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Death of writer Amy K. Blank

September 17, 1990

Amy Blank wrote.  Six books of her collected poems were published between 1919 and 1981.  She discovered, edited, and contributed poems and prayers for Rabbi Israel Mattuck, the leading figure in British Liberal Jewry, at the Liberal Jewish Synagogue in her native London.   She wrote stories for children about biblical prophets and wrote a children’s Passover Haggadah still used by her grandchildren.  She created theatrical productions performed by Hebrew Union College students in her adopted home in Cincinnati.  And every day she wrote her “Family Chronicles,” now a precious part of her family’s collective history.

Born in London on December 16, 1898, Amy was the third child of Emma and Karl Kirchberger, a successful import-export businessman whose company was based in London, Frankfurt, and the Far East.  Tutored in European languages by governesses and adept at singing and playing piano, she often traveled with her family to Europe and entertained foreign dignitaries like the Sultan of Johore, who was visiting from Singapore to do business with her father. 

At 17, she became involved with a group involved in founding the Liberal Jewish Movement, the British branch of Reform Judaism.  Though she took courses at the University of London, she also became involved in social work in London’s East End.  Her first book of poetry, Day-Springs, was published when she was twenty years old.

She continued to work at the Liberal Jewish Synagogue, founded in 1911 and the oldest and largest of the more than 30 congregations now belonging to Liberal Judaism.  She studied with Claude Montefiore and Rabbi Israel Mattuck.  Through her work, she also met Rabbi Sheldon Blank, ordained at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati and a visiting rabbi at LJS in 1925.  They were engaged shortly thereafter, and (after a trip by the rabbi to Palestine on an archeological dig) they were married in 1926.

Though she never lost her English accent, Amy Blank quickly adapted to her life as the wife of a faculty member of Hebrew Union College.   There were meetings with students, teachers, relatives, and visitors to the college, often accompanied by Amy’s sumptuous meals.  As her daughter Miriam Sachs recalled, “It wasn’t uncommon to have twenty people sleeping in the house at once, on couches, mattresses on the floor, etc., including one old double bed in the attic, known as the ‘bed of affliction.’”

Blank’s husband was the Nelson Glueck Professor of Bible at HUC and the editor of the Hebrew Union College Annual for six decades, as well as the author of books like Jeremiah: Man and Prophet and Prophetic Thought.  Amy herself worked on research with her mentors in England and from the HUC.  The couple took in refugees from the Holocaust in the 1930s and 40s and were active in the anti-segregation and anti-war movements in later years.

But Blank’s poetry remained important to her.  Her books “I Know Four” and Other Things, And Jacob Blessed Pharaoh, and The Struggle and Other Poems were published between 1954-78, and The Spoken Choice was reissued in 2012.  They expressed the gentleness, insight, and devotion for which Blank was known.  She died on September 17, 1990 in Cincinnati.

Sources: “Amy K. Blank,” memoir by Miriam B. Sachs; Sheldon and Amy K. Blank Papers, American Jewish Archives; “What is Required of You?” Fr. James’ Lectionary.   

 

Amy K Blank October 1925
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Amy K. Blank in October 1925. Courtesy of Judith Levine and Miriam Sachs.
Amy K Blank at her desk 1933
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Amy K. Blank at her writing desk in 1933. Photo courtesy of Judith Levine and Miriam Sachs.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Death of writer Amy K. Blank." (Viewed on October 22, 2014) <http://jwa.org/thisweek/sep/17/1990/death-of-writer-amy-k-blank>.

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