April 9, 2015

Happy Passover (Part 2)!

As we arrive at the last few days of the festival of Passover, we wanted to take the opportunity to share with you this novel Passover-themed fundraising appeal envelope that looks just like matzo! This and other samples of direct mail fundraising appeals can be found within the UJF Marketing and Communications subseries.

Passover fundraising mailer, 1998.

Passover fundraising mailer, 1998.

The UJA-Federation Archivists wish you a chag sameach and a joyous Passover!

April 2, 2015

Happy Passover!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Leah Edelman @ 9:40 am

Have you done your Passover shopping? Was it similar to this list– and these prices– from 1977?

JPA 1977

With the beginning of Passover tomorrow night, we wanted to share some materials from the collection about the Joint Passover Association (JPA), one of Federation’s agencies.  Founded in 1927 with the purpose of coordinating Passover assistance activities and fundraising conducted by synagogues and Jewish organizations, the JPA provided Jews in need with funds to buy Passover items. By its 50th anniversary in 1977, the JPA provided aid to 4,065 applicants (11,263 individuals) and distributed $116,707 that year in relief funds.

The above food list details the “basic Passover needs for one person” in 1977, and the prices reflect the amount of aid most people received. Though it may seem bare-bones compared to some lavish Seder spreads of today, most recipients were very grateful to receive help to celebrate the holiday. Below are a few of the many thank-you notes sent to Federation in response to receiving Passover assistance. The Joint Passover Association was a Federation-affiliated agency through 2009.

Happy Passover!

caring and enjoy

Left: “This note is to thank you for the help received this passover from your passover fund. It certainly helped me to cheer up and enjoy some of the passover foods I otherwise would not have been able to enjoy.” Right: “You have helped to enrich our Passover holiday…Thank you and god bless you for caring about us. You really have no idea how you pull us through all these years.”

exodus and not been refused

Left: “Every year…I have requested your aid and haven’t been refused. It is due to your kindness and generosity that have helped make the holiday more joyous.” Right: “[There are] people like you at the J.P.A. to help us observe the memory of our Exodus.”

sweet and more money

Left: “May God bless you for being so kind, thoughtful, and friendly spirit you have shown me. It means the world to me and cheered me up a bit.” Right: “…I respectfully ask you if I can get a little more cash I should enjoy Passover.”

faith and kosher meat

Left: “…I was able to buy kosher chicken and a little meat. Keep up the good work.” Right: “…it helps to restore one’s faith that our people will not forsake us.”

March 30, 2015

Resolution of materials lost in the warehouse fire

Filed under: the process of archival processing — susanwoodland @ 11:20 am

In a blog post in February I wrote about the fire at the warehouse where our boxes were stored for many years before this project began.  For the past 3 1/2 years our workflow has been to bring 100-200 boxes into our offices at a time where we do what we do with files (officially called “processing”).  As I mentioned in the February post, we had 305 boxes remaining in storage before the fire.

We requested delivery of the remaining boxes in two shipments; the final count of boxes lost in the fire was 123.  For the most part the lost boxes were scattered among the different departments represented in those 305 boxes, but a high percentage were from Overseas Services, Immigrant Services, Administration and Government Relations.  Except where there were fewer than 5 boxes from a department, at least some of the material in each department survived; we will in the end have a slightly smaller snapshot of the work of these departments.  The largest portion of these records is from the second half of the 1990s.

To look at the loss of these boxes philosophically, records from many non-profit organizations that are ultimately transferred to the archives for permanent retention seem to have survived almost at random.  UJA-Federation of New York was more organized than many non-profits, having engaged the services of a consulting archivist for many years – Colonel Seymour Pomrenze, who we have written about in this blog before.  The colonel determined the fate of many of UJA-Federation’s older files in an organized, professional manner.  Because of his professionalism many of the hundreds of boxes of files that were not of permanent value were destroyed long ago, saving UJA-Federation thousands of dollars in storage fees.

The  material that remained and which became the core of this archives project, is in the process of becoming the permanent record of the legacy of UJA- Federation of New York and its predecessor organizations.  What files ultimately remain is what historians have to sift through to tell the story of an organization – a movement, a certain time in a community when a group of men and women took care of those less fortunate than themselves.  The surviving files, whether through careful determination according to a retention schedule or to random placement in a warehouse, become what we ultimately learn and remember about the past.

Map of organizations funded by UJA-Federation terrorism response grants after 9/11

Map of organizations in lower Manhattan funded by UJA-Federation’s “Terrorism Response” grants after 9/11 – from the Wiener Educational Center files that survived the warehouse fire in January

March 18, 2015

Special AIDS Project at UJA-Federation

Filed under: interesting or noteworthy archival material, Uncategorized — Tags: — Heather Halliday @ 3:31 pm

In the late 1980s, UJA-Federation began providing assistance to HIV+ people and people with AIDS.

pamphlet back

UJA-Federation AIDS fundraising event pamphlet

This assistance took the form of programs, educational conferences, counseling, and housing assistance, mostly provided through Federation agencies, which were funded largely through grants. This Domestic Affairs Division program fell under the heading of “Special Projects” and Simha Rosenberg served as UJA-Federation AIDS Project Coordinator from about 1988 until about 1994.


Name tag from one of the many AIDS-related conferences attended by UJF Special AIDS Coordinator Simha Rosenberg.


UJA-Federation’s willingness to take on the crisis of AIDS, particularly as early as the 1980s, investing over a million per year, as well as time and expertise, speaks volumes about the humanitarian orientation of the agency. It also indicates UJA-Federation’s willingness to adapt to the times, their foresight, and their exceptionally inclusive view of community. It is clear from the document below showing that 76 people on UJA-Federation’s staff participated in the 1991 AIDS Walk that many at UJF had a personal stake in the issue.


UJF 1991 AIDS Walk Team

UJA-Federation staff 1991 AIDS Walk team participants list


pamphlet front

UJA-Federation AIDS fundraising event invitation

Rosenberg attended a great many AIDS conferences on behalf of UJA-Federation and led quite a few, as well. Both types of conference materials are included in the Special AIDS Project subseries. She also served as UJA-Federation’s representive at the New York AIDS Coalition (NYAC), and many folders in the subseries document her committee work there. The collection  documents some of NYAC’s political activism in the form of postcards demanding more funding aimed at Governors Mario Cuomo and George Pataki. Rosenberg was instrumental in obtaining grants for Federation agencies to carry out AIDS progams and these efforts are documented here. Researchers can also learn about AIDS fundraising events held by UJA-Federation. One such event represented in the files was the “Madison Avenue Sell  Out,” which involved many of New York’s most successful advertising agencies and  corporate sponsorship.

The project also planned and implemented workshops designed to inform agency staff and program  participants about the disease, from which extensive data was collected. The raw data, taken from pre- and post-workshop surveys, delineates attitudes and knowledge of the disease and sexuality at that time. It can be found in folders titled “AIDS Education and Training (AET) –  Evaluations” within the subseries. Rosenberg apparently published some scholarly articles as a  result of her initial AET Evaluation findings. Future researchers may wish to delve deeper into this data. Other areas of interest within the subseries include files on Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC), medical research, press  coverage of the disease, and Rosenberg’s own chronological files.



UJA-Federation AIDS Quilt invitation


The collection is comprised of nine cartons on the Special AIDS Project, spanning the years just prior to and just following Rosenberg’s tenure.

NYAC Sticker

NYAC Sticker, 1993

March 12, 2015

Asset studies, inactive records, and archives

Filed under: found in the archives, interesting or noteworthy archival material — thiscangobacktothearchives @ 12:34 pm

While processing administrative and subject files of the UJA-Federation of New York’s Legal Department, I encountered several subject files labeled “Asset Study.” A few years after the merger between United Jewish Appeal of Greater New York and Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York, the Legal Department cooperated with other departments to create a comprehensive list and accompanying data related to the assets, including real estate, held by UJA-Federation and all of its predecessor organizations.

To that end, in April 1990, James L. Rothkopf contacted Colonel Seymour J. Pomrenze, the UJA-Federation’s record manager and archives consultant, to assist in finding documentation within the organization’s inactive records stored in their building and off-site storage. And, much like a reference request or inquiry sent to an archival repository, Pomrenze identified resources within the philanthropic organization’s inactive records to find information on real estate and tangible assets.

Correspondence for James L. Rothkopf from Seymour Pomrenze, April 26, 1990

Correspondence for James L. Rothkopf from Seymour Pomrenze, April 26, 1990

As inactive records went into storage, either on or off-site, a List of File Folder Titles (LFFT), which listed the contents of each box, was placed in the box and also photocopied and retained by UJA-Federation. With the assistance of these LFFTs, Pomrenze and others could identify a list of knowledgeable persons, pinpoint the location of relevant records, create copies of lists of files and boxes with records “retired” (sent to storage) by knowledgeable persons, and help determine where information might be kept by the county or state governments related to property and land registries.

Redacted version of List of Knowledgeable Persons, prepared by Seymour Pomrenze, April 1990

Redacted version of List of Knowledgeable Persons, prepared by Seymour Pomrenze, April 1990

With the names and LFFTs of knowledgeable persons, such as heads of departments, comptrollers, counsels, employees and consultants, the Legal Department could locate information by box and strategically recall boxes out of off-site storage to review and collate data on real estate and other assets held by UJA-Federation or its predecessor organizations and affiliated agencies.

In addition to any of the assets identified within the early 1990s study, it is important to remember what an asset (or benefit) it is to have organizational records under intellectual control stored in a safe, ideally climate-controlled, environment for later inquiries from both the organization that created the records and researchers alike.

February 25, 2015

“Uncle Henry” and the Irene Kaufmann Settlement

In processsing any collection as massive as that of the UJA-Federation of New York, an archivist is bound to encounter files that fall slightly beyond the expected scope of the project once in a while. Case in point: a folder found in the Federation Photographs sub-series titled “Irene Kaufmann Settlement.” Here is one our favorite images from this folder:

Irene Kaufmann Settlement

Milk give away event at Irene Kaufamann Settlement in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, August 1927

This file contains 16 other photographs, as well as historical background on the Irene Kaufmann Settlement (IKS), and biographical information on Henry Kaufmann.

When I first encountered the folder, I presumed IKS was one of over a hundred organizations in the New York City area that Federation had funded during the 20th Century. I had seen appearances of the Kaufmann surname in various other parts of the collection and I knew that FJP of New York funded the Henry Kaufmann Campgrounds, a group of day camps with locations in Rockland County, Suffolk County, and Staten Island, which are still in operation today.

hkc 061453 100

Henry Kaufmann Campgrounds dedication invitation, 1953

After that first cursory glance, however, I realized that IKS was actually not located in New York City – or even anywhere nearby – but rather in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania! Henry Kaufmann, known affectionately to many as “Uncle Henry,” became wealthy through his family’s successful downtown Pittsburgh department store, Kaufmann’s. Henry put up the initial capital to build the Irene Kaufmann Settlement in 1909, naming it after a daughter of his who had met an untimely death. He continued to contribute funding to IKS over the years, as did the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of Pittsburgh. A short history of IKS can be seen here on the Rauh Jewish Archives of the Heinz History Center’s website. This is the same person after whom the Henry Kaufmann Campgrounds in the New York City area are named. Kaufmann retired relatively early from the retail business in 1913 and devoted the remaining four decades of his life to philanthropic giving in Pittsburgh and New York, so it is easy to see how a file on a Pittsburgh community center found its way into the UJA-Federation of New York archives.

Program for a Henry Kaufmann birthday celebration at Irene Kaufmann Settlement

Program for a Henry Kaufmann birthday celebration at Irene Kaufmann Settlement

February 22, 2015

When did we learn to trust e-mail?

Filed under: found in the archives, interesting or noteworthy archival material — susanwoodland @ 10:52 pm

Sherri Greenbach was an executive in the Development Division at UJA-Federation in 1994 and 1995.  She may have worked at UJA-Federation longer than these 2 years but just one box of her files has become part of the the archives project.  These files document Sherri’s work planning fundraising events for the Women’s Division campaign.  It appears that Sherri was primarily involved in fundraising with the Lawyer’s Division, but none of those files have surfaced to date.

In her work on the Women’s Division campaign during this time, Sherri corresponded regularly with Jodi Schwartz, a lay leader involved with a particular event in March of 1995.  In addition to details of these fundraising events in Sherri’s files, it is also possible to identify the moment a new technology was taking hold in the UJA-Federation offices.

This document is a fax cover sheet from March 7th ….

Sherri's cover sheet for her March 7th faxed e-mail

Sherri’s cover sheet for her March 7th faxed e-mail


Sherri wrote in her note on the cover sheet, “I am not yet overly confident in my ‘cyberspace’ skills.  Hopefully it worked but in case it didn’t, here is a copy.”

And here’s the e-mail she printed out and faxed, which (probably later) was edited by hand:

E-mail that was faxed

E-mail that was faxed

Just one week later, Sherri seemed much more comfortable with e-mail, as seen in her March 13th “I love this e-mail stuff” e-mail:

"I love this e-mail stuff!"

“I love this e-mail stuff!”


The adoption of e-mail in place of faxing brings to mind Heather’s December post on Federation’s early work on their own website, in 1998.

Technology began to change rapidly in the late 1990s as more of our documentation was created in electronic form only.  Questions of what have we may have lost come to mind.  In moving to e-mail and electronic communication, does it matter that we will no longer see someone’s handwriting on a fax?  Or doodles on pages of notes or meeting agendas?  Have we lost anything of value, as long as we are able to preserve and maintain and continue to access the content itself?  Are we sure, yet, that we will be able to preserve, maintain and continue to access the electronic files we depend on? Digital archivists are hard at work figuring out best practices to make sure that people interested in researching post-2000 files will in fact be able to do so.

February 10, 2015

The Value of Valuing Archives

Filed under: the process of archival processing — susanwoodland @ 12:36 pm

Our previous post ended with a general comment on the value of archives:

Whether for the sake of development, public relations, analysis, or reporting: archives, especially those housed in a climate controlled environment in an archival repository, have limitless value both to researchers and the institution that created those records.

This statement is more meaningful than ever in light of the disastrous fire at a warehouse holding some of the remaining UJA-Federation of New York files for this project.  Starting early in the morning of Saturday January 31st, by the afternoon it had become a seven-alarm fire with 300 firemen rotating in and out of active firefighting in below freezing conditions.  A week later the fire was still smoldering.

As of today, we still don’t know which material survived the fire.  Fortunately, the larger of the two warehouses (and all the files in it) UJA used is unharmed.

We are extremely fortunate that more than 90% of the collection has already been removed from storage, most of which is already processed and available for research. Because UJA-Federation of New York understands the importance of their institutional history, especially as they begin planning their centennial in 2017, their earliest surviving history is safe and secure in a climate-controlled warehouse and is accessible not only to UJA-Federation but to all qualified researchers.

Fewer than 10% of the boxes from this project (305 of over 3200) remained in storage; most of the files are from the 1990s, after the merger.  Our expectations are that the files that have survived will offer at least a snapshot of each of the departments whose files were part of the project.

February 6, 2015

A return in 1997 to the beginning of Project Renewal

Filed under: found in the archives, interesting or noteworthy archival material — thiscangobacktothearchives @ 1:14 pm

The files related to Project Renewal, a program of the UJA-Federation Joint Campaign to raise funds to preserve and revitalize neighborhoods in New York City and Israel, are processed and available to researchers. The processed material falls into two different groups of archival material, based on geographical location, Federation of Jewish Philanthropies coordinated and distributed funds related to Project Renewal in New York City, whereas, the Joint Campaign (with staff and support from United Jewish Appeal of Greater New York) oversaw Project Renewal in Israel.

Within the Federation files related to Project Renewal, there are the files of Joseph Langer, the director of Project Renewal/Neighborhood Preservation (approximately 1978-1984) and later Community Development department (1984-1994). Langer’s material documents Federation’s activities in the New York metropolitan area to revitalize and encourage Jewish residents to move to neighborhoods like Pelham Parkway in the Bronx or Jackson Heights in Queens. In the Joint Campaign files related to Project Renewal, there are the files of Lucille Strauss, the coordinator then director of Project Renewal for the Joint Campaign (approximately 1978-1983). Among other subjects, her files highlight the beginning of the Joint Campaign’s efforts to develop programs and services in the Tel Aviv neighborhood, Hatikvah.

It is always nice to find a tacit reminder of the value of archives to an institution as well as to researchers. Mixed in with Strauss’s files, there was a folder that contained correspondence to Colonel Seymour Pomrenze, Federation’s records manager and archives consultant, requesting that he locate archived records related to Project Renewal in Hatikvah.

Correspondence from Susan Saul to Seymour Pomrenze, August 29, 1997

Correspondence from Susan Saul to Seymour Pomrenze, August 29, 1997

A potential donor was interested to discover and, likely, compare Hatikvah area at the beginning of the Project Renewal’s efforts in the early 1980s with its current condition in 1997. Information on Project Renewal in Hatikvah like this file–including reports, needs-based analysis, fundraising coordination, and printed material–could be found and retrieved, since Colonel Pomrenze had some intellectual control over the philanthropic institution’s records.

Correspondence thanking Stephen Solender, October 15, 1997

Correspondence thanking Stephen Solender, October 15, 1997

The potential donor later thanked Stephen Solender, UJA-Federation Executive Vice President until 1999, for locating the information on Hatikvah found in the UJA-Federation records. The Project Renewal records were located, retrieved, shared with the donor, and then returned to offsite storage, where records like these and many, many others would be processed, arranged, described, preserved, and incorporated into the ongoing UJA-Federation of New York Archives Project.

Whether for the sake of development, public relations, analysis, or reporting: archives, especially those housed in a climate controlled environment in an archival repository, have limitless value both to researchers and the institution that created those records.

January 30, 2015

Jewish Education at UJA-Federation

Filed under: Uncategorized — thiscangobacktothearchives @ 10:40 am

The files of Howard Wasserman (15.5 Bankers Boxes), Director of Jewish Education at UJA-Federation from 1989 to 1995, were recently processed. Approximately half of Wasserman’s files, 8 Bankers boxes, are requests from agencies for funding from the Fund for Jewish Education (FJE) – what we are calling agency proposals. The Fund for Jewish Education was created under the auspices of UJA-Federation in 1978 through the contribution by Mr. and Mrs. Joseph S. Gruss of $1 million per year for a five-year period, matched by the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies and the United Jewish Appeal of Greater New York. Eventually Gruss gifted more than $30 million as a “life monument” to perpetuate Jewish religious education in the New York region. According to the documentation, 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.”

The agency proposal files are arranged alphabetically under “Fund for Jewish Education” and include agency proposals, both accepted and rejected, from 1984 to 1995 as well as general proposals from 1993 to 1995 while he served as Director of FJE. Wasserman was Director of FJE while Director of Education at UJA-Fed.

Below is a transmittal form from the Five Towns School of Jewish Education for the Special Child for a program called, “Community outreach to families of pre-school to young adults” in February of 1989, an example of the types of proposals that the Fund for Jewish Education received. Unfortunately, this proposal was later rejected.

The Five Towns School of Jewish Education for the Special Child

The Five Towns School of Jewish Education for the Special Child

Below is a scan of a 1990 acceptance letter to Parents for Torah for All Children (P’Tach) for $25,000 for a program entitled, “Early Childhood Screening Program”, accompanied by a renewal request in October 1989 that discusses the purpose of early childhood screening.

P'Tach acceptance letter for 1989-1990

P’Tach acceptance letter for 1989-1990

P'Tach, early childhood screening, 1989

P’Tach, early childhood screening, 1989

Below is an example of correspondence between the Executive Director of the Shorefront Jewish Community Council and Debbie Niderberg, Coordinator of Outreach and Special Projects for the Fund for Jewish Education, addressing the need for additional funds. Note that the first letter was blind carbon copied (bcc) to Howard Wasserman and that the second letter was on stationery where Howard Wasserman was listed as Director of FJE (Wasserman was FJE’s Director of Outreach from 1991 to 1992). The third scan below is the first page of a grant application by the Shorefront JCC to FJE for $14,300 in the 1994 to 1995 fiscal year.

Correspondence between Judah Klein (ED of Shorefront JCC) and Debbie Niderberg, August 3, 1994

Correspondence between Judah Klein (ED of Shorefront JCC) and Debbie Niderberg, August 3, 1994

FJE final installment letter to Shorefront JCC

FJE final installment letter to Shorefront JCC

Shorefront JCC Grant Application

Shorefront JCC Grant Application

After leaving UJA-Federation and the Fund for Jewish Education, Wasserman was Executive Vice President (EVP) at the Edith and Carl Marks Jewish Community House of Bensonhurst from 1997 to 2010. According to John Ruskay, EVP and CEO of UJA-Federation, “Howard provided extraordinary professional leadership in transforming an agency – from one challenged in terms of finances, program quality, its physical plant, and its board – to a thriving agency.” ( In the late 1990s, Howard Wasserman served as Consultant to the Israel Experience, Inc. (Israel in Jewish Communal Leadership) in which older students can experience an educational trip to Israel. (

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