thiscangobacktothearchives

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: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/posthaste.

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:

http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2011/06/jcc_honors_two_during_black-ti.html,

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.

 

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