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Emma Schaver Papers

Identifier: UP002185

Scope and Content

The Emma Schaver Papers contain correspondence with her immediate family, husband Morris, friends and fellow Zionists, dating from 1923 until 2000. Included are letters between herself and Morris, and friends during her tour of D. P. camps in 1945-46. Her letters show the close relationship Emma had with her family and friends, even while she was separated from them while she studied music away from home and toured. In particular, she and Morris kept up a very close correspondence, writing nearly every day whenever she was away from Detroit. Also included are diary and notebook excerpts reflecting her early life in Detroit as well as her experiences in the D. P. camps. Drafts of her book, We Are Here, in Yiddish, Hebrew and English are also included.

Emma’s musical career is documented through concert programs, posters and newspaper clippings, as well as telegrams and messages of encouragement and praise from family and friends. The collection also reflects her philanthropic and Zionist activities in the United States and Israel, as well as her encouragement of Jewish culture and arts in the Detroit area. Awards, plaques and medals also show Emma’s commitment to the Zionist cause.

The collection includes a large amount of family photographs reflecting Emma’s very close relationship with her whole family, in Detroit, and also after her parents and brothers and sisters moved west to St. Louis and California. Also included are photographs from trips to Israel, and Europe as well as her D.P. and other concert tours. In addition a number of scrapbooks, both created by Emma, and by others for her document her concerts, she and Morris’ philanthropic work and her involvement in Jewish cultural organizations, Israeli politics and Chabad Lubavitch.

Important Subjects: Arlazaroff Branch Farband (NOT LOC) Chabad Lubavitch (Organization) Displaced persons camps Folk Music Gewerkshaften (NOT LOC) Hebrew songs Histadrut (NOT LOC) Israel Jewish culture: arts, media and heritage Jewish music Jewish singers—United States Kibbutzim Labor Zionism Opera—United States—20th century Pioneer Women (Organizations: U.S.) State of Israel Bonds Organization Yiddish songs Zionism

Important Names: Adaskin, Sylvia Adler, Rabbi Ben-Gurion, David Bennett, Marcia Central Overall Supply Co. Efros, Israel Eilati, Shalom Kaplan, Rabbi Kolleck, Teddy Lavry, Marc Lazaroff Leivick, H. Meir, Golda Robinson, Meg Satt, Berl Schaver Schneerson, Rabbi Menachem Shever Tannenbaum, Judith Weinrot, Irving Zimberg, Shirley Zimriya Zvi, Ben

Series Description: Series I: Correspondence, 1922-2000 Correspondence, early letters are mainly with family while in Chicago and New York studying singing, later correspondence with friends, family, and Zionist organizations and leaders.

Series II: Music Career, 1922-75 Posters, programs, reviews, publicity and clippings pertaining to performances in United States, Canada, South and Central America, Europe and Israel. Also includes information pertaining to D.P. Camps: authorization forms and letters, concert listings, correspondence and diary fragments.

Series III: Zionist Activities and Philanthropy, 1930-2000 Morris and Emma’s work to promote Jewish culture and arts in Detroit and Israel. Bond drives, Zionist meetings and celebrations. Donations and contributions to Jewish organizations, schools and centers in United States and Israel.

Series IV: Israel, 1932-1990 Trips, concerts, religious and other activities in Israel with family, friends and Zionist leaders. Also includes fundraising, building dedications and groundbreakings.

Series V: Family and Personal, 1919-2000 Documents, clippings and memorabilia relating to Emma, Morris and Isaac. Notes and notebooks of Emma’s, notes from Emma’s secretary, and sympathy cards and letters relating to Morris’ death.

Series VI: Publications, 1920-1995 Collections of newspaper clippings reflecting Emma and Morris’ careers and Zionist activities. Drafts of Emma’s book We Are Here in Yiddish, Hebrew and English. Also included are programs and newsletters Emma collected.

Series VII: Audio-Visual, 1919-1995 Photographs and albums of family and friends, trips to Europe, Israel, concerts and Zionist activities. Scrapbooks Emma put together covering her career, Morris’ activities and Isaac’s childhood, also scrapbooks and photo albums others created for Emma to celebrate her work. In addition, there are reels of home video, videotapes of interviews with Emma about her D.P. tour experience, as well as an audiocassette of some of her music. Awards, framed photographs, and other ephemera are also included.


  • 1910 - 2000
  • Majority of material found within 1923 - 1975


Language of Materials

Material is in English, Yiddish, Hebrew, German and Russian.


Collection is open for research. Items in teh vault are available at the discretion of the archives.


Refer to the Walter P. Reuther Library Rules for Use of Archival Materials.


Emma Lazaroff Schaver (March 15, 1905 - February 4, 2003) was best known as a Jewish opera and folk singer and Labor Zionist. She was a member of the first Jewish delegation to the Displaced Persons camps after World War II where she sang to survivors of the Holocaust. She toured the United States, Canada, Europe and South and Central America as a soprano with various opera companies and as a soloist. Along with her husband, Morris Schaver, Emma was respected for promoting Jewish culture in the United States, and for philanthropic work in the local Detroit Jewish community and Israel.

Emma was born in Russia to parents Tzipa and Jacob and immigrated to the United States in 1906. Originally located in New York, the family moved to Detroit where Jacob taught Hebrew and Emma and her five brothers and sister were raised. Her parents were both Labor Zionists and followers of Chabad Lubavitch, and instilled both these traditions in Emma. In Detroit she met Morris Schaver, a prominent Labor Zionist leader in the area; they married in 1924 and settled in the area.

At sixteen Emma made her debut at the Detroit Opera House singing Santuzza in Cavalleria Rusticana, and spent many years in Chicago at the Chicago Conservatory, and in New York at the Julliard School of Music honing her skills as an opera singer. In her early career she starred as Marguerite in Faust, with the San Carlos Opera Company and spent a season with the Cincinnati Opera Company touring the U.S., Canada, and South America in the 1930s. It was, however, through her husband Morris’ encouragement to embrace her Jewish musical roots that she made a name for herself and a lasting musical and cultural impression. Through Morris, Emma became more active in American Jewish culture and in the late 1930s and early 1940s she began to collect and sing Yiddish and Hebrew songs. In 1945, she was invited by the World Jewish Congress and UNRRA to be one of three members, including H. Leivick and Israel Efros, of the first Cultural Mission with the purpose of bringing Jewish pride and culture back to survivors of the Holocaust in Displaced Persons (D.P.) camps of Europe. Emma had been pushing to sing for survivors for over a year stating, “My feeling was, the first thing to do was to save them, to meet their bodily needs. The next thing was to give them something for the soul. That was something I could do.” She traveled all over Germany and Poland singing to survivors, and as she did, collected the songs of the concentration camps she heard from them. Originally scheduled to serve for three months, she insisted on staying six, afterwards traveling to Israel with Morris. Upon returning to the U. S., Emma produced an album of concentration camp songs entitled, I Believe, and also published a book of her experiences, We Are Here.

Emma continued performing Jewish songs in 1947 with a tour of South and Central America. She and Morris then returned to Israel in 1948 in order for Emma to sing for Israeli troops during the War of Liberation. During a tour of Europe they adopted their son, Isaac, a 6-year old Polish Jewish orphan of the Holocaust. The next few years found Emma touring Europe, the United States and Canada and recording a second album of Hebrew and Yiddish songs, From the Heart of the People. During this time she and Morris were highly involved in philanthropic enterprises, both in contributing to the burgeoning state of Israel and in helping to build up American Jewish institutions and culture in America. They continued to be leading members in the Detroit Zionist scene, hosting dinners to donate funds to the State of Israel Bonds and Histadrut, as well as encouraging Detroit Yiddish culture. The Schavers donated extensively to Wayne State University, establishing the Morris and Emma Shaver Educational Fund and the Morris and Emma Schaver Publication Fund for Jewish Studies. They were also major donors to the Music program for which the Music Building was named in honor of Emma. Later, they founded the Morris and Emma Schaver Library and Archive, a collection of concentration camp artifacts gathered during her tour of D. P. Camps, at the Michigan Holocaust Memorial Center. In Israel they founded schools, playgrounds and auditoriums and continually encouraged Jewish organizations and individuals in the U.S. to donate to Israel. When in 1961 Morris passed away, Emma ceased touring for the most part but took over the presidency of their business, Central Overall Company, and continued their Zionist and philanthropic activities. In her later years Emma split her time between Detroit and Israel, serving as the International chairwoman for Israel Zimriya, donating to children’s schools and scholarships in Israel and becoming particularly active in the Chabad Lubavitch movement in Michigan.


106.5 Linear Feet ((54 MB, 2 SB, 96 OS), 15 OS items)


Emma Lazaroff Schaver (March 15, 1905 - February 4, 2003) was best known as a Jewish opera and folk singer and Labor Zionist. She was a member of the first Jewish delegation to the Displaced Persons camps after World War II where she sang to survivors of the Holocaust. She toured the United States, Canada, Europe and South and Central America as a soprano with various opera companies and as a soloist. Along with her husband, Morris Schaver, Emma was respected for promoting Jewish culture in the United States, and for philanthropic work in the local Detroit Jewish community and Israel.

The Emma Schaver Papers contain correspondence with family, friends, and Zionist and Israeli leaders covering her career, philanthropic and Zionist activities. The collection also includes correspondence, diary fragments, notebooks, authorization papers, and photographs from her experiences in the D. P. camps as well as manuscript copies of her book in Hebrew, Yiddish and English. Her music career is highlighted through newspaper clippings and publicity, photographs, and sound recordings as well as concert posters and programs. Her charitable work and Zionist activities are documented through newspaper clippings and publicity, as well as medals, awards and plaques she received in honor of her work for Israel and Jewish culture. A large number of scrapbooks can be found, both assembled by Emma and given to her, which highlight her career and activities, as well as those of her husband, Morris, and son, Isaac. Emma's personal life is represented largely through a significant number of family photographs, and photo albums.


Arranged in 7 series – Series I (Boxes 1-16), Series II (Boxes 16-20), Series III (Boxes 20-28), Series IV (Boxes 28-32), Series V (Boxes 32-38), Series VI (Boxes 39-43), and Series VII (Boxes 44-153, and 14 oversized and framed items). Folders are arranged mainly by subject, but in some cases alphabetically or chronologically.


The Emma Schaver Papers were deposited at the Reuther Library by Rabbi Shemtov on April 12, 2011. Material was transferred from the Lubavitch Cheder in Oak Park, MI.

Related Materials

Wayne State University Emma Lazaroff Schaver Papers


Oversized concert programs, awards and certificates as well as framed photographs (see Oversized and Framed, 14 items, in the inventory) have been moved to the Reuther’s Audio Visual Department along with a record album set, home video reels, audio cassettes of Emma’s music, video cassettes of her experiences in the D. P. Camps and some photographic negatives, (Boxes 152-153). Signed original photographs and letters from President Harry Truman in Box 90 have been moved to the vault.

Processing History

Processed and finding aid written by Kathy Makas on June 13, 2011.
Guide to the Emma Schaver Papers
Processed by Kathy Makas.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Walter P. Reuther Library Repository

5401 Cass Avenue
Detroit MI 48202 USA