September 2, 2014

UJA-Federation of New York Collection – Archivist

Filed under: Uncategorized — thiscangobacktothearchives @ 12:13 pm


Date:                              September 2014
Department:                   Library & Archives
Title:                               UJA-Federation of New York Collection – Archivist
Schedule:                       F/T through end of project, September 30, 2015
FLSA Status:                  Non-exempt
Supervisor’s Title:          Senior Project Archivist
Salary:                           TBD depending on experience, with benefits
Application Deadline:     September 22

SUMMARY: Performs arrangement and description, rehousing and basic preservation of the United Jewish Appeal – Federation of New York Records. This is a temporary (one-year) position funded by a grant from UJA-Federation of New York, at the American Jewish Historical Society.

ESSENTIAL FUNCTIONS (approx. 80%): Processing of institutional papers in a team with 4 other project archivists

  • All work performed according to MPLP processing standards, including processing rate for this project at an average of 6 boxes per week. (required)
  • Arrange records according to series and subseries lists developed by the Project Archivist in consultation with members of the project team. Establish order of and within folders as directed. (required)
  • Write complete, well-edited historical notes, scope notes and other documentation for finding aid series as they are processed. (required)
  • Create folder-level contents lists for inclusion in the finding aid. (as needed)
  • Prepare records for archival storage by performing preservation procedures as appropriate, such as refoldering and reboxing of the materials into acid-free folders and boxes, and selective fastener removal; mark boxes for later preservation photocopying as needed. (required)
  • Identify and separate oversize items, photographs, audio, film and video materials within the collections to ensure preservation and proper archival storage. (required)
  • Must be able to lift full bankers boxes (up to 40 pounds), and pull them on and off the shelves (required)
  • Perform other duties as required.


  • Work with other members of the project team to coordinate the arrival of unprocessed boxes from off-site storage and the transfer of processed boxes to off-site storage. (required)
  • Contribute to refinement of project workflow. (as needed)
  • Contribute to project blog ( on a regular basis. (desired)
  • Assist with selecting visual materials from the collection for scanning, for AJHS publications, exhibits and special events. (required)


Skills and Abilities:

  • Familiarity with archival theory and techniques, specifically in using MPLP – More Product/Less Process – (minimal processing) to work with very large collections.
  • Proven ability to understand hierarchical relationships between series and subseries within a collection and to survey numerous boxes to discover the original order, if one exists.
  • Previous experience working with large collections and/or organizational records.
  • Proficiency in MS Word and Excel
  • Ability to work both independently and collaboratively.
  • Reliability and accuracy in maintaining records.
  • Excellent communication skills and good rapport with colleagues.
  • Ability to complete tasks in a reasonable amount of time and able to multitask.
  • Capable of learning new skills.

Education and Training: MLS from an accredited school.

Work Experience: Experience in processing archival collections required.


  • Expertise with Extensible Markup Language (XML), specifically creating electronic finding aid using Encoded Archival Description (EAD).
  • Ability to read Yiddish and/or Hebrew.


Physical Demands: Ability to lift 40 pounds.

Special Environmental Factors: Periodic exposure to dusty and moldy materials.

Please send resume, cover letter and sample finding (link or attachment) to: / Subject: UJA-Federation position

The American Jewish Historical Society is an equal opportunity employer.

August 29, 2014

Office Life in the 1980s, with Joseph Harris

Filed under: Federation people, found in the archives — susanwoodland @ 11:41 am

We are continuing to process the Community Services Division files from Federation, which are still turning up in storage under various descriptions.  One subseries in work right now are the remaining files of Joseph Harris, from the 2nd half of his 12-year tenure with Federation.  Harris was hired in 1975, probably as the Consultant for Jewish Education and Community Centers.  Titles and responsibilities evolved through the early and mid-1980s, when all of the Community Service [staff] “Consultants” were renamed “Social Planning Consultants”.  By 1984 he had become the Associate Executive Director of Community Services (“with prime responsibility for Jewish Education and Culture, Community Centers and Camps”), and assumed the position of Executive Director of Group Services and Jewish Education in September 1985.  Many of the files now in work date from his roughly two years in this last position.  Harris remained at Federation through the transitions of the 1986 merger with UJA, and his files end in 1987.

Two brief memoranda surfaced this week in Harris’s files, insignificant in content of his actual “work”, but telling about the time period and the people involved.  For us, these clues and traces in the files serve to humanize the people whose correspondence and reports and memos we gain such familiarity with, in the absence of ever having actually met the person.  Both memoranda are from Harris’ “William Kahn” file; long-time readers of this blog may remember Kahn as one of the Federation Executive Vice-Presidents Harris would have worked under, 1981-1986.

1. Dated July 25, 1983, from Joseph Harris to Elaine Morris in the Executive Office: “I called Dr. Sonabend at the 665-6363 number on July 21, 1983.  He was not in and I left a message on his tape recorder asking him to return my call.”

tape recorder memo, 1983

Tape recorder memo, 1983

For those of us in charge of our own phone calls by 1983, you may remember that time as the early days of home answering machines, and answering machines in offices.  And how it took a long time to even adopt a consistent name for what this machine really was.  The fact that Harris referred to it as a tape recorder nicely dates the memo.  Please note the discoloration from a rubber band diagonally across the blank part of the page.

2. Dated February 7, 1984, from William Kahn to Jack Ukeles and Joseph Harris: “It is important that you see me posthaste with reference to Harold Resnik and something that he wants to do in relation to Abba Eban.”

Posthaste Memo from William Kahn, 1984

Posthaste Memo from William Kahn, 1984

When is the last time you received a note with the word “posthaste” in it?  Handwritten below the memo, no doubt from the resulting meeting with Kahn, is “20 videotapes and large screens for Abba Eban Jewish Ed Teaching tools for centers”; one can only assume that the hurried meeting led to the results Kahn was hoping to achieve.  For Merriam-Webster’s definition, see:

Elsewhere in the Harris files an “aide memoire” was glimpsed, something that we saw more of in the financial files from the 1950s and 1960s earlier in the project (and posted about on this blog), but Harris’ appears to be the most recent citing within Federation’s files.

Prior to his arrival at Federation in 1975 Harris had been the Executive Director of the Staten Island JCC; after Federation his career continued at the Jewish Community Center Association and other Jewish communal organizations.  Please let us know if you have additional information about Joseph Harris’s career as it relates to the Jewish Education and Community Center work he did at Federation.

According to this 2011 article:,

Harris received the Allan Weissglass award from the Jewish Community Center in Seaview (Staten Island); other biographical information and a photograph are included in the article.


August 25, 2014

The Role of the Consultant

While working on this collection over the past three years one thing we initially found confusing was the label “consultant” applied to the professional staff who headed Federation’s Community Services Department, particularly in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.  Various staff members, experienced professionals all and at the top of the their respective subject fields in New York’s social services realm, included Martha Selig, Donald Feldstein, Graenum Berger, Joseph Harris and Al Schwarz.  The work and papers of a number of these consultants have been discussed in previous blog posts.

The Role of the Consultant, by Al Schwarz, circa 1982 [duplicate copy with archivists notes included]

“The Role of the Consultant”, by Al Schwarz, circa 1982 [duplicate copy with archivists notes included]

Eric recently located a thought piece by Al Schwarz from circa 1982; Schwarz was then the Director of Community Services for Medicine in that subseries of Federation’s Community Services material. In this informal report, entitled “The Role of the Consultant,” presumably written for discussion in a department meeting, Schwarz teases out the role of the consultant and ponders a change in title.  He describes the report as “tongue in cheek,” announces that he wanted by writing it to “provoke some serious discussion” and that “some of what is said is absolutely true.”  The manner is very breezy and irreverent, no doubt reflecting Schwarz’s familiarity and exasperation with the subject and, perhaps, with Federation’s existing organizational structure.

The consultants ran departments, supervised Federation support staff and served as links between Federation and the agency executives in the consultant’s specific functional field (medical, childcare, education, etc.)  In his paper, Schwarz notes that they are not in fact consultants to the agencies, because “our agencies don’t think so terribly well of us” and because they are not on the agencies’ payrolls.  He thinks they are not consultants to “management” at Federation either – “they know how to take care of themselves.”  Schwarz continues, “then the only thing that’s left is that we’re Consultant to Lay Leadership at Federation.  Although that can’t be true, because as we all know, the Lay Leaders are all experts. The crux of the problem, appears to me, to be the term itself.  I don’t think we’re Consultants all.”

After a brief discussion of what Schwarz actually sees as their role, he comes to the conclusion that “the role of the Consultant, then, is one of a facilitator; one who brings people together to facilitate problem solving”, and he speculates that Federation would be better served if consultants were more generalists than field specialists: “the role of the specialist is downplayed and … the relative success of our work is very often dependent upon the personality of the Consultant and his or her ability to interact in a meaningful way with fellow professionals and lay people.”

Schwarz believes that the consultants are “teachers and facilitators, moderators and arbitrators”, and that a healthy ego is “perhaps the most important single trait by which a Consultant is measured,” because there is very little ego gratification to the job.  By page 5, he concludes with the thought that “Consultant is a misnomer, and leads to misunderstandings both internally and externally to Federation.”

Eventually the term “consultant” was retired, having evolved into the more usual titles of Director and Executive Director. By the time of the merger with UJA in 1986 most departments and divisions had also changed names.  As our project moves more completely into the post-merger portion of the collection, we find ourselves attempting to correlate the functions of the professionals and their departments that have become familiar to us, with what those same people and functions eventually became.

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!

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