Harry W. Ettelson, Rabbi of Temple Israel in Memphis from 1925 to 1954, was born in Lithuania and reared in Mobile, Alabama. Ettelson's diverse scholarly background included a B.A. from the University of Cincinnati, where he was Phi Beta Kappa; graduate work at the University of Chicago; and a Ph.D. from Yale University. He attained his Bachelor of Hebrew Letters and his degree of Rabbi, as valedictorian of his class, from Hebrew Union College. Ettelson's first assignment was to Fort Wayne, Indiana, followed by ministries at Hartford, Connecticut, and Philadelphia. In each city, Ettelson identified himself with cultural and civic affairs.
In his installation sermon at Temple Israel, Ettelson articulated his ideal of brotherhood with other Jews as well as with all other human beings. He declared his intention to establish “fraternal relations and fullest neighborly contacts with ministers of all denominations and creeds.”
This philosophy of brotherhood pervaded Ettelson's fifty-year ministry at Temple Israel. He organized and became the first president of the Cross-Cut Club, which was dedicated to ecumenism among ministers and their congregations. He was an originator of the Union Civic Thanksgiving Service. The City Beautiful Commission honored him for civic and cultural activities. Ettelson served as president of both the Association of Church and Professional Social Workers and the Synagogue Council of Memphis and was a member of the editorial committee of the Jewish Publication Society. Ettelson retired in 1954. He died in 1975 in Philadelphia.
Helen G. and James A. Wax, Our First Century, 1854-1954 (1954)