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Silvia Tennenbaum papers

Identifier: SSC-MS-00499

Scope and Contents

The Papers consist of almost 70 years of Tennenbaum's personal journals beginning in 1944. They include descriptions of her travels in Europe, Israel, Germany, Russia, and the U.S.. There are also notes for her novels. It also includes writings, photo albums, correspondence, and research.

Dates of Materials

  • 1936 - 2013


Conditions Governing Access

At the direction of the donor, this collection is available for research use with the condition that researchers must sign an access agreement agreeing to protect the confidentiality of living persons prior to use. Please consult with special collections staff at to begin this process.

Conditions Governing Use

The Sophia Smith Collection owns copyright to the unpublished works of Silvia Tennenbaum within this collection. Copyright to materials authored by others may be owned by those individuals or their heirs or assigns. Permission must be obtained to publish reproductions or quotations beyond "fair use." It is the responsibility of the researcher to identify and satisfy the holders of all copyrights.

Biographical / Historical

Silvia Pfeiffer Tennenbaum was born in Frankfurt, Germany, the daughter of Lotti Clara Stern and Erich Pfeiffer-Belli. Her parents divorced in 1930 and in 1934, her mother married William Steinberg, a conductor who would lead several symphonies, including the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (1952-1976). The Steinberg family fled Nazi Germany in 1936 and young Silvia spent the next two years living in Basel, Switzerland with her Aunt, Getrude Ritz-Stern. In 1938, reunited with her mother, stepfather and stepbrother, she emigrated to America where the family settled in New Rochelle, New York. Silvia Pfeiffer graduated from New Rochelle High School in 1946; she then attended Barnard College, earning a BA with honors in Art History in 1950. She started graduate school at Columbia University but left in 1951 upon her marriage to Lloyd Tennenbaum, a rabbi. The Tennenbaums lived the next seven years in Lynchburg, Virginia--it was during these years that Silvia Tennenbaum gave birth to three sons and started her writing career. Twenty years later, she would parlay that experience into her first book, Rachel the Rabbi's Wife (1978). After a brief stint in Plainfield, New Jersey, Lloyd Tennenbaum was appointed rabbi to two congregations on Long Island's North Shore and the family settled in Huntington, New York where Silvia Tennenbaum began writing in earnest. In 1981, after thirty years of marriage, the Tennenbaums separated and were divorced in 1986. By then, Silvia Tennenbaum had returned to graduate school at Columbia University and completed her MA in art history in 1983. An avid traveller and prolific diarist, she is also the author of Yesterday's Streets (1981), a fictionalized account of life amongst upper-middle class Jews in Frankfurt, Germany from the start of the twentieth century to the Nazi take-over. In 2012, the city that Silvia Tennenbaum had fled from as a young child to escape the Holocaust decades earlier named Yesterday's Streets as their "Book of the Year."


11.917 linear feet (11 containers)

0.043 Gigabytes

Language of Materials



Author. Born in Frankfurt, Germany, her family fled Nazi Germany in 1936 and eventually emigrated to America. She married Rabbi Lloyd Tennenbaum in 1951 (divorced 1986). Her first novel Rachel the Rabbi's Wife (1978) portrays her own life experiences. She also the author of the novel Yesterday's Streets (1981), about life amongst upper-middle class Jews in Frankfurt, Germany in the early twentieth century. Her papers include almost seventy years of personal journals beginning in 1944 with descriptions of her travels in Europe, Israel, Germany, Russia, and the U.S. There are also notes for her novels.


This collection has been added to over time in multiple "accessions." An accession is a group of materials received from the same source at approximately the same time.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

This collection contains materials received from the donor in digital form that are not currently available online. Please consult with Special Collections staff to request access to this digital content.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Silvia Tennenbaum, 2012-2013.

Processing Information

Accessioned by Kathleen Banks Nutter, 2013

The contents of computer media in this collection has been copied to networked storage for preservation and access; the original directory and file structure was retained and file lists were created.

Processing Information

Between September 2022 and February 2023, Smith College Special Collections renumbered many boxes to eliminate duplicate numbers within collections in order to improve researcher experience. The following changes were made in this collection: Accession 2013-S-0057, Boxes 1-4 renumbered as Boxes 8-11


Silvia Tennenbaum papers
Finding Aid
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Revision Statements

  • 07/26/2017: This resource was modified by the ArchivesSpace Preprocessor developed by the Harvard Library (
  • 2017-07-26T17:48:22-04:00: This record was migrated from InMagic DB Textworks to ArchivesSpace.
  • 2020-06-24: Description added for born-digital content.
  • 2021-07-15: Content description added from accession inventory

Repository Details

Part of the Sophia Smith Collection of Women's History Repository

Neilson Library
7 Neilson Drive
Northampton MA 01063