August 14, 2014

Neighborhood Preservation Program

Filed under: Uncategorized — thiscangobacktothearchives @ 4:21 pm

NPP Letterhead, 1985

Letterhead for the Neighborhood Preservation Program (NPP), 1985

In the early 1980s, Federation adopted a new strategy for assisting the Jews of metropolitan New York. In a survey of the program, Joseph Langer, director of the program, explains that the

“Neighborhood Preservation Program reflects a significant departure from the traditional approaches to serving Jewish communal needs. Rather than allocating our dollars … by type of service, [Federation has] made a decision to allocate a substantial portion of resources on an explicitly geographical basis…and for non-traditional purposes.”

With the assumption that neighborhoods are the basic building block of vibrant Jewish communal life in the metropolitan area, the Federation provided aid, both technical and financial, to specific neighborhoods and Jewish Community Councils within those neighborhoods in Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, and the Bronx. The Federation worked proactively with “neighborhoods that are at risk of decline, yet are still basically healthy” to ensure that the Jewish population in that respective neighborhood would continue to thrive, commercially and communally.

Target neighborhoods, at the time, included: Co-op City (Bronx), Kingsbridge-Moshulu (Bronx), Pelham Parkway (Bronx), Bensonhurst (Brooklyn), Boro Park (Brooklyn), Canarsie-Starrett City (Brooklyn), Crown Heights (Brooklyn), Flatbush (Brooklyn), Kensington (Brooklyn), Williamsburg (Brooklyn), Lower East Side (Manhattan), Washington Heights-Inwood (Manhattan), Forest Hills-Kew Gardens-Rego Park (Queens), Flushing (Queens), Jackson Heights (Queens), and Far Rockaways (Queens).

The program was funded, in part, through the Project Renewal program that was part of the UJA-Federation Joint Campaign. The program’s funds were limited, but Langer’s survey contends that the Federation’s “contribution supplies seed money, enabling local communities to attract private investment and government funding that would not other have been forthcoming.”

One such relationship that developed between Federation and the local community happened in the Bronx with the Jewish Community Council of Pelham Parkway. In 1984, Federation and the Jewish Community Council of Pelham Parkway coordinated the “Bronx is Blooming” tours to showcase some of the program’s achievements in Pelham Parkway. Achievements that included new housing for the elderly at Beth Abraham Hospital, coordinating renovations and co-op conversions, assisting with the revitalization of the shopping district near Lydig Avenue and White Plains Road.

Front exterior of "Bronx is Blooming" invitation, 1984

Front exterior of “Bronx is Blooming” invitation, 1984

We are processing the files of Joseph Langer, Director of the Neighborhood Preservation Program and Project Renewal, and expect to receive another large shipment of materials related to Langer and the program later next week. Neighborhood Preservation Programs and their associated activities, including Federation’s own program, are not without controversy, but we aim to provide description and access to the archival material that document Federation’s efforts to re-invigorate specific neighborhoods in Queens, Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Bronx.

There was no mention of Staten Island neighborhoods in the folder titled “Neighborhood Preservation — Target Neighborhoods, 1982-1983″. If there is an inference to made based on the exclusion of Staten Island from the list of target neighborhoods, it is unclear what that inference might be.  

August 7, 2014

Correspondence between Solomon Lowenstein and I.M.Rubinow

On December 29, 1926, Federation’s Executive Director Solomon Lowenstein received a letter from I.M. Rubinow, the Executive Director of he Jewish Welfare Society of Philadelphia. Rubinow’s name caught my eye, as the first Director of the Hadassah Medical Organization in Jerusalem from 1919 to 1922.  In his role at the Jewish Welfare Society, he wrote to Lowenstein, “I am writing this letter after considerable deliberation because it deals with an unpleasant subject, but I have come to the conclusion that it is my professional duty because the interests of Jewish social service are involved.”

The issue that so upset Rubinow concerned a young man who Rubinow had known as a youngster from “an excellent Jewish family”.  More recently, however, Rubinow explained, “I have … heard so many unfortunate things about him that I have come to the conclusion that he has no right to assume any Jewish social work.”

Rubinow proceeded, “I am informed that he divorced his first wife, deserted his second wife with a child and without any means of support about three years ago … I am further informed that this desertion was accompanied by the forging of checks of some commercial firm with which he was connected …”  He continues,

I.M.Rubinow informs Solomon Lowenstein of an unscrupulous social worker, 1926

I.M.Rubinow informs Solomon Lowenstein of an unscrupulous social worker, 1926


During Harry’s short stay in Philadelphia at the Jewish Welfare Society he became engaged to another young woman, a graduate of the Jewish Foster Home who “now is heart-broken … there are other similar stories of his experiences in New York”.  Apparently Harry had since then taken a job at a Federation agency in New York, and Rubinow felt it his duty to alert Lowenstein to the matter.  “The reason I am writing to you is because I know how diplomatically you can handle any situation.  I don’t have any intention of interfering with Mr. Fenton’s private life or his opportunity of making a living but I am sure you will agree with me that Jewish social service and particularly a child-caring institution, is not the proper field.  Perhaps a suggestion to him to resign at once would be all that is necessary.”

Further conversation shows that by December 31, the Executive Director of the agency in question had received Harry’s resignation.

July 28, 2014

Federation’s Jewish Education Department

Filed under: interesting or noteworthy archival material — susanwoodland @ 10:34 am

From its earliest decades, Federation supported a Jewish Education function in many of its affiliated agencies.  By the 1970s under Joseph Harris, who held positions of increasing responsibility working with Federation’s affiliated Community Centers, Camps and other group activities, Jewish Education became a component of selected programs at each of these institutions.

Joseph Harris remained at Federation through the merger with UJA in 1986.  His files end in 1987 when he was Executive Director of Group Services and Jewish Education at UJA-Federation of New York.  In going through his last (large – over 50 boxes) group of files, some documents have surfaced that explain some of the major components of Jewish Education work at Federation and UJA-Federation.

Executive Summary on Jewish Education

Executive Summary on Jewish Education

Submitted in May 1987 by Joseph Harris and Matthew J. Maryles, Chairman of the Communal Planning Subcommittee on Jewish Education of the UJA-Federation Board of Governors, this document may have served as a summary at the end of Harris’ tenure and as a blueprint for the future.  The mission statement includes, “UJA-Federation supports Jewish education through the provision of grants to central agencies which coordinate, enhance and support the Jewish educational system in the greater metropolitan New York area.  Services are provided to formal and informal education institutions, as well as to Jewish youth on college campuses.”

There is also an explanation of the financial support given “to the field” through the Fund for Jewish Education, and other funding sources such as the endowment funds established at UJA-Federation “through the generosity of Joseph S. and Caroline Gruss”.

Other documentation gives more detail on some of these funds.  A 1986 document, “Guidelines for the Administration of the Caroline and Joseph S. Gruss Life Monument Interest Free Loan Fund” explains that this fund was established “to provide major interest free loans for Jewish educational institutions that will enable them to expand their facilities”. The Hebrew Free Loan Society, “a member agency of Federation, will administer the disbursement … of loan money from the Fund”.

Current information on individual agencies, part of annual submissions for the planning and allocations done by Federation’s Distribution Committee (and after the merger by UJA-Federation’s Distribution Committee) was provided on Agency Fact sheets.  For the 1986-87 program year, the first year of the merged organization, the Agency Profile for the Board of Jewish Education (BJE) of Greater New York included some historical background on the BJE:


Board of Jewish Education of Greater New York, Agency Profile for 1986-87 Program Year

Board of Jewish Education of Greater New York, Agency Profile for 1986-87 Program Year

The Bureau of Jewish Education was created in 1910 “to upgrade Jewish education, to introduce modern texts and teaching materials, graded curriculum, appropriate pedagogic methods, improved preparation and remuneration of teachers, and better supervision and administration of schools.”  In 1939 the Jewish Education Committee (JEC) was formed by a merger of the Bureau and the Association of Jewish Education.  In 1970 the JEC was renamed the Board of Jewish Education of Greater New York.

One last component of the Jewish Education world at Federation was the Fund for Jewish Education (FJE).  According to the FJE Summary Report, 1985-86, the Fund “was created in 1978 through the contribution by Mr. and Mrs. Joseph S. Gruss of $1,000,000 per year for a five-year period, matched by the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies, and the United Jewish Appeal of Greater New York … FJE’s goals are to help insure the stability of Jewish schools, improve the quality of educational programs, help increase the number of children receiving a Jewish education and encourage and support outreach programs.”

Through these funding sources and the careful allocation of funds, Federation and UJA-Federation’s Jewish Education mission brought tangible results.

July 16, 2014

Project timeline

Filed under: early history, found in the archives — thiscangobacktothearchives @ 12:33 pm

As part of our ongoing efforts to disseminate information about UJA-Federation using a variety of methods, we have been collecting significant dates in the history of United Jewish Appeal of Greater New York and the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York to create a timeline of events. We hope to organize all of the event-related information to create an online exhibit and/or a component of a website related to the processing project. We are working to capture a mix of information related to the affiliated agencies, the staff and leadership of the philanthropic organizations (before and after the merger), and relevant historical events.

It was fortunate, then, that in processing the folders of Rabbi David Cohen, Federation’s Director of Public and Community Affairs in 1986, I encountered a folder titled “Merger” with some of the most significant dates in the history of the two philanthropic organizations. The folder of material was likely used to educate the soon-to-be-merged lay leadership and staff about the two organizations, including their respective histories.

A list of events in the history of the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York, circa 1986

Federation Milestones — A list of events in the history of the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York, circa 1986

Front page, History of the United Jewish Appeal of Greater New York

History of the United Jewish Appeal of Greater New York, circa 1986

The dates and events cited in the two documents are being used to further enhance our own timeline. If you, kind and gentle blog reader, have any significant dates that you would like to contribute to our project timeline, please use the link “Leave a Comment” found below.

July 3, 2014


Filed under: early history, found in the archives — susanwoodland @ 5:25 pm

We recently brought in 54 boxes that were labeled as files from Dr. Donald Feldstein’s office as Director of the Community Services department of FJP in the 1970s and 1980s.  Two boxes, however, were much older.  One box contained agency budget and subject files, 1927-1941, belonging to Executive Vice-President (EVP) Dr. Solomon Lowenstein, and the second box contained agency budget and subject files, 1938-1941, belonging to Dr. Maurice Hexter, then Assistant EVP to Dr. Lowenstein. Longtime readers of this blog may remember that many of Hexter’s files were processed in 2011-2012, and that he and Joseph Willen served as co-EVPs for 25 years (1942-1967).

Hexter’s subject files in this new box included two thick folders labeled, “Personnel Practices”, and covered more than a year, 1940-1941, when negotiating with the union that represented employees of Federation child care agencies, primarily the New York Association for Jewish Children.

From 1940 to 1941 Federation and some of its agencies were embroiled in negotiations with child care workers over salaries, number of hours in a work week, and other personnel issues.


On strike outside Federation’s offices at 71 W. 47th Street, 1941

According to a March 7, 1941 letter to “Friends” from Evelyn Adler, President of the Social Service Employees’ Union (SSEU), Local 19, the situation involved the “welfare of 400 employees of the New York Association for Jewish Children (NYAJC). That situation has grown out of the merger which brought that organization into being in January 1940 — the combining of the Hebrew Orphan Asylum, the Hebrew Sheltering Guardian Society, the Jewish Children’s Clearing Bureau, and the Fellowship House, Inc.

“Social workers, we know, are generally concerned over mergers of this kind, because the professional aspects and the welfare of the employees involved are apt to be less carefully planned than the budgetary.”

The resolution of the issues and the end of the strike were reported in SSEU’s Local 19 newsletter of May 1941:

"Sweeping Victory at NYAJC"

“Sweeping Victory at NYAJC”

It sounds like one of the biggest improvements for the workers after the strike was the decrease in the number of hours in their workweek, which was an important detail in the negotiations.

June 27, 2014

Fire Victim

Filed under: found in the archives, interesting or noteworthy archival material — Tags: , — thiscangobacktothearchives @ 11:52 am

While processing the files of Murray Peters (Executive Director of Field Staff Operations at the Joint Campaign), I stumbled upon the letter pictured below. The letter, dated January 27, 1978, was in a folder that was part of Peters’ Joint Campaign (UJFC) 1978-1982 Subject Files.   Indeed as I read the note card attached to the letter, titled “Fire Victim”, I learned that the letter and the envelope attached to it, had been caught in a fire. Fortunately the fire had not occurred at the UJA-Federation Joint Campaign Headquarters. The letter was discovered in a Leadership folder of Irving Schneider who corresponded with Murray Peters. The letter itself is in fairly good condition aside from the blackened, frayed and fragile edge and since not much can be done with materials such as this, it was placed in a plastic sleeve.


It appears that the original, charred letter was kept as a copy of the clean, retyped version that was sent to the recipient. On first glance it appeared to be a marketing tactic, but on closer reading it appears that routine outgoing mail had been affected.

Additionally, in the same series of files but in a different folder I found the keys to the Palm Beach office (pictured below). One can only hope that the locks have been changed in the years since 1978.


June 20, 2014

Board minutes available online!

Filed under: audio-visual material, interesting or noteworthy archival material — thiscangobacktothearchives @ 12:05 pm

Earlier this year, we employed Hudson Microimaging to create digitized copies of Board minutes from the microfilm that UJA-Federation created in the mid-1990s. The digitized minutes are now available online through the Center’s Digital Collections and hyperlinks to the digital objects will be created in the finding aid for the collection for these Board minutes (in addition to hyperlinks for all of the other wonderful archival material that we have digitized for the project). The range of the minutes include:

  • Board of Trustees Minutes, 1916-1986
  • Board of Directors Minutes, 1986-1992
  • Executive Committee Minutes 1973-1986

This coverage will provide researchers a nearly complete picture of the Board of the Federation, from its organization to its merger with United Jewish Appeal of Greater New York, 8 years of minutes on the activities of the merged Board, and 14 years of information on the Executive Committee, from the beginning of the Joint Campaign to the merger. All that was microfilmed by UJA-Federation and, then, deeded to the American Jewish Historical Society has been digitized. Because very few files from Officers and Board members were retained or deposited into storage, the Board minutes provide an important resource on Board activities, resolutions and discussion on various issues. If a researcher is aware of the date of an event or issue, the minutes can offer a way to find a starting point for locating information about that event or issue. Since the files were scanned using optical character recognition software and stored as portable document format (PDF) files, each set of minutes is keyword searchable. For assistance with a global keyword search through the entire set of Board minutes (1916-1986), please contact us at

The Board minutes have also been collected online and are available here. A nice substitute until the finding aid for the collection is available online!

June 12, 2014

Retouching Update

Earlier this month I discussed the evidence of some rather heavy-handed old-fashioned photograph retouching work I have been encountering in the course of processing the UJA, UFJC, and FJP photographs subseries. Almost immediately after publishing this post, I found the most subtle example of retouching I have seen so far. It was particularly noticeable because there are two similar prints: one retouched, the other not. The unretouched photo appears immediately below and a very similar shot with slight retouching in the woman’s hair, blouse and hand can be seen below the first, if you study it for a moment.

FJP Miscellaneous

Here is a little closer view. The photographer or designer must have used a very fine paint brush.

Retouch Detail

So, some of the retouching work in this collection was quite subtle, at least occasionally. There is definitely less of this subtle variety overall, however.

Also since my previous post, I learned from a designer friend who is experienced with both digital and analog techniques that the opaque background paint that features prominently in a few of the photographs included in that post is Pro White Retouching Ink and it is apparently still available for sale. She likened the 20th Century use of Pro White to the contemporary use of the “silo” (short for “silhouette”) or “clipping path” Photoshop tools.

June 9, 2014

UJA Builds Their Own Office Building

Filed under: found in the archives — susanwoodland @ 10:59 am

In 1948 UJA began planning an office building to house their growing staff, and to escape the increasing rents of midtown Manhattan.  The threat of their rent going up to $4.50 a square foot was the impetus for board members to put together a plan to finance a new building at 220 W. 58th Street.

The architect was Hyman Isaac Feldman, a Jewish immigrant from Austria (an area now in Poland) who had a prolific career building primarily apartment buildings throughout many different neighborhoods in New York City.

Columbia University has an architectural database of real estate brochures for residential buildings in New York, which includes real estate brochures of 118  designs by Feldman or others in his firm.  His obituary in the New York Times mentions that Feldman was also responsible for the Federation building at 130 E. 59th Street, although it is unclear whether he worked on the original building or one of the renovations to combine buildings into the one we know today.  He won an award for best apartment house design in 1932 by the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce.


Architect's rendering of new UJA building at 220 W. 58th Street, NYC

Architect’s rendering of new UJA building at 220 W. 58th Street, NYC

Above is the architect’s rendering of the UJA building, complete with UJA on the front and late model sedans parked out front.  According to the UJA files on the building, from the office of Melville L. Rappaport, Assistant Secretary of UJA, the design included a map of Israel embedded in the terrazzo floor of the lobby, a nice touch for an organization that supported projects in Israel in the year following statehood.

The building until recently housed a New York City public school, but appears to have recently been demolished.  The link will take you to a Google image of the building with scaffolding in 2007, but a later image shows, sadly, an empty site.




May 28, 2014

BPs (Before Photoshop)


I realize there are adults alive today who do not remember life before Photoshop. Though it seems like just yesterday to some of us, Photoshop version 1.0 was first introduced over 24 years ago! Before its existence, photographers and graphic designers who wished to remove imperfections or make improvements to their photographs were forced to either practice the skill known as “retouching” or “airbrushing” themselves or hire a professional to handle the task. Here is a brief discussion of the art of retouching based on a book titled Shortcuts to Photo Retouching for Commercial Use, published in 1946. And here is a fuller review of this handbook.  The line, “DON’T DO TOO MUCH!” from the book resonates well with my own minimal experience with photo retouching.

As a photography major in art school in the early 1990s, I was taught the basics of retouching. I remember clearly Professor Dennis Buck laying out all the materials we would need: fine brushes, a magnifying loop, water, and Spot Tone, a special type of transparent dye that photographic emulsion can absorb. He also advised us not to attempt to touch up our prints first thing in the morning, suggesting instead, “Be relaxed when you do it. Put on some music. Pour a glass of wine.” Subtlety was the name of the game. The rule for fine art photographers seemed to be: the less noticeable it was, the more successful your retouching work had been.

This rule did not seem to apply at all for graphic artists and for photographs being published in newspapers. Retouching has been on my mind lately as I process my way through many boxes of UJA and UFJC photographs. There are so many examples of highly unsubtle retouching in these files: backgrounds completely obscured by heavy opaque paint; body parts added or removed; individual people taken away from crowded group shots; and (my favorite) eyes uncannily repainted over blinking eyelids. A few examples follow below…





eyes glasses 2


UFJC - portraits - Albert Da Costa


The bolder approach suited images being mechanically reproduced in print. Holding these touched-up original prints, viewing them close up with the naked eye reveals heavy-handed alterations. But these alterations would not be noticeable when the image is greatly reduced in size and printed using the halftone process in ink on newsprint.




It seems that the graphic artists at work in the Public Relations department of the Joint Campaign frequently employed a variety of artists’ materials, including non-archival, opaque paints, as seen in the examples above. In the unretouched print above, a silhouette-shaped stain has been left on the back of this print (seen on the left, above). The stain was created when the unmarked print was stored in the file on top of this retouched print for decades. Acids from the paint on the retouched print have transferred into the back of the non-retouched print. Busy backgrounds were not always painted directly away. Sometimes the work was done on a clear plastic mask, as in the example below, laid over top the original print, so that the image could be used with or without the addition. This resembles slightly the Photoshop concept of layers.


The majority of prints in these files were never retouched, but those that were reveal a lot about retouching and printing techniques, and how the staff of the Joint Campaign used and changed the photographs in their files.

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