March 20, 2014

Henry C. Bernstein

Filed under: UJA people — susanwoodland @ 5:44 pm

Very few records have survived as part of the UJA-Federation of New York archives project.  There were many opportunities over the years before the merger for UJA to have moved, lost or otherwise disposed of their inactive records.  The files that do exist seem to have been moved by UJA staff members who assumed Joint Campaign positions, from the UJA offices at 220 W. 58th street to the Joint Campaign offices in the Federation building soon after the official start of the Joint Campaign in 1974.  Once in the Federation building, files would have come under the auspices of the Federation records management protocol, were eventually sent to off-site storage, and became part of our archives project.

As for the UJA files that were not moved in 1974 to the Federation building, a far greater number of boxes, their fate is still unknown.

The largest series of UJA files that we have found so far belong to Henry C. Bernstein, who was the Executive Vice-President (EVP) of UJA of Greater New York, Inc. from about 1942 through 1970.

Henry C. Bernstein, center, with Samuel Blitz, 1970

Henry C. Bernstein, center, with Samuel Blitz, 1970

Samuel Blitz is listed on UJA letterhead as Executive Vice-President together with Bernstein, for most of the 28 years Bernstein served in that position.  Because his files have not surfaced, it is unclear what his role as co-EVP was, and Bernstein overshadows him because at least some of his work is documented and Blitz’s is not.

Bernstein had been Campaign Director for UJA in addition to EVP, and may in fact have concentrated on fundraising as EVP.  (Perhaps Blitz and Bernstein mirrored Hexter and Willen at Federation, sharing the EVP position, with Willen in fundraising and Hexter in a more administrative role).  In any event, Blitz retired in 1965 and Bernstein chose to transfer his energies in 1971 to UJA fundraising and devoted the next ten years at UJA to raising funds for the Israel Emergency Fund, the Israel Education Fund, and in matching donors with special projects in Israel in conjunction with the Jewish Agency, the JDC and other organizations with similar missions as UJA.  His files end in 1980.  Following Bernstein in 1971 as EVP was Ernest Michel, the subject of a post on this blog last year.

In addition to documenting Bernstein’s work specifically, his files also provide us with clues about the work of UJA-NY in general.  One can glean a certain amount of information about the workings of the Board of Governors of UJA and of the various professional staff members who corresponded with Bernstein, their interactions with Federation of NY, their fundraising events and important projects.  Unfortunately, Bernstein’s files as EVP, although they begin in 1940,

1940 Report of Meetings, UJA

United Jewish Appeal for Refugees, 1940

skip the 1950s entirely and only pick up again in 1968.  The best coverage of his years as EVP are his 1968-1970 subject files.  I can only guess that he chose to keep these more recent files with him when his office moved, or perhaps those were already the only files remaining in the UJA building.  His fundraising and project files for 1971-1980 exist almost intact (1976 is missing entirely), and serve as a good record of those years.

In the near future I hope to post a blog about the UJA office building itself at 220 W. 58th Street.  I will look for any evidence of what may have happened to the files as I go through the one existing box of administrative files from the 1940s-1960s.

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