Kolatch, Alfred Jacob

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KOLATCH, ALFRED JACOB (1916– ), U.S. rabbi, author, and publisher. Kolatch was born in Seattle, Washington, and received his B.A. from Yeshiva College in 1937 and his ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary in 1941. After two years as rabbi of the House of Peace (later Beth Sholom) Congregation in Columbia, South Carolina (1941–43), he enlisted as a chaplain in the U.S. Army and was discharged in 1946 with the rank of captain. From 1946 to 1948, he served as rabbi of the Kew Gardens Jewish Center in Queens, New York.

In 1948, Kolatch and his wife, Thelma, founded Jonathan David Co., named for their two sons, and Jonathan David Publishers, specializing in Judaica book publishing and distribution. After decades of growth at several Manhattan locations, the company relocated to expanded quarters in Middle Village, New York, where Kolatch continued to serve as its president and editor-in-chief. Over the years, some 700 Judaica titles have appeared under the Jonathan David imprint, including such classics as The Jewish Way in Death and Mourning by Maurice Lamm; God, Man and History by Eliezer Berkovits; The Encyclopedia of Jewish Humor, by Henry D. Spalding; and the Great Jews volumes by Robert and Elinor Slater and Darryl Lyman.

Kolatch himself is the author of more than 50 books, most notably the Jewish Book of Why series, comprising The Jewish Book of Why (1981); The Second Jewish Book of Why (2004); The Jewish Child's First Book of Why (1995); The Jewish Book of Why: The Torah (2004) and The Jewish Mourner's Book of Why (1993). These titles alone have cumulatively sold more than 1.5 million copies in English, French, Spanish, German, and Portuguese. Recognized as one of the world's leading authorities on Hebrew and English nomenclature, Kolatch also wrote These Are the Names (1948), The Name Dictionary (1967); The Jonathan David Dictionary of First Names (1980); The New Name Dictionary (1989); Best Baby Names for Jewish Children (1986); The Complete Dictionary of English and Hebrew First Names (1984), and The Comprehensive Dictionary of English and Hebrew First Names (2005). Other works by Kolatch include Who's Who in the Talmud (1964); Masters of the Talmud: Their Lives and Views (2003); Our Religion: The Torah (1951); The Family Seder and The Concise Family Seder (1987); A Child's First Book of Jewish Holidays (1997); Great Jewish Quotations: By Jews and About Jews (1996, 1998); A Handbook for the Jewish Home (2005); The Presidents of the United States and the Jews (with David Dalin, 2000); and What Jews Say About God (1999).

In the 1960s, Kolatch served as president of the Association of Jewish Chaplains of the Armed Forces and as vice president of the interdenominational Military Chaplains Association of the United States. In 1966, he was awarded a Doctor of Divinity degree, honoris causa, by the Jewish Theological Seminary.

[Bezalel Gordon (2nd ed.)]