July 28, 2015

Publicity Program and Record for 1929 of Federation

Filed under: audio-visual material, early history, Federation people — Tags: , — thiscangobacktothearchives @ 12:03 pm

Isidore Sobeloff, the Director of Public Affairs for the Federation for the Support of Jewish Philanthropic Societies of New York, compiled a scrapbook of material that his department created in 1929. The scrapbook was held by the Sobeloff family and was recently donated by Susan Sobeloff to the UJA-Federation of New York Archives Project in March. Since March, the scrapbook underwent preservation treatment and has been digitized and made available online.

Available along with many other digitized minutes, oral histories and photographs ingested within the Center for Jewish History Digital Collections, the digitized version of the scrapbook captures the order and feel of the original material. Before digitization, the scrapbook underwent a series of preservation actions in the Werner J. and Gisella Levi Cahnman Preservation Laboratory, including unbinding the book and separating fragile, deteriorating newspaper clippings from acidic pages and one another. The Preservation Lab took photographs of the scrapbook before digitization and these photographs can be viewed as part of the digitized version of the scrapbook under the label, “Scrapbook before preservation treatment.”

The scrapbook, in many ways, reads both like the history of a tumultuous campaign year and, also, like an artist’s portfolio, highlights his decisions as the director. Clippings mention Federation agencies and fundraising effort and publications illustrate how the department was the ambassador or mouthpiece for the philanthropic organization.

Front cover, 1929

Front cover of Publicity Program and Record for 1929 of Federation

The scrapbook documents the activities of Sobeloff and the Public Affair Department during a time period for which we have very little archival material, both before the Public Affairs Department started to be called the Public Relations Department and before the Federation merged with the Brooklyn Federation of Jewish Charities to become the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York.

Mailing from Federation

1929 Mailing to Pledgers, “When you said that…”

In addition to the wonderful campaign information related to outreach to new members and a significant effort to further democratize Federation, the scrapbook is filled with allusions to the Stock Market Crash of 1929 and the difficulties associated with fundraising in the midst of the largest economic downturn in United States history. For instance, he offers that:

As we look back at 1929, we must divide the planned program into the period referred to until now and the period from immediately after the market collapse until the end of the year. Out of all the confusion came the decision that our public had to be convinced that giving to Federation was a constant all-year-round problem unaffected by outside factors; that regardless of business conditions, the work of healing and mercy must go on.

The scrapbook details some of the decisions made to prompt campaign pledgers and workers to give and meet their commitments both in spite of the crash and, ironically, to help deal with even greater need because of the crash.

Mailing from Federation, 1929

Mailing to Pledgers, “Federation’s Deficit has been Decreased to 900,000!”

Later, Mr. Sobeloff relocated to Detroit to become the executive director of the Detroit Federation. His oral history is digitized and available. In his oral history interview, Sobeloff recounts his training in Jewish communal service, time as Director of Public Relations for Federation for the Support of Jewish Philanthropic Societies of New York, and his experience as a communal leader in Detroit from the 1930s through the 1950s.

Special thanks to Susan Sobeloff for her donation of the scrapbook to the American Jewish Historical Society on behalf of the Sobeloff Family.

June 8, 2015

1917 provision for Jewish Education

Filed under: early history — susanwoodland @ 6:47 pm

As Federation was preparing to officially incorporate in 1917, the men and women of the Committee on Federation met frequently in 1916 and 1917 to set up the structure of the new organization and determine how it would function and which agencies it would support.  I have found one set of minutes particularly interesting – the minutes of January 8, 1917 (beginning on page 13), which include several appendices.  Appendix C is a letter to Felix Warburg, the Chairman of Federation prior to incorporation and his election as president, from a group “constituting … a temporary committee of twenty-five to consider the financial aspect of Jewish religious education in New York City”.  A faction involved with the creation of Federation was in favor of including Jewish education as agencies eligible for Federation’s support; this issue was discussed repeatedly in the meetings that year.  It was clear that in addition to disagreements about Federation’s core responsibilities to the community, and whether that included any agencies in addition to medical institutions and the truly poor and needy, there were financial hurdles to adding Jewish education to Federation’s commitments.

The group proposed various solutions, and recommended that Federation form a Board of School Aid in order to solve the issue of funding.

There were several fears in NOT becoming involved in funding Jewish Education soon.  High on that list was that another federation would form specifically for that purpose, and would compete for resources and influence from within the same community.

The letter is signed by the 25 members of the committee – an illustrious group of Jewish educators in New York, most of whom were not involved with Federation in any other capacity.  Please follow all the links for additional information about some of these remarkable committee members:

Israel Unterberg (chairman) – Self-made manufacturer, banker, philanthropist and president of the Jewish Education Association.  Unlike other members of the committee, he was on the board of Montefiore Hospital, an early Federation agency, and his wife Bella was a member of the Special Committee on Federation.  Their daughter Lillian Derecktor speaks about her father in her oral history.

Henrietta Szold – In 1917, 5 years after founding Hadassah, Henrietta Szold continued as the head of the Department of Education of the ZOA in New York.  She remained influential in the field of Jewish Education in America before moving to Jerusalem in 1920 to focus on the Hadassah Medical Organization.

Samson Benderly – “Benderly was a visionary and was capable of inspiring others to follow his vision. He developed around him a group of remarkable young people who shared his excitement about changing the face of American Jewish education”, known as “The Benderly Boys”. [quoted from the review of the book about the Benderly boys – click on “Samson Benderly” above to follow link]

Judah L. Magnes – First Chancellor and President of Hebrew University, and a founder of Ihud, which proposed a bi-national state in Palestine.

Louis Marshall – Lawyer and Jewish community leader who was a founder of the American Jewish Committee. The finding aid to his collection is here.
Mordecai M. Kaplan – Rabbi, essayist and Jewish educator and the co-founder of Reconstructionist Judaism. The finding aid to the Jewish Reconstructionist Foundation Records is here.
Cyrus L. Sulzberger – Jewish communal leader who was director of the Jewish Publication Society, chairman of the Executive Committee of the Bureau of Jewish Social Research, founder of the American Jewish Committee and later, treasurer of Federation.

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

September 18, 2014

Updated FJP preliminary finding aid now available

Filed under: early history, the process of archival processing — thiscangobacktothearchives @ 2:28 pm

We are excited to announce that an updated but still-partial finding aid to the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York (FJP) subgroup I, covering the years 1909 to 1986, is now available here:


This preliminary finding aid describes material of over 500 Bankers boxes (over a football field in length).  The following sections of the collection are now available to researchers:

  • Minutes of the Board of Trustees and the Executive Committee – including links to the digitized files of all of these minutes
  • Files of the Executive Vice-Presidents
  • Finance Department Annual Agency files
  • Fundraising Department Campaign files – don’t miss the digitization of a wire recording of a 1957 campaign workshop
  • The Brooklyn Federation of Jewish Charities files – many of these files have been digitized and are linked to the finding aid

We anticipate that these areas will be of immediate interest to researchers.  Please note the following:

  • If you would like to go directly to the folder lists and the digital files, use this link to the downloadable container list.
  • If requesting boxes to see in the Reading Room, researchers are advised to use this form, with the reminder that boxes are off-site and must be requested at least 2 business days in advance of their visit
  • A link to the partial finding aid for the UJA-Federation (UJF) subgroup IV (1986-2000) can be found here:
  • And a link to the completed finding aid for the Oral History collection subgroup V can be found here:

The completed finding aid to the entire FJP collection as well as the other subgroups will be available in the middle of 2015. Please stay tuned.

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 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.

May 8, 2014

Brooklyn Federation of Jewish Charities material digitized

Front cover

Front cover of Annual Report, 1910

We have recently digitized and made available a significant selection of archival material from the Brooklyn Federation of Jewish Charities, including their Board of Directors meetings minutes from 1909-1944, annual reports from 1910-1920, and an interesting 1938 study entitled “Study of the Jewish Community Centers Affiliated with the Brooklyn Federation of Jewish Charities.”

The Brooklyn Federation of Jewish Charities (BFJC) was formed in 1909 and in 1944 merged into the Federation for the Support of Jewish Philanthropic Societies of New York City to form the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York. Brooklyn Federation of Jewish Charities supported local Jewish social service agencies with funding, administrative and other professional aid. Agencies in the Brooklyn Federation included Beth Moses Hospital, Brooklyn Free Loan Association, Brooklyn Hebrew Orphan Asylum, First Hebrew Day Nursery, Hebrew Educational Society, Jewish Community House of Bensonhurst, and numerous neighborhood YM-YWHAs.

The minutes, annual reports, and study are available online through the Center for Jewish History’s Digital Collections. The Brooklyn Federation material has also been aggregated into a collection which can be searched and re-organized by title and date.

Also, at no additional fee, it bears mentioning that the UJA-Federation of New York Oral History Project interviews and transcripts have been collected and are available all in one place, right here. These interviews can be searched by subject, date, interviewee and/or interviewer, as well as many other elements of the metadata for each digitized oral history interview.

February 28, 2014

Found purse

We are currently processing the second half of the Stephen Solender Subject Files.  While arranging these files for processing, I discovered a small purse containing UJA pins.  The purse was appropriately housed in a folder entitled “Donated Purse w/ UJA Pins.”  We have not encountered that many artifacts in the collection thus far, so a find like this is great!  There are 37 pins attached to the purse, covering almost the entire surface area of the purse.  The pins contain slogans evocative of the times they were from. Pins containing such slogans include “Save Them Now, Absorb Them Now”, “Strengthen The Settlements,” “Give Them Home and Hope,” “Homes Not Hovels,” “If I Forget Thee,” “$100000000 for Refugees”, “1939-1953 Fifteen Years of Life Saving Service,” “Help UJA Build New Lives – In Israel and Other Lands,” “For Service to UJA”, “UJA Torchbearer 1951”, “U.J.A. Homemaker 1952”, and ﬣﬤנּסּתּ (“The Knesset”).

Pictured below are two images containing both sides of the purse, shielded with pins. Click images to enlarge.

Front of purse Back of purse

We will continue to blog as more interesting artifacts are found.

February 11, 2014

Central Bureau for the Jewish Aged

Filed under: early history, interesting or noteworthy archival material — Tags: — thiscangobacktothearchives @ 3:48 pm

Eleven boxes of archival materials related to the Central Bureau for the Jewish Aged (CBJA) are now open and available to researchers. The CBJA files capture the most complete account of the Central Bureau, from the incorporation of the agency to final sets of Executive Committee minutes, with coverage from 1945-1988.

The Central Bureau for the Jewish Aged (CBJA) was founded as an umbrella agency (an agency made of many other agencies) by the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies in 1945 and continued through the merger of the Federation with the United Jewish Appeal of Greater New York until circa 1988.

Pamphlet, Central Bureau for the Jewish Aged, circa 1951

Cover of pamphlet, “Thirty-One Work Together: The Story of the Central Bureau for the Jewish Aged,” circa 1951

In the minutes of the January 1988 Central Bureau Executive Committee meeting, a member of the committee recounted that the Central Bureau began as an extension or offshoot of Jewish Family Services (JFS) “at a time when work with the elderly was considered unimportant.” Unlike a Federation-affiliated agency that interacted directly with elderly Jewish clients and their respective families, the Central Bureau was established as a way to organize a variety of different agencies that, at least in part, offered direct service and programs to the Jewish aged. Moreover, the umbrella agency was unique in several other respects: it was a Federation subvention agency, rather than an affiliated institution, that planned, coordinated, and facilitated communication between Federation and non-Federation agencies providing care and services to the Jewish aged and, at its height, collaborated with agencies located throughout New York City and in New Jersey. In a collaborative spirit that seems ahead of its time, the by-laws of the Central Bureau committed the agency “[t]o serve as the instrumentality through which the metropolitan Jewish community may study the methods for best providing effective care for the aged…” where the best and most effective care for the Jewish aged in New York or New Jersey might come from a Federation-affiliated or non-affiliated agency.

Central Bureau for Jewish Aged, Pamphlet centerfold

Centerfold of pamphlet, “Thirty-One Work Together: The Story of the Central Bureau for the Jewish Aged,” circa 1951

The Central Bureau was supported by member agency dues and, as a subvention agency, an annual grant from the Federation. There were 28 original member agencies that comprised the Central Bureau in 1945, 31 member agencies in 1951, and, by 1966, had doubled its membership with 52 participating agencies. Near the time of the Bureau’s dissolution sometime in 1988, their Executive Committee was especially concerned about the future of the agency, in that, their membership had decreased to 28 agencies. The number of member agencies fluctuated and the roster of agencies changed, but included homes for the aged, hospitals, family agencies, group work agencies, camps, and an employment and guidance service agency.

We are greatly enthused that this portion of the UJA-Federation of New collection is now available for research; the CBJA files demonstrate an enviable sense of collaboration and coordination between Federation agencies and other institutions that provided care and services to the Jewish elderly in New York and New Jersey.

Older Posts »

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: