Rear Admiral Bertram Korn:
The First Jewish Chaplain toA
Obtain the Flag Rank in the
U.S. Armed Forces
by Seymour “Sy” Brody
Rear Admiral Bertram Korn was the first Jewish chaplain to obtain the flag rank in any of the United States armed forces. He was the author of the 12 books on American Jewish History.
He was born on October 6, 1918, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His parents were Blanche (Bergman) and Manuel Korn. He went to the University of Pennsylvania and Cornell University before earning a Bachelor of Arts degree, with honors, from the University of Cincinnati in 1936.
Korn earned an M.H.L. degree from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, in Cincinnati, and was ordained a rabbi in 1943. He earned a D.H.L. degree from the College Institute in 1949.
He became the rabbi at the Government Street Temple in Mobile, Alabama. He remained here until he joined the Navy as a lieutenant, in 1944. He served in the Marine Corps in California and in China with the 1st and 6th Marine Divisions.
Korn returned to the United States in 1946. He went to HUC-JIR in Cincinnati to work on his doctorate and as an assistant professor of Jewish American History. After receiving his doctorate in 1949, he became the senior rabbi at the Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel, in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania.
He remained here until his death in 1979.
Throughout his life, Korn was involved in American Jewish history. His 12 books were about Jews in America. In 1951, his best-known book, “American Jewry and the Civil War” was released. This book was acclaimed as the definite work on the subject.
Korn’s also wrote: The Jews of Mobile, Alabama, 1763-1841, (1971); Benjamin Levy: New Orleans Printer and Publisher, (1961); Jews and Negro Slavery in the old South, 1789-1865 (1961); The American Reaction to the Mortara Case, 1858-1859 (1957); The Early Jews of New Orleans (1969).
Korn was president of the American Historical Society, a member of the board of the Federation of Jewish Agencies of Greater Philadelphia, a member of the board of governors of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Philadelphia, a member of the President’s Commission on the Observance of the 25th Anniversary of the United Nations, and a member of the executive board of the Central Conference of American Rabbis.
Rear Admiral Bertram received many awards and honors during his lifetime:
● Honorary Degree from Temple University
● Honorary Degree Delaware College
● Honorary Degree from HUC-JIR
● American Theater Ribbon
● World War II Victory Medal
● Naval Reserve Medal
● Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal
Rear Admiral Bertram Korn died on December 11, 1979. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.
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