Levi A. Olan (1903–1984) was a prominent rabbi, scholar, and community leader who held rabbinates at Temple Emanu-El, Worcester, Massachusetts (1929–1949) and Temple Emanu-El, Dallas (1949 to 1970). In Dallas, Rabbi Olan also served as lecturer in Judaism at Perkins School of Theology from 1952 to 1978, working out of an office at Bridwell Library.
Rabbi Olan is remembered as one of Dallas’s great preachers. During his entire tenure at Temple Emanu-El, Dallas, his work included preaching over the radio on the Temple Emanu-El Program. Bridwell Library holds 126 reel-to-reel tapes containing recordings of 211 Temple Emanu-El Program broadcasts recorded between 1961 and 1970. Because the magnetic tapes are becoming unplayable due to age, and in order to allow Rabbi Olan’s teachings to be heard by the public once again, Bridwell Library partnered with the Olan family to digitize the sermon recordings through SMU’s Norwick Center for Digital Services. With permission, Bridwell Library also digitized corresponding typescript copies of the sermon texts that were distributed by the Temple Brotherhood at the time of the original broadcasts. Data needed to complete the project but not held by Bridwell Library was provided by the Dorothy M. and Henry S. Jacobus Temple Emanu-El Archives, Dallas, and the Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati.
Bridwell Library opened the Levi A. Olan Sermons and Images collection on May 5, 2013 with a public celebration held at Perkins School of Theology. Included is online access to 211 radio sermons as text files, audio files, and video files combining the audio recordings with the texts. Additionally, the collection contains a formal portrait and SMU-related pictures of Rabbi Olan. The digital collection and related archival Collection on Levi A. Olan allow researchers to encounter Rabbi Olan’s deep theological insights, keen observations about humanity, clear advocacy for social justice, and powerful delivery. For more information about the Levi A. Olan Sermons and Images at Bridwell Library, please contact Bridwell Library Special Collections.
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