidence of Rabbi Olan’s scholarly writings and public teachings. To a lesser degree, the collection also documents Olan’s ministry at Temple Emanu-El and his personal connections with SMU and Bridwell Library.

Arrangement of the Collection

The collection is arranged in three topical series:
Series 1: Publications, 1929-1984
Series 2: Speeches and Sermons, 1949-1983
Series 3: Recordings, 1961-2013
Series 4: Personal Papers, 1946-2013


Access to Collection:

The collection is open for research use. Patrons must sign the Acknowledgement of Legal Responsibility and Privacy Rights form before using this collection.

Publication Rights:

Permission to publish materials must be obtained from the Director of the Bridwell Library.

Copyright Statement:

It is the responsibility of the user to obtain copyright authorization.

Access Terms

This collection is indexed under the following terms in the Southern Methodist University Libraries' online catalog. Researchers desiring related materials may search the catalog using these terms.
Olan, Levi Arthur, 1903-1984.
Rabbis -- Texas -- Dallas.
Jewish sermons, American.
Manuscripts for publication.
Sound recordings.
Prophetic faith and the secular age.
Temple Emanu-El (Dallas, Tex.)
Southern Methodist University.

Related Materials

Digital Collection on Levi A. Olan, Bridwell Library, Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University

Sermons by Levi A. Olan, Bridwell Library call number 296.42 O42s

Additional collections at other repositories include:

Manuscript Collection 181, Levi A. Olan papers, Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati, Ohio

Dorothy M. and Henry S. Jacobus Temple Emanu-El Archives,Dallas, Texas,

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], Collection on Levi A. Olan, Bridwell Library, Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University.

Acquisition Information

Acquired. Bridwell Library staff members created this collection from multiple sources. The seven bound volumes of Rabbi Olan’s radio sermons were given by Rabbi Olan and Temple Emanu-El. The loose sermon copies were passed on to Perkins School of Theology Professor Roy L. Heller in 2003 by Betty E. Hamilton. In 2006 Dr. Heller forwarded these items to Bridwell Library. Additional materials came from the Special Collections stacks (accessions 30158-30160) and archives storage rooms in 2010 and 2012. Elizabeth Hirsch, daughter of Rabbi Olan, added two books to the collection in 2011 (accession 2011.02) and three folders of papers in 2012 (accession 2012.03).

Processing Information

Bridwell Library’s Collection on Levi Olan was arranged and described in 2011 by Timothy S. G. Binkley with the assistance of Heather M. Oglevie. The finding aid was updated in May 2013 by Timothy S. G. Binkley.

Encoded by

Lara Corazalla, 2011.

Detailed Description of the Collection

Publications, 1929-1984

The first series consists of fifteen folders of articles, book reviews, monographs, and a pre-publication manuscript written by Levi A. Olan.
Box Folder
780 01 Hebrew Union College Monthly Graduation Number 1929
02 Book Reviews 1954-1980
03-04 Articles 1948-1983
05 Judaism and Immortality 1971
06 Chapter "Aspirations for Ethnic Minorities" 1971
07 A Rational Faith: Essays in honor of Rabbi Levi A. Olan 1977
08-13 The Prophetic Faith in a Secular Age, Chapters 1-6 1975-1981
14 Prophetic Faith and the Secular Age 1982
15 Maturity in an Immature World 1984

Speeches and Sermons, 1949-1983

The second series contains two folders of lecture and sermon notes, seventeen folders of loose Temple Emanu-El Radio Program sermons, and seven bound volumes of radio sermons.
Box Folder
780 16 Sermons and Lectures 1953-1970
17 Lectures, undated 1950-1983
18-29 Radio sermons – Loose copies 1949-1965
Box Folder
781 01-05 Radio sermons – Loose copies 1966-1970
06-12 Radio sermons – Bound copies 1949-1970

Recordings, 1961-2013

The third series features audio recordings of 211 sermons preached by Rabbi Olan on the Temple Emanu-El Radio Program between 1961 and 1970. Recording formats include reel-to-reel magnetic tape, cassette tape, and DVD. The series concludes with six cassette tapes containing recordings of Rabbi Olan that were donated by Elizabeth Hirsch in 2015.
Box Folder
1278 01 Tape # 01B “We are All Guilty” 10/15/1961
Tape # 02 “We and the War That Need Not Be”10/22/1961
02 Tape # 03 “A National Purpose for America” 10/29/1961
Tape # 04 “Life that is Stronger than Death” 11/05/1961
03 Tape # 05 “The Harm that Good Men Do” 11/12/1961
Tape # 06A “Justice Comes First”11/19/1961
04 Tape # 06B “The Command to Love”11/26/1961
Tape # 07 “The Faith of Our Fathers and Our Own” 12/03/1961
05 Tape # 08 “On Being Lonely” 12/10/1961
Tape # 09 “What Do You Want—Freedom or Security” 12/17/1961
06 Tape # 10 “In the Face of Fear”12/24/1961
Tape # 11 “Family Life—What is Wrong” 12/31/1961
07 Tape # 12 “Religion and Communism in the Public Schools” 01/07/1962
Tape # 13 “Good Will—The Fact and the Illusion” 01/14/1962
08 Tape # 14 “Is There Really a God” 01/21/1962
Tape # 15A “A Skeptic’s Faith” 01/28/1962
09 Tape # 16A “A Skeptic’s Faith” 01/28/1962
Tape # 18 “Science is Not Enough” 02/25/1962
10 Tape # 19 “Is Religion Without Ritual Possible” 03/04/1962
Tape # 20 “What the City Needs”03/11/1962
11 Tape # 21 “The Conservative-Liberal Debate”03/18/1962
Tape # 23A “Morality and Nuclear Testing” 04/15/1962
12 Tape # 24 “What Is Right—And What Is Wrong”02/11/1962
Tape # 25 “Communism and the Biblical Tradition” 04/01/1962
13 Tape # 26 “Ideals are Real” 04/08/1962
Tape # 27A “Morality and Nuclear Testing”04/15/1962
14 Tape # 28A“We Need Not Fail” 10/07/1962
“Religion and the Goals for Dallas”10/30/1966
Tape # 29 “The Poor Condemn Us”11/04/1962
“The Book of Ruth—The True Love”02/10/1963
15 Tape #30 “Watch Your Temper”11/11/1962
“Religion Has Come a Long Way”04/07/1963
Tape #31“An Answer to War” 11/18/1962
“Faith Does Not Pay” 11/25/1962
16 Tape #32 “On Being Religious at Heart”12/09/1962
“An Eye for An Eye” 03/10/1963
Tape #33“Is Inter-Marriage A Problem”12/02/1962
“America—The Dream and the Image” 12/16/1962
Box Folder
1279 01 Tape # 34 “Faith that is Doing”12/30/1962
“How Can We Believe in God in a World Like This”01/13/1963
Tape #35“Pity the Poor Parent Today”01/20/1963
02 Tape # 36 “A Gentle Cynic”01/27/1963
“The Honest Doubter”02/03/1963
Tape #37“The Book of Lamentations—The Unyielding Believer” 02/17/1963
“The Harm that Good Men Do”11/12/1961
03 Tape #38“Those Who Say ‘What Will Be Will Be’”02/24/1963
“Man Need Not Fail”03/23/1963
Tape #39“A Modern View of the Kingdom of God”03/24/1963
04 Tape #40“The Harm of Misguided Love” 12/29/1963
“Remember Your Enemies” 03/31/1963
Tape #41 “Finding Oneself” 10/08/1963
“Who Created the World” 11/03/1963
05 Tape #43“Life’s Work is Never Done”10/20/1963
Tape #44 “Will God Keep His Promise?” 11/10/1963
“Psychiatry and Religious Faith”
06 Tape #45 “The Clean and the Unclean”04/21/1963
“One Generation to Another”04/19/1964
Tape #46 “Most Important Event” 04/14/1963
“Salvation for Modern Man” 01/12/1964
07 Tape #47“The Unforgivable Sin” 01/05/1964
“Laughter and Faith” 11/17/1963
Tape #48“The Greatest Story Ever Told”01/06/1963
“Overcoming Monotony”04/26/1964
08 Tape #51“What Should Dallas Do Now?”01/19/1964
“Are We Free to Choose?”01/24/1965
Tape #52“Let Us Pay What We Owe”
09 Tape #53“Yet One More Plague”02/09/1964
“How Can We Believe In God In A World Like This?”04/05/1964
Tape #54“Can God Really Help?”02/02/1964
“On Praying to a Limited God” 02/16/1964
10 Tape #55“An Attempt at Defining Religion”03/01/1964
“On Not Knowing What to Ask”04/29/1964
Tape #56“You Can Do Better”10/04/1964
“Our Need to Experience Life”10/11/1964
11 Tape #57“Making Sense Out of Nonsense”10/25/1964
“The Bible without God”04/04/1965
Tape #58“Oh No! It is Not True”10/18/1964
“How Much Can A Person Stand?”11/08/1964
12 Tape #59“The First Anniversary of a Tragedy”11/22/1964
Tape #60“On Legislating Morality”11/29/1964
13 Tape #61“On Being a Noble Mediocrity”11/01/1964
“On Being Old and Alone”11/15/1964
Tape #62“Bargaining with God”12/13/1964
14 Tape #63“When All Seems Lost” 12/20/1964
“A New Look at Good Will” 01/10/1965
Tape #64“Right Will Prevail” 12/27/1964
“Let Us Resolve”01/17/1965
15 Tape #65“Doing Something about Anxiety”02/14/1965
“Slander—an Unforgivable Sin”02/07/1965
Tape #66“The Parasite in our Midst” 02/21/1965
16 Tape #68“What Do You Want More Than All Else in the World?” 03/15/1965
“Take Time to Be Holy”03/21/1965
Tape #69“Psychology and Religion” 03/28/1965
“The Unleavened Life”04/25/1965
Box Folder
1280 01 Tape #70“On Being Displeased With God” 04/11/1965
“Love Thyself First” 04/18/1965
Tape #71“All Real Living is Meeting”10/03/1965
“We Are All Guilty”10/17/1965
02 Tape #72“On Getting Your Money’s Worth”11/14/1965
“The Wisdom of Our Fathers”11/21/1965
Tape #73“Who is Your Scapegoat”12/03/1965
“To Affirm a Faith”12/12/1965
03 Tape #74“One Secret of Eternity is Revealed” 10/24/1965
“Thou Shalt Teach Thy Son”04/03/1966
Tape #75“Is Anyone Listening?”12/26/1965
“The Nation is Not God”10/09/1966
04 Tape #76“Religion’s New Look”11/07/1965
“Our Changing Morality”04/17/1966
Tape #77“A Plea for Disciplined Living”10/31/1965
“Short-Cut to Success”02/13/1966
05 Tape #78“On Taking the Shortest Route”01/31/1965
“The Modern False Messiah”02/20/1966
Tape #79“On These Foundations”01/09/1966
“Taking God Seriously”03/13/1966
06 Tape #80“What a Beginning!” 01/16/1966
“Tested By Trouble”04/24/1966
Tape #81“For a Time Like This”01/30/1966
“Life is Growth”10/02/1966
07 Tape #82“The Stubborn Fool” 02/06/1966
“The Greatest Story Ever Told”01/06/1963
Tape #83“Why Do People Live Double Lives?”02/27/1966
“Come Let Us Pray” 03/06/1966
08 Tape #84“On Being Unimportant”03/20/1966
“If It Had Not Happened”03/27/1966
Tape #85“It Will Take a Miracle” 04/10/1966
“What the New Year Holds in Store”01/23/1966
09 Tape #86“We Need Not Fail” 10/16/1966
“Life Should Be an Adventure”11/13/1966
Tape #87“Life is Like a Dream”10/23/1966
“Who Shall Fight the War”02/26/1967
10 Tape #89“On Being a Mature Person” 11/27/1966
“Listen to What Your Dreams Tell You”01/08/1967
Tape #90“Are Religious People Fooling Themselves”12/18/1966
“When We Feel Depressed” 03/10/1968
11 Tape #91“Is This A Holy War?”12/11/1966
“The Beast In Each of Us”01/15/1967
Tape #92“A Religious Anti-Poverty Program” 02/12/1967
“Civil Rights and Civil Disobedience”02/19/1967
12 Tape #93“The One True Religion”03/05/1967
“Forgive But Don’t Forget”04/02/1967
Tape #94“A Troubler of the People”03/12/1967
“Life Should Be Beautiful”03/19/1967
13 Tape #95“The Importance of Little Things”04/23/1967
“But, What Does God Do Today?”04/30/1967
Tape #96“Two Holidays—Two Religions”01/07/1968
“Let Us Show Pity” 10/08/1967
14 Tape #98“On Rejecting Our Fathers”01/21/1968
“The Just and the Unjust War”11/12/1967
Tape #99“Youthful Rebellion against the Old Morality”11/26/1967
“Marrying Someone of Another Faith”12/10/1967
15 Tape #100“Religion and the Social Crisis”03/24/1968
Tape #101“The Hope of Christian and Jew”04/14/1968
16 Tape #102“Religion at Bargain Prices”12/22/1963
Tape #103“What Shall Men Praise” 03/08/1964
Box Folder
1281 01 Tape #104“The Majority Can Be Wrong”1/29/1967
“Please Stop and Listen”10/01/1967
Tape #105“God and Auschwitz” 02/25/1968
“Religion—Opiate or Stimulant”03/17/1968
02 Tape #106“On Developing Good Habits”03/03/1968
“The Role of the Artist”04/07/1968
Tape #107“Some Things are not for Sale”12/17/1967
“The Sin that Punishes”12/25/1966
03 Tape #109“The Uncertainties of Life”10/29/1967
“What it Takes to Live in Peace”12/31/1967
Tape #110“The Scoffer among Us”11/05/1967
“You are your Own Worst Enemy”
04 Tape #111“Seeking Oneself”10/06/1968
“A Modern View of Judgment”10/13/1968
Tape #115“Utopia—Reality or Illusion” 04/21/1968
“Is There Anything Sacred Today?” 10/27/1968
05 Tape #116“A Leader for These Times”03/31/1968
“On Hanging a New Calendar”01/14/1968
Tape #117“A Case for the Older Generation”11/17/1968
“What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You”12/15/1968
06 Tape #118“Laughing at God” 12/03/1967
“Beware of False Messiahs”02/18/1968
Tape #119“God is Real”02/11/1968
“We Have Been There Before”12/08/1968
07 Tape #120“No Messiah, Please”01/19/1969
“Some Ingredients of Religious Faith”01/26/1969
Tape #121“Teaching Religion in a Secular Age”03/26/1967
“Fear—The Blessing and the Curse” 02/09/1969
08 Tape #122“What Our Children Can Inherit From Us”12/01/1968
“Grow Old and Enjoy It”02/16/1969
Tape #123“One Way to Deal with Death”10/19/1969
“The Christian—Jewish Encounter”
09 Tape #124“On Finding God”03/08/1970
“On Being a Special Person” 03/15/1970
Tape #125“God in a Secular World”11/16/1969
“God’s Promises, Promises”11/23/1969
10 Tape #126“Get Yourself a Good Heart” 11/02/1969
“Modern Man’s Search for Himself”11/09/1969
Tape #127“The Moon and I”10/05/1969
“Religion—The Experience of Life’s Wholeness” 10/12/1969
11 Tape #128“Marriages are Made in Heaven”11/30/1969
Tape #129“Digging for Old Treasures” 12/14/1969
“The First Protest”12/21/1969
12 Tape #130“On Being Given another Chance”12/28/1969
“The Test of Love”01/04/1970
Tape #131“Turning Evil into Good” 01/11/1970
“Religion in the Year 2000” 01/18/1970
13 Tape #132“Being Happy in this Kind of World”03/22/1970
“All Problems Begin with Me”03/29/1970
Tape #133“You Shall Not Commit Adultery” 02/22/1970
“I Knew You When”03/01/1970
14 Tape #134“A False Kind of Prosperity” 04/19/1970
“Do You Really Want Liberty”04/26/1970
Tape #135“Religion is a Family Matter” 04/05/1970
“The Power to Stay With It”04/12/1970
15 Tape #136“Redeeming Our Sons”02/08/1970
“The Miracle of Miracles”02/15/1970
Tape #137“How to Handle a Dictator” 01/25/1970
“The Sensitive People and the Insensitive”02/01/1970
Box Folder
782A 01 Cassette copy of "We are All Guilty" 10/15/1961
02 Cassette copy of "Justice Comes First" 11/19/1961
03 Cassette copy of "Religion and Communism in the Public Schools" 01/07/1962
04 Cassette copy of "What the City Needs" 03/11/1962
05 Cassette copy of "Communism and the Biblical Tradition" 04/01/1962
06 Cassette copy of "The First Anniversary of a Tragedy" 11/22/1964
07 Cassette copy of "Are We Free to Choose?" 01/24/1965
08 Digital sermon recordings on DVD 2012-2013
09 Cassette recordings donated in 2015, 1977-1981
Rabbi Klein’s 25th Anniversary luncheon, 1977
Levi Olan on maturity, 10/15/1978
Levi Olan on Isaac Bashevis Singer, March 1979
Rabbi Levi Olan on The Origin by J. Stone, 02/04/1981
The Times of Their Lives: Satira and Levi Olan (2 tapes), 08/24/1981

Personal Papers, 1946-2013

The final series includes nine folders of correspondence, news articles, small publications, tributes, and photographs. These materials focus on Rabbi Olan and his relationships with Temple Emanu-El, SMU, and Bridwell Library.
Box Folder
782B 01 Newspaper clippings and magazine articles 1958-1984
02 Temple Emanu-El 1946-1981
03 Temple Emanu-El sanctuary re-dedication 1990
04 Southern Methodist University 1960-1971
05 Memorial service at Perkins School of Theology 1984
06-07 Bridwell Library / Decherd Turner 1969-1990
08 HRC Notes tribute by Decherd Turner 1984
09 Digitization project and digital collection celebration 2011-2013
10 Photographs 1960-1980