March 14, 2013

“Some Aspects of Federation History”

Filed under: early history, found in the archives — susanwoodland @ 4:40 pm

“Some Aspects of Federation History” is the title of Part I of a 1954 report by H. L. Lurie, entitled, “Jewish Communal Organization”.  The ‘federation’ mentioned in the title of Part I does not specifically refer to The Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York (FJP); as explained in the preface, “The term ‘federation’ is used as a generic term for all local communal organizations which have [as] their objective the planning and/or the financing of Jewish social welfare programs or meeting other common needs or local responsibilities on a city-wide or large area basis.”

"Some Aspects of Federation History", 1954

“Some Aspects of Federation History”, 1954

Lurie was for many years the Executive Director of the Bureau of Jewish Social Research in New York, which was a forerunner of CJFWF, of which Lurie was also Executive Director.  Many of his publications from the 1930s are available online from the Berman Jewish Policy Archive at the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at New York University.

H. L. Lurie prepared this study for the Council of Jewish Federations and Welfare Funds (CJFWF) with a planned Part II which would “analyze and interpret the major aspects, basic problems and trends in Jewish community organization” as of 1954.  The first chapter of Part I delves into a very brief and very general history of the Jewish population in the United States in terms of how its social and economic needs had been addressed and met – mostly through very small congregational, social, fraternal and mutual aid societies serving very specific parts of the community.  By 1875 Jewish immigration to the United States had begun to expand tremendously.  “With this growth of population we reach a stage of complexity of group organization where the need for coordination … becomes obvious to the … leaders in communal service.”

The “Jewish Communal Register of New York City“, published in 1918, listed an astonishing 3,637 separate Jewish organizations, according to Lurie.  It was at this point that the welfare and relief societies began to merge, in order to better serve a larger and more diverse Jewish community.  In New York City, United Jewish Charities was established in 1874 from the “merger of two congregational relief societies, two agencies operating under secular auspices, a neighborhood relief organization and an agency providing fuel to needy families.  Other small relief societies later joined this merger …”  This and other mergers in New York and elsewhere “did not result in federations; the several agencies were consolidated, losing their separate identities … Federation [was] defined as a coming together of agencies which continued their separate existence and autonomy but cooperate for a common purpose such as central fund raising or planning was a later development which was first initiated in Cincinnati and Boston in 1895.”

This report, because it was published by CJFWF, will be transferred from the UJA-Federation of New York collection to the CJFWF collection, I-69, also at the American Jewish Historical Society.

February 13, 2013

Solomon Lowensteins’s Correspondence Files, 1936-1940

Filed under: early history — susanwoodland @ 2:28 am

Solomon Lowenstein was Executive Director of the Federation for the Support of Jewish Philanthropic Societies of New York City from 1920 to 1935, when his title changed to Executive Vice-President.  He remained in this position until his death in 1942.

Over a year ago we processed what we thought were the only surviving files from Solomon Lowenstein’s office; they contained about a box and a half of his agency files, through the 1930s and 1930s.  They had been boxed up and sent to storage originally with Maurice Hexter’s files, with Dr. Hexter retaining the files for his own correspondence for about another 5 years.

We have just located another box of Lowenstein’s correspondence packed with miscellaneous early Budget Department files; there was no identification at the box level as to the existence in this box of Lowenstein files, so it was a very happy surprise.  The box contains General Correspondence files from 1936-1940.

The topics range from New York State Unemployment insurance guidelines to correspondence with staff from the Julius Rosenwald Fund, to communications with Samuel Levy, Manhattan Borough President.

Lowenstein’s correspondence with Samuel Levy focused on details of Works Progress Administration (WPA) funds that were channeled through the New York City Department of Buildings to about 30 Federation agencies with facilities in Manhattan, for long-overdue building maintenance.  As stated in the letter from Mr. Levy, the funds were to be used “for making repairs in charitable institutions in the Borough of Manhattan so as to make these institutions proper places for the care of the wards of the city”.

Borough President Levy writes to Solomon Lowenstein

Borough President Samuel Levy writes to Solomon Lowenstein

Among the Federation agencies whose buildings benefited from this WPA project were longtime Federation agencies Beth Israel Hospital, the Hebrew Orphan Asylum of NYC (near City College on 138th Street), and the Central Jewish Institute at 125 E. 85th Street.

Another correspondent was Mark M. Jones, the Economic Consultant to the The Hospital Survey for New York, which was sponsored by the United Hospital Fund; the carbon copy of the letter below is of interest mainly because, in response to a request from Mr. Jones for information about Federation, Dr. Lowenstein includes details of Federation’s mission, as well as how Federation’s budgeting decisions were made:

Solomon Lowenstein explains Federation's mission

Solomon Lowenstein explains Federation’s mission, page 1

Page 2

Page 2

This small group of files serves as a wonderful snapshot into the work of the Executive Vice-President of Federation during these 5 years just prior to WWII.

For more information about Dr. Lowenstein’s career just prior to joining Federation, please refer to the American Jewish Historical Society’s collection of Hebrew Orphan Asylum records, I-42; Dr. Lowenstein was Superintendent of the Hebrew Orphan Asylum from 1905 to 1920.

October 11, 2012

Effect of World War II on Federation and its agencies

The budget files of FJP’s social service agencies from the late 1940s are being processed. From the contents of the budget files up to this point, it is evident that World War II had an impact on Federation as well as the agencies that it funded. The war had an impact in all areas of funding, especially the child care agencies and medical care agencies.  Agencies were more cautious in their spending during those hard times.  In general following the war, budgetary requirements from agencies increased considerably and agencies began to ask for more funds from Federation. Furthermore the war had an effect on the United Jewish Appeal that had just been formed in 1938. Below are several documents culled from the Budget Files that demonstrate the impact of World War II.

In the minutes of the 1943-44 budget hearing of the Jewish Board of Guardians (JBG) depicted below, it was stated that the impact of the war created additional difficulties for the society and that there was a spike in juvenile delinquency. In addition, JBG promised in future memoranda to indicate projects that should be ceased following the war.

Jewish Board of Guardians Minutes,  1943-44

page 2 of Minutes

The following 1948 letter from Ira Younker to I. Edwin Goldwasser (FJP Executive Director, 1917-1920, Chairman of Distribution Committee, and Vice President in 1948) mentions that should there be an economic downturn that Federation would be in a position to supply money for economic relief as well as sustenance.

Correspondence from Ira Younker to I. Edwin Goldwasser, April 13, 1948

Correspondence from Ira Younker to I. Edwin Goldwasser, April 13, 1948

Finally, this memorandum from Jerome Saltz (FJP Budget Director, 1941-1971) to the Distribution Committee indicates the budget as well as budgetary recommendations for Community Centers and Fresh Air Work agencies separate from the Special Allowances for Wartime costs.

Memorandum from Jerome Saltz to the Distribution Committee, May 21, 1948

Memorandum from Jerome Saltz to the Distribution Committee, May 21, 1948

page 2

page 2 of Memorandum

July 9, 2012

Driving Fund

Filed under: early history — susanwoodland @ 6:16 pm

One of the agencies that came into the Federation family in the first year of Federation’s existence had the name, “Crippled Children’s Driving Fund”.  When I first saw that name, after registering shock at how much has changed in terms of political correctness, I was confused at why, or how, children with physical disabilities would be learning to drive.

1917 report of receipts and expenditures

The file is in the Finance and Budget subseries, and contains correspondence and budgetary information on this agency.  Above is the financial report for the year ended December 31, 1917.  From a dry financial report, however, it is possible to learn a bit about how they used the funds they received from Federation.  In fact, the children were not learning to drive, they were being taken out to drives on days when they had medical appointments.  Drives in Central Park, with a caretaker to accompany them, and loveliest of all, milk and crackers as a snack.

From another financial document in the file, shown below, more details are revealed.  There is a Supporting Schedule that explains the $268.59 (listed above) that was spent on the milk and crackers.

Supporting Schedule, elaboration on the milk and crackers

Handwritten is this note: “The above item is based on the expenses for several years past for milk and crackers supplied by the Sheffield Farms Co. and the National Biscuit Co., respectively.  Milk and crackers are being supplied regularly to the children on the drives in the park.”  At the bottom, in a different hand, is this: “We pay for milk at the regular price.  The Nat’l Biscuit Co. furnishes us crackers at practically half price.”

The drives and the refreshments were undoubtedly a welcome break in what was probably a bleak life for these children.  We have processed financial files for this fund for 1917-1920.  This week we expect to bring in more financial files, including the 1920s, and I’ll make a point of checking to see how long the fund remained in existence, or at least how long it was funded by Federation.

Perhaps the National Biscuit Company was approached for a break in the cost of the crackers because their factory was local.  Located between 15th and 16th Streets and 9th and 10th Avenues, the factory building now houses Chelsea Market.  Between the 1930s and the 1960s, an elevated train track ran alongside the building at the height of the 3rd floor; today this train track is part of the High Line Park.  This park now provides fresh air and exercise for all of us.  And it’s a short walk from the park into Chelsea Market to pick up a fresh bottle of milk from Ronnybrook Farm Dairy.

April 2, 2012

processing the boxes of Federation executive Joseph Willen

Filed under: early history, the process of archival processing — thiscangobacktothearchives @ 10:12 am

In our first shipment of archival material from offsite storage (see earlier blog entries for photographs), we processed eight boxes of material from Joseph Willen’s tenure as Executive Vice President and Executive Consultant at the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York.

So far, the material processed has been mostly material from 1938-1945 (including material from before his time as Vice President) and 1967-1975 (material from his work as an FJP consultant). This last Thursday, along with many other boxes, we have received another 32 boxes of archival material related to Joseph Willen from offsite storage. With the new shipment, we hope to expand our collection to include the rest of his tenure as Executive Vice President, roughly from 1945-1967.

To account for some of our great anticipation associated with receiving and processing additional Willen material, here is a portion of a draft of our historical/biographical note for Willen (which will be further augmented after the new shipment of material has been processed):

Alongside Dr. Maurice Hexter, Joseph Willen was appointed executive vice-president of the organization in 1942. During his time as Executive Vice President, Willen actively participated in the merger with the Brooklyn Federation of Jewish Charities (1943), the successful Building Fund for Expansion, Modernization, and Research (1945-1947), the significant expansion of services and assistance to veterans, families, and the elderly, and aided in the City of Life Campaign and Building Fund (1962-1967).

Even before his tenure as Executive Vice President, Joseph Willen was relied upon as an exceptional and innovative fund-raiser. In the article by Jack Wertheimer, “Current Trends in American Jewish Philanthropy,” the author cited Carl Bakal (author of Charity U.S.A.) as suggesting that Joseph Willen invented the practice of publicly calling on a donor to announce how much the donor will be giving, often known as “card-calling,” at fund-raising dinners. Willen enlisted the aid of Felix Warburg to begin the practice of “card-calling” in the 1930s at Federation dinners or events. In the Wertheimer article, Willen offers “that for a person to show off his wealth by conspicuous spending …was considered good form, whereas conspicuous giving was considered bad form…Why couldn’t more modest givers also give conspicuously, simply by announcing their gifts?” (Page 11).  Willen distinguished himself with fund-raising practices like “card-calling” or the successful 1944 Campaign without a Fixed Quota, where “[o]ur quota will be the conscience, the foresight, and the courage of the Jewish community…its readiness to prepare for the returning soldier and the needs of the post-war world…its will to build a finer community” (Golden Heritage, 72). Throughout his career, Willen brought a level of professionalism to the business of fund-raising for a philanthropic organization. Together, Willen and Hexter “organized fund-raising campaigns that brought in more than $1 billion” dollars (New York Times, July 10, 1985).

In 1967, Joseph Willen retired from his position as Executive Vice President to become an Executive Consultant and remained a consultant until the 1980s. He passed away on July 6, 1988 at Mount Sinai Medical Center, an institution that Joseph Willen helped raise funds for and expand the mission of as Executive Vice President of the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York.

In the coming weeks, we look forward to completing the processing of the Willen boxes and adding to the draft of the note you (hopefully) just read above.

March 30, 2012

Colonel Seymour J. Pomrenze, records manager for UJA-Federation of New York

Filed under: early history, interesting or noteworthy archival material — susanwoodland @ 3:20 pm

In the late 1970s, before UJA in New York City merged with the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies in New York (FJP),  Colonel Seymour J. Pomrenze retired from the army and began work as a consultant for various organizations, including FJP.

The American Jewish Historical Society recently received the papers of Colonel Pomrenze; the finding aid to that collection has been posted online and can be found here:

The Colonel, as he was called within the various Jewish organizations where he left his mark as a records manager, shows up all through the archives boxes we have received so far.  I’m quite sure it is because of the Colonel’s work through the 1980s at FJP and later at UJA-Federation of New York that so much of Federation’s earliest records have survived.

There is one box within the UJA-Federation collection that is the subject of this blog, which contains primarily his records management files and some biographical materials from the early 1990s.

As the finding aid to the Pomrenze collection makes clear, however, his most important contribution to the field of records management and archives was his work at the end of WWII in Offenbach, Germany to return looted books and religious items to their owners.  More information can be found in the archives of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC:

Colonel Pomrenze, center, at Offenbach

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