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.
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.
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.