As seamlessly integrated into our lives and as ubiquitous as the World Wide Web feels to us is today, it can be hard to remember the early days of the Internet. A recent discovery in the archives has us reminiscing about the days of dial up and a time when precious few organizations could boast a “homepage.”
In the course of processing some Marketing and Communications (the department previously known as Public Relations) files from the 1990s, we discovered what we believe to be the earliest mention of UJA-Federation’s website. The two emails below document some early discussion in the department about initial creation and brand planning of UJA-Federation’s website. They are both dated 1998, a year in which only 1% of Internet users in the United States had broadband.
A check of the Internet Archive Wayback Machine notes October 17, 2000 as the first date that UJA-Federation’s website was crawled by the Wayback Machine, so we can conclude that it took up to two years for UJA-Federation to plan and implement their website.
For more information on the history, development, ascendance, and refinement of the World Wide Web, check out this comprehensive timeline.
In the 1970s and 1980s there was a department at Federation that held various names through the years – Special Grants Department, Program Development, Community Services & Planning, Policy Research & Planning, and Resources & Development. Files from the different incarnations of this department fill about 70 boxes. From the early 1970s until the merger in 1986, the department was run first by Rachel Radlo Lieberman and then by Stephanie K. Newman. Stephanie Newman left Federation around the time of the merger to return to graduate school, and Rachel Lieberman resumed her work in the department. In addition to Lieberman and Newman’s files, the 70 boxes also include the files of a number of staff members, including Michele Mindlin, whose files reflect primarily her work with Federation’s Russian Resettlement program, and Brenda Gevertz.
Soon after retiring as EVP in 1981, Sanford Solender had written a memorandum to his successor William Kahn, letting him know that one area Federation should build up was in Special Grants. With enough staff, such a department could take the time to locate funding outside Federation’s usual funding streams and allocations for specific programs at Federation agencies as well as unaffiliated organizations with programs of interest to Federation.
Within the Special Grants materials, there are many boxes of agency proposals – agencies seeking “special grants” for agency programs from foundations, government agencies and other funding sources separate from Federation’s annual distribution of funds to agencies.
Also seeking funding from the Special Grants department were organizations with no formal affiliation with Federation, including the American Jewish Historical Society. We have seen AJHS files in previous series in the Federation subgroup, but this file also includes pamphlets and other printed material issued by AJHS in 1980-1981.
It may also be the first time Federation planned to fund an AJHS program. In 1980, AJHS was seeking $5000 in funding for their annual meeting in 1981, which coincided with the centennial of “Czarist Russia’s May Laws of 1881, which propelled the great stream of Jewish immigration from Eastern Europe”. After some correspondence between Federation and AJHS it was decided to fund the meeting with a $3000 grant. Federation’s bottom line was saved from this expenditure when it was announced at a Federation Executive Committee meeting sometime between the fall of 1980 and the spring of 1981 that John Loeb, Jr. would “underwrite the cost of the Society’s 1981 Annual Meeting”:
By March 1981, AJHS was able to announce the details of the Annual Meeting to its many members, donors and friends:
Federation took the occasion of Thanksgiving to ask its constituency to consider donating, as evidenced by the following graphic materials found in the Public Relations series. Dating back to the 1950s and 1960s, these slips of paper would have been inserted into mailed items.
In the 1970s and 1980s, the national office of UJA participated with the government of Israel in many fundraising campaigns; fundraising for Israel was, after all, a large part of UJA’s mission. UJA offices in local communities, like UJA of Greater New York in our collection, participated in these campaigns, raising money from their local donors. As part of the Israel Education Fund, UJA of Greater New York solicited donors who could fund schools or classrooms in specific communities in Israel. The fundraising files of Henry C. Bernstein from about 1971 to 1981 indicate that many of these buildings and classrooms were for pre-kindergartens. In a striking connection with Israel’s commitment to early childhood education, Bill De Blasio campaigned for mayor of New York City in 2013 on a platform that included universal pre-K; this fall many new pre-K classrooms opened with city funding.
The images below are from one of Henry C. Bernstein’s donor files and are from about 1980 – Israeli children playing at their new school, funded by generous donors to UJA of Greater New York.
In a subject file on Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services (JBFCS) that is part of the Joseph Langer material, UJA-Federation’s Director of Community Development and Neighborhood Preservation, I found a packet of material that was provided to volunteers in the Friendly Visitors to Soviet Jewish Refugees Volunteer Program. The program helped train volunteers to visit and accompany refugee families to stores, businesses, tourist attractions, and synagogues. Through these and other activities, the volunteers aided families with their resettlement and adjustment to the New York area.
From the late 1980s well into the 1990s, many UJA-Federation-affiliated agencies, including JBFCS, were developing and offering services to cope with an influx of Soviet emigres finding a new home in the metropolitan New York area. Federation services and programs included assistance with housing, job placement, education, and child care. As Director of Community Development and Neighborhood Preservation, Langer would have received the packet—proof of his assistance with the coordination and funding of services and programs through neighborhood-based Jewish community councils in Crown Heights, Canarsie, Brighton Beach, the Rockaways, and other neighborhoods.
In the packet, there is also a very basic booklet to guide a volunteer in the JBFCS program with English to Russian transliterated phrases. For instance, if a volunteer was late meeting up with a refugee family, the volunteer could offer an apology, “prostite chto opozdal” (forgive me for being late) and then “rad vas videt” (I am glad to see you). If a volunteer preferred the New York Mets to the Yankees, the volunteer could remark to a Yankees fan that “ya ne soglasen s vami” (I don’t agree with you). Although the phrase booklet is very basic, it would likely have been very helpful for facilitating some communication between the volunteer and the newly arrived Soviet Jewish refugee family.
And if the phrase booklet was not, in fact, very helpful, perhaps the volunteer could explain that “ya ne vinovat” (It’s not my fault), “ochen zhal” (I am very sorry), “ya ne govoryu po ruski” (I don’t speak Russian).
In addition to the Joseph Langer files that I am processing, another project archivist is concurrently processing a large chunk of archival material related to special funds procured by the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies for Russian resettlement. Within these files, there should be some additional details about the services and programs that Federation provided to Soviet Jews before Federation’s merger with United Jewish Appeal of Greater New York.
After more archival material has been processed, described, and made available through our finding aid, we want to invite researchers and those interested in the UJA-Federation of New York Collection to “prihodite pozhalusta k nam” (please come and see us).
Rabbi Isaac Trainin started Federation’s Commission on Synagogue Relations and Religious Affairs Committee, and remained as head of the Commission for several decades. (To see previous blog posts on Rabbi Trainin and his work at Federation, search the blog on “Trainin”.) While processing his papers, the names Victor Wouk and Herman Wouk turned up.
Although the records are incomplete, it appears that Victor was chairman of the Religious Affairs Committee at some point in the 1950s and 1960s. Herman was his brother, the author whose book, “This is My God”, sat on the bookshelves of many Jewish families in those decades. It is no doubt because of Victor’s connection to Federation, and to the Commission on Synagogue Relations, that there was an attempt to pull Herman into the Federation family as well.
Rabbi Trainin received this letter from Herman Wouk in 1959, indicating his support for Federation even in the absence of a physical presence in New York:
Victor, younger by 4 years, was successful in his own right. His obituary in the New York Times, June 12, 2005, describes his work in developing early electric and hybrid cars. He was born in the Bronx in 1919 and received his doctoral degree from the California Institute of Technology in electrical engineering in 1942.
His connection with Federation extended beyond the Religious Affairs Committee. According the New York Times, Victor was an “active philanthropist”, a board member of the 92nd Street Y (a Federation agency), and a “chairman” of the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies (presumably the chairman of an FJP committee). Victor died in 2005.
In addition to “This is My God”, Herman Wouk is perhaps best known for his novels “The Caine Mutiny” (1951) and “Marjorie Morningstar” (1955). His most recent novel, “The Lawgiver”, was published in 2012.
Beginning in the early 1980’s and continuing through the mid 1990’s, UJA-Federation’s Task Force on Art and Literature in Jewish Life (housed under the Commission for Synagogue Relations) worked with consultant Marcia Posner to help Jewish institutions in the greater New York City area set up Judaica libraries. Posner visited community centers and YM-YWHA’s, hospitals, homes for the aged, and camps, and worked with staff to either establish a library, or reinvigorate the institution’s existing library. With support from the Joseph Reiss Memorial Judaica Libraries Fund, UJA-Federation was able to provide grants for the purchase of Judaic materials relevant to each institution’s population.
One institution that benefitted from such a grant was the Mid-Island Y in Plainview, New York. In 1984, Posner visited the Y’s library and met with staff members Dorothy Savitt, Claire Raskin, and Ruth Cohen. In a June 20th letter to “Mesdames Savitt, Raskin, & Cohen,” Posner writes, “Without exaggeration, I declare the visit to your library and meeting with you an unmitigated delight.” Perhaps one reason for this was the dedicated and creative staff themselves, who wrote the lovely poems about the library and each other—in beautiful calligraphy—seen below.
On May 27, 1986, the Mid-Island Y was awarded $150 to purchase Judaica books. Find these poems and files on other Judaica libraries in the UJF subgroup.
Susan, Marvin, Heather, and I would like to welcome Leah Edelman to the UJA-Federation of New York Archives Project! It will be very nice to have another processing archivist of her caliber on the project for the final year.
Leah received her Master of Science in Library and Information Science in 2014 from Simmons College with a concentration in Archives Management. Over last summer, she was a Junior Fellow at the Library of Congress and, while completing her graduate degree, she was a processing and outreach intern at the Schlesinger Library on the History of Women at Harvard University and, also, an archives assistant for the Tufts University Digital Collections and Archives.
In the coming months, in addition to processing, Leah will join us as another contributor to this blog and will contribute archival description to our finding aid for the UJA-Federation of New York collection.
Again, welcome, Leah, we are glad to have you as a new member of our team!