Waskow, Arthur Ocean Papers

Span Dates: 1943-1977
Bulk Dates: 1961-1977
Volume: 21.8 c.f. (21 record center cartons, 2 archives boxes, and 1 oversize folder), 15 photographs, 2 pie


Papers of Arthur Waskow, a historian, writer, activist, and rabbi, primarily document his activities as a research fellow for the Peace Research Institute (PRI), 1961-1963, and the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), 1963-1977; as a leader in left-wing Jewish organizations; and as a writer on subjects relating to peace, the war in Vietnam, and Judaism. In addition, there are detailed notes from the records of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) about the race riots of 1919, the subject of Waskow's doctoral research.

Hist/Bio Note

Arthur Ocean Waskow was born Arthur I. Waskow in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1933. He took his bachelor's degree at Johns Hopkins University in 1954 and his doctorate in American history in 1963 at the University of Wisconsin, where he studied with Merle Curti. From 1959 to 1961 Waskow worked as a legislative assistant to Representative Robert Kastenmeier, a Democrat from Wisconsin. Waskow edited the controversial Liberal Papers for Kastenmeier and other like-minded members of the House of Representatives. In 1961 Waskow became a research fellow at the Peace Research Institute (PRI), a grant-funded institute devoted to the study of world peace. In 1963 PRI merged with the newly-organized Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), and Waskow joined Richard Barnet and Marcus Raskin, the senior fellows at IPS, as a peace research fellow, later becoming a senior fellow. Because of his leadership experience at PRI, Waskow was influential in shaping the programs and structure of IPS. Waskow remained with IPS until 1977 when he and other IPS staff left to establish the Public Resource Center (PRC). During the next five years Waskow led a PRC research project funded by the U.S. Department of Energy on renewable energy and conservation. During the 1960s and early 1970s Waskow was a national leader in the movement against the war in Vietnam. He participated in the first anti-war teach-in at the University of Michigan and was a member of the national steering committee of the New Mobilization Committee Against the War in Vietnam. As a result of their association at IPS, Waskow and Raskin, one of the defendants in the Boston 5 Conspiracy case, co-authored “A Call to Resist Illegitimate Authority,” which urged support for draft resisters. During this period Waskow was widely criticized for allegedly radical political views, although his activities within the Democratic Party and the National Conference for a New Politics demonstrated his commitment to working for change within the political system. Although raised in a non-observant Jewish family, beginning in 1969 Waskow began a search to find meaning in his religious heritage. He organized or participated in left-wing Jewish organizations such as Breira, Jews for Urban Justice, and the National Jewish Organizing Project, and through organizations such as Fabrangen, Tzedek Tzedek, and the kibbutz Micah, Waskow worked to create a better community life for Jews in the District of Columbia. Eventually Waskow became a leader in the Jewish Renewal Movement, and in 1995 he was ordained as a rabbi. The Iraq War and related issues, including the growing use of torture by the United States and unchecked presidential power; American addiction to over-use of oil and the danger it poses to the planet through global warming; the creation of deeper connections among Jews, Christians, and Muslims; an interfaith effort to identify and encourage the use and marketing of “Sacred Foods”; Peace in the Middle East; lesbian and gay rights, especially in marriage and other sacred contexts; and the rights of immigrants. Although not included in these papers, from 1982 to 1989, Waskow was a member of the faculty of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, where he taught courses on contemporary theology and practical rabbinics. He has also taught in the religion departments of Swarthmore College, Temple University, Drew University, and Vassar College. Waskow has supported full rights and full presence of gay and lesbian persons in the Jewish community and in American life, including supporting the right to same-sex Jewish and civil marriage.

Finding Aid

An online finding aid is available.


Wisconsin Historical Society Division of Library, Archives and Museum Collections 816 State Street Madison, WI 53706 608-264-6535


Jewish (Reconstructionist) | Jewish (ethnic, Reform, Reconstructionist, Orthodox) | Clergy Activist | Civil Rights Movement