More Cousins Discovered: The Family of Sigmund Livingston, Founder of the ADL

One of the other cousins whose name always stays with me is my third cousin, twice removed, Sigmund Livingston, the founder of the Anti-Defamation League, as I wrote about here as well as about his earlier years and his family here, here, here, here, and here.

Sigmund was related to me through our mutual ancestors Abraham and Geitel (Katz) Blumenfeld, as shown on this chart. He was my father’s third cousin, once removed:

To briefly summarize what I’d learned about Sigmund: he was born in Giessen, Germany, in 1872, to Meyer Loewenstein (later changed to Livingston) and Dora (Dusschen) Blumenfeld. He was only nine years old when his family immigrated to the United States in 1882 and settled in Bloomington, Illinois, where his father’s relatives had already established themselves as successful entrepreneurs. Sigmund ended up going to law school and practicing law in Bloomington. He married Hilda Freiler in 1918, and they had one child, Richard, born in 1920. The family later moved to Chicago where Sigmund continued to practice law.

After experiencing anti-Semitic stereotypes and slurs during a vaudeville show in the early 1900s, Sigmund decided to do something to fight back against anti-Semitism. He founded an organization in Bloomington that eventually grew to become known as the Anti-Defamation League, an international organization that still exists today, fighting against all forms of discrimination, including but not only anti-Semitism. When I learned that I was related, albeit very distantly, to the founder of the ADL, I felt incredibly proud to have that connection. Today the ADL continues to be at the forefront of those fighting against hatred and prejudice.

Recently I was thrilled to hear from two of Sigmund’s grandchildren, Richard and Laurie, who found me through my blog. Richard has done a great deal of genealogical research also and provided me with more information about the Livingston/Loewenstein side of his family tree. Richard and Laurie have also given me some additional new cousins on the Blumenfeld side of our family tree to contact, which I plan to do in the near future. And Richard caught two errors in my tree that I’ve now corrected both on the tree and on my blog; I am so grateful that Richard found those mistakes and told me.

But I was most excited to see additional photographs of Sigmund and his family and to learn a little more about his life and the life of his family. I particularly enjoyed seeing this photograph of Dora Blumenfeld and Meyer Loewenstein/Livingston:

This is the house where Sigmund was born in Giessen, Germany, in December 1872:

Birthplace of Sigmund Livingston in Giessen, Germany Courtesy of the family

Here are several photographs of Sigmund from age 20 up to age 47:

Sigmund Livingston, 1893 Courtesy of the family

Sigmund Livingston, 1903 Courtesy of the family

Sigmund Livingston, 1914 Courtesy of the family

Sigmund Livingston, 1918 Courtesy of the family

Sigmund Livingston, 1920 Courtesy of the family

Here is Sigmund’s diploma from law school:

Sigmund Livingston diploma at McClean County Historical Museum Courtesy of the family

Finally, this photograph shows the family in about 1918-1919: Dora (Meyer had passed away in 1915) and her children and their spouses:

Back Row (left to right): Sigmund Livingston, Alfred Livingston, Eva Siegel Livingston (married to Alfred); Irvin Livingston; “Gramma” Dora (Dusschen) Blumenfeld Livingston; Dorothy Ensel Livingston (married to Herman); Herman Livingston, Rosalie Livingston Livingston; Harold Livingston (in back); Albert Livingston (cousin who married Rosalie); Maurice Livingston; Sol Salzenstein (married to Gussie). Front Row (left to right): Helen (Cubby) Baer(?) Livingston (married to Irwin); Hilda Freiler Livingston (married to Sigmund); Bertha August Livingston (married to Maurice); and Gussie (Gutschen) Livingston. Courtesy of the family

Richard shared what he knew about his grandfather Sigmund’s career after leaving Bloomington and moving to Chicago in 1928:1

When Sigmund left Bloomington in 1928, he gave his share in his local law practice to a young cousin, Herb Livingston; and joined a major Chicago law practice with his brother-in-law Charles Lederer. Charles was married to Hilda’s [Sigmund’s wife Hilda Freiler] older sister Florence. The firm was known as Lederer, Livingston, Kahn, and Adler or similar until approx. 1958; at which time its name became Arnstein and Lehr. Lederer & Livingston were Sears Roebuck & Co.’s legal counsel during its heyday.

Richard also filled me in on how his father Richard, who was known as Dick and who was born in Bloomington and then moved with his parents to Chicago when he was a boy, had ended up living in the suburbs of New York City as an adult:

My father Dick attended Duke University and was supposed to be class of ’42; but joined the US Army Air Corp for 5 years of WWII around his junior year. He was an airplane instruments technician or mechanic and trained pilots to read and understand the gauges and dials in a cockpit; but never was a pilot himself and fortunately never was stationed overseas or faced combat during the war. After the army, he returned to Duke University, graduating in Spring, 1947. Following graduation, he returned to Highland Park, IL, living with his mother Hilda (as best we know) and not sure if he was employed or not.

In February 1948, Hilda and Dick were vacationing at the Hollywood Beach Hotel in Hollywood Beach, Florida. Dick met a recent Wellesley graduate from New York City named Mimi Spector. They fell instantly in love and were soon thereafter married on May 30, 1948. Dick and Mimi moved into Mimi’s parent’s Manhattan apartment for a while before getting their own place. Dick initially worked in sales for his father-in-law’s business.

In the 1950s Dick and Mimi and their family moved to Westchester County in the suburbs of New York City, eventually settling in Scarsdale, less than five miles from where I lived and went to high school. Richard and Laurie and I were tickled to learn that we had all grown up not far from each other and went to neighboring high schools and even knew some of the same people. We likely crossed paths many times without knowing we were distant cousins.

It has taken over 50 years since high school before we finally connected. And I am so grateful that Richard and Laurie found my blog and reached out to me and have shared their stories and photographs.

  1. The quotes and other information from Richard Livingston were from emails dated from February 11 to February 21, 2023. 

My Cousin Sigmund Livingston, The Founder of the Anti-Defamation League

Although traditional genealogy research tools gave me many of the bare bones details of the life of Sigmund Livingston, it wasn’t until I googled his name after reading his obituary that I learned that he had founded the Anti-Defamation League and was quite an exceptional person. He thus merits his own separate post.

We’ve already seen that Sigmund was a lawyer. According to a biography published on the McLean County Museum of History website, he graduated from the law school at Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington in 1894 and was second in his class. After graduating, he and William R. Bach, who had ranked first in the class, became law partners in Bloomington. Their practice was primarily devoted to civil matters.

According to the museum’s biography:1

In numerous newspaper articles, Sigmund was described as extremely intelligent and well respected. One article claimed, “he gives promise of becoming one of the ablest as well as the most prominent attorney in the state.” However, Livingston gave a personal account in his book Must Men Hate? of how, outside of dear friends, he had a “general distrust to overcome” because locals had never known of a Jewish lawyer when he was beginning his career. Livingston recalled that after a few years, he had earned their trust.

Sigmund was involved in many civic activities in Bloomington. He was active in Republican politics and a loyal supporter of the American Red Cross and of efforts to support America and its soldiers in World War I. But he is best remembered for his efforts to support Jewish Americans and to fight anti-semitism. In 1894 he became president of the Bloomington chapter of B’nai Brith, and in 1899 he was elected vice-president of the 6th district of B’nai Brith.

The museum biography described in detail the experience that Sigmund had that motivated him to become more involved in the fight against anti-semitism:

Shortly after the turn of the century, he had an experience that impacted the trajectory of the rest of his life. When he was in Chicago on business, Livingston decided to drop into a vaudeville theater to while away a couple of hours before an appointment. The show began like many others with the usual trained dog acts, jugglers, and acrobats. However, when the show turned to a couple of comedians with a “routine of bum jokes, told in dialect and at the expense of Jews,” Livingston had enough and walked out of the theater. It was this life changing event that made him decide then and there that he would try to do something about the prejudicial caricaturing of Jews.

Livingston was most disgusted with the portrayal of Jewish people in vaudeville shows and films. ….Following the show, Livingston spoke with the managers to make them aware of their cruel and inaccurate depictions of Jews. Surprisingly, the managers were willing to make a change despite them not being aware of their offense.

Believing that publicity would help to alleviate prejudice, in 1908, Livingston established the Publicity Committee of the Publicity Bureau within the B’nai B’rith, which evolved into the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) five years later. The Publicity Committee, based in Bloomington, was created to consider the problem of the defamation of Jews and named Livingston its chairman.

The website for The Pantagraph, the local Bloomington newspaper, published an article on July 11, 2010, about Sigmund and included this description of his involvement in the fight against anti-semitism and the founding and growth of the Anti-Defamation League in 1913.2

[In 1912] Livingston embarked on a lengthy tour of Europe and the Middle East, with stops in Vienna, Jerusalem, Cairo and elsewhere. In London he delivered an address titled “The Condition of the Jew in America,” and in Berlin, at an international meeting of B’nai B’rith, he spoke on the moral necessity of intervening in the internal affairs of sovereign nations “when humanity and civilization dictate.”

The Anti-Defamation League was established in Bloomington in October 1913 as an arm of the B’nai B’rith, with Livingston as its first director.

The museum biography noted that:

The organization had a fairly humble start. The ADL was established in the First National Bank building in Chicago. Livingston started out with only a $200 budget and two desks in his law office, but the ADL quickly grew into a nationwide organization. Members, led by Livingston, planned to campaign along three lines of education, vigilance, and legislation. Livingston believed that hate and fear could be overcome through education and had faith in “the essential goodness of the American people.”

As we saw, Sigmund married his wife Hilda in 1918, and their son Richard was born in 1920. In 1929, after practicing law in Bloomington for 35 years, Sigmund and his family moved to the Chicago area, where he continued to practice law. He was still practicing law there in 1940.3 Here is a photograph of Sigmund and Hilda taken around this time.

Sigmund and Hilda (Freiler) Livingston c. 1940. Courtesy of Art Zemon, found at

He also authored ten books as well as continuing his work with the ADL and his other civic activities. His best known book, entitled Must Men Hate, was published in 1944.

Sadly, Sigmund died just two years later on June 13, 1946, at age 73.4 According to his obituary, he was a “leading Chicago corporate counsel” and had been in failing health for the past year. He was survived by his wife Hilda and their son Richard, who was at that time studying at Duke University after serving four years in the Army Air Force.5

Richard Livingston graduated from Duke in 1947, and the following year on May 30, 1948, he married Miriam “Mimi” Spector in New York City. Mimi, the daughter of Samuel and Tessie Spector, had graduated from Wellesley College.6 Richard and Mimi settled in New York and had three children.

Richard’s mother Hilda died February 20, 1962, in Highland Park, Illinois.7

Richard became a successful business owner and moved from New York City to Scarsdale in 1959, where he and his family lived until 1986. He later moved to Larchmont, New York, and also had a home in Boca Raton, Florida. He was not only successful in business; he was active in civic affairs in many different organizations as well as numerous philanthropic endeavors. He died while vacationing in Turkey on October 5, 1994, when he was 74. He was survived by his wife Mimi, their children, and grandchildren.8

Sigmund Livingston was the third of the eight children of Dora and Meyer to be born, and he was the third to die, following his brother Maurice and sister Rosalie. He was born in Germany and came to the US as a young boy with his mother. He was a successful lawyer in Bloomington and Chicago. He definitely made a lasting mark on Bloomington, but also should be remembered by all Jews everywhere for his work with the Anti-Defamation League, which continues today its hard work of fighting not only anti-semitism but all forms of prejudice and discrimination.


  1. A version of the biography that provides citations to its sources can be found at 
  2. “Bloomington Lawyer Led Anti-Semitism Fight,” The Pantagraph, July 11, 2010, found at 
  3. Sigmund Livingston and family, 1930 US census, Year: 1930; Census Place: New Trier, Cook, Illinois; Page: 24A; Enumeration District: 2220; FHL microfilm: 2340238, 1930 United States Federal Census; 1940 US census, Year: 1940; Census Place: Chicago, Cook, Illinois; Roll: m-t0627-00929; Page: 1B; Enumeration District: 103-257, 1940 United States Federal Census 
  4. Sigmund Livingston, Birth Date: abt 1873, Death Date: 13 Jun 1946, Death Place: Highland Park, Lake, Illinois, Death Age: 73, Gender: Male, Father Name: Mayer Livingston, Mother Name: Dora Blamenfeld, Spouse Name: Hilda F., FHL Film Number: 1991309, Illinois, U.S., Deaths and Stillbirths Index, 1916-1947 
  5. “Sigmund Livingston Dies in Highland Park,” The Pantagraph,
    Bloomington, Illinois, 15 Jun 1946, Sat • Page 3 
  6. “Bride of Former Bloomingtonian,” The Pantagraph, Bloomington, Illinois
    01 Jun 1948, Tue • Page 6 
  7. Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed 03 November 2021), memorial page for Hilda V Freiler Livingston (25 Apr 1891–20 Feb 1962), Find a Grave Memorial ID 9198509, citing Jewish Cemetery, Bloomington, McLean County, Illinois, USA ; Maintained by Robin Farley Dixson Coon (contributor 46558224) . 
  8. “Richard M. Livingston, businessman, philanthropist,” The Daily Times
    Mamaroneck, New York, 11 Oct 1994, Tue • Page 6