Raphael Patai (1910-1996) was a cultural anthropologist specializing in Jewish and Arab cultures. His papers, 1903-2011, document his career through extensive correspondence with colleagues, drafts and manuscripts of his many publications, lectures, research notes, photographs, scrapbooks, and sound and video recordings. The collection includes files created by his daughter, Daphne Patai, after his death, and correspondence and writings of his father, Jozsef Patai.
Biographical/historical: Raphael Patai was born in Budapest, Hungary on November 22, 1910, the son of Hungarian Jews, Edith (Ehrenfeld) Patai and Jozsef (or Joseph) Patai (1882-1953). Until 1935, Patai used his birth name Ervin George Patai. His father was a prominent scholar, editor and Zionist who published a biography of Theodor Herzl and who was the editor from 1910 to 1940 of a monthly journal of Jewish affairs entitled Mult es Jovo (Past and Future). Patai's father was also a founder of the Zionist Organization in Hungary and was instrumental in procuring the support for the settlement of Jews in Palestine where he also settled in 1939.
Raphael was educated in rabbinical seminaries and at the universities of Budapest and Breslau. In 1933, after receiving a doctorate in Semitic languages and Oriental history from the University of Budapest, he settled in Palestine where he continued his studies at the Hebrew University from which he received (in 1936) a doctorate in Palestinology. Afterwards, he returned briefly to Budapest where he was ordained at the Rabbinal Seminary.
In Palestine, Dr. Patai held several teaching posts at Hebrew University and at Haifa Technion. In 1944, he founded the Palestine Institute of Folklore and Ethnology, serving until 1948 as its director of research and editor of its quarterly journal Edoth, which he also founded.
In 1947, with the aid of a fellowship from the Viking Fund for Anthropological Research, Patai studied the Jews of Mexico. Upon the completion of his research, Patai settled in the United States where he became a naturalized American citizen in 1952.
During his academic career, Dr. Patai held numerous visiting professorships at American universities including Columbia University, the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University, New York University and Ohio State University. He held professorships of Anthropology at Dropsie College (1948-1957) and at Fairleigh Dickinson from 1966 until his retirement. He also directed (1955-1956) a research project on Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan for the Human Relations Area Files, Inc. (New Haven, Connecticut) and prepared a special report on social conditions in the Middle East for the United Nations in 1952 .
Patai also served as Director of Research for the Herzl Institute and editor of the Herzl Press, and as an advisory editor of Encyclopedia American. He was President of the American Folklore Society and a fellow of the American Anthropological Association.
Dr. Patai's principal contributions to scholarship were in the fields of cultural anthropology of the ancient Hebrews and Jews and of the modern Middle East. He published hundreds of scholarly articles and authored or edited some thirty-five books including The Arab Mind (1973), Gates to the Old City (1980), The Hebrew Goddess (1967), The Jewish Mind (1976), The Messiah Texts (1979), and The Vanished Worlds of Jewry (1980). With Robert Graves he co-authored Hebrew Myths (1964).
By his first marriage to Naomi Tolkowsky, Dr. Patai had two daughters, Jennifer (Dr. Jennifer Patai-Schneider, born 1940), and Daphne (Dr. Daphne Patai, born 1942). Patai was married three more times, to Irene Patai, Ann Uhl Drevet, and Frances Sheldon.
Raphael Patai died in 1996 in Tucson, Arizona.
Content: The Raphael Patai papers date from 1903 to 2011. The collection documents Patai's career as a scholar, editor, professor and author on the subjects of Jewish culture and history and the modern Middle East. Patai's publications and speaking engagements are extensively documented through manuscript drafts, research notes, and transcripts and recordings of lectures and interviews. Patai's personal and professional activities are further documented through photographs, correspondence, scrapbooks, and diaries. The collection contains some papers of Patai's family members, including his parents Edith and Jozsef Patai and sister Eva Patai. Files of Raphael Patai's daughter, Daphne Patai, document her stewardship of her father's estate and posthumous publications of his work. The collection also contains artwork created and collected by Patai, comprising sketches, paintings, and prints. Materials are in English, German, Hebrew and Hungarian.