June 19, 2015

Lots of UJA-Fed Photos Now Viewable Online

Good News! We now have nearly 500 images from the UJA-Federation collection selected, digitized, cataloged, and available online! Believe it or not, this represents just a small selection of all the photographs in the collection. It contains 71 bankers boxes of photographs from each of the four subgroups of the collection (Federation, UJA, Joint Campaign, and UJF). Each box holds an average of 850 prints, so, we estimate the grand total of photographs to be around 60,000.

The dates of the photos range from as early as the 1910s up to as recently as the 2000s, with the bulk of the material landing in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. Both UJA and Federation sought to document and promote their accomplishments, events, and prominent personalities through these images. As these institutions merged, the Joint Campaign and UJA-Fed continued the practice of documenting their activities and their people, so researchers will have an unusually rich visual record of the whole organization to draw upon.

While the majority are black and white 8 x 10″ prints, many other sizes and formats, such as 35mm color slides, various types of color polaroid prints, and negatives of all sizes, are included as well. Below are a precious few for you to sample, but be sure to check out all the digitized photos in our digital gallery when you a chance.


Campers at Hebrew Orphan Asylum Camp

Sophie Tucker, 1965

Sophie Tucker, 1965

“My Dad Upped His Pledge,” 1977

Rosenwald and Tisch at Special Gifts Dinner, 1974

Rosenwald and Tisch at Special Gifts Dinner, 1974

Silbert donating to Israel Emergency Fund, approximately 1970s

Silbert donating to Israel Emergency Fund, approximately 1970s

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

May 25, 2012


Filed under: interesting or noteworthy archival material — Tags: , , — thiscangobacktothearchives @ 2:25 pm

Camping can play an important part of the formation of a personality and now we even have news from the Jewish Voice that  Bob Dylan became who he is (including a soon-to-become recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom) due to the time he spent at Camp Herzl, the Jewish summer camp in Wisconsin.

Another entertainer (though not a prophet,  a mystic or a poet), who owed a lot to the Jewish summer camp experience was Eddie Cantor—comedian, actor and singer, famous from the 1930s to the 1950s. Eddie Cantor initiated the “March of Dimes” fundraising campaign against polio, and is one of the very few real people depicted as a balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Eddie Cantor (“Banjo Eyes”, born Edward Israel Iskowitz, 1892-1964) became an ardent supporter of Jewish camping in general and of the  summer camp he attended as a child, Surprise Lake Camp, run by the Educational Alliance.

Orphaned at birth and raised by his grandmother, Cantor was able to avail himself of the camping services due to the program of scholarships awarded to children from poor families by the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies. Upon attaining fame and success as an entertainer, Eddie Cantor returned the favor with generous support of Jewish camps and camping for underprivileged children. As Jacob Birnbaum, former director of camps for the Educational Alliance says in his oral history interview, Eddie Cantor “provided more money, I think, than any other individual. And he refused to have his name on anything.”

The Camping Subseries materials at the UJA-Federation of New York collection contains a significant amount of materials about the Educational Alliance’s Surprise Lake Camp. The name of its first famous alum, Eddie Cantor, is mentioned in many documents and booklets. At this point, we have not come across any documents generated by Cantor himself with the UJA-Federation of New York collection. However, within the National Jewish Welfare Board collection, there is a great photograph of Cantor with some young campers and also there are some digitized items here at the Center for Jewish History (the YIVO Institute’s Milstein Family Jewish Communal Archive Project website) which give an  idea of Eddie Cantor’s warm regard and care for the camps and campers:

Other material related to Eddie Cantor from this collection or other collections at the Center for Jewish History can be found by searching on his name at

March 23, 2012


Filed under: interesting or noteworthy archival material, the process of archival processing — Tags: — thiscangobacktothearchives @ 10:45 am

Jewish-sponsored camping is considered to be one of the oldest in the U.S., having developed right after emergence of the first camps of the YMCA and Girl Scouts. The first Jewish residential camp, Lake Success Camp, was opened in 1901. From the very beginning, Federation of Jewish Philanthropies (FJP) took a most active part in the sponsoring and support of camping for the children of the overcrowded communities of the Lower East Side and other places in New York populated by Jewish immigrants. In many instances the camps became the first experience of being outdoors in the fresh air and coming into contact with nature for thousands of poor Jewish kids. From the beginning of the camping program, the Jewish communal leaders realized the importance and potential of camping for the younger generation, and also for senior adults and the handicapped. Many agencies of the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies (later UJA-Federation of New York) took part in quite a herculean effort to bring Jewish children and youths closer to nature and a healthy environment, provide adequate rest, good company, balanced nutrition, physical exercise and interesting activities, and to introduce to these children a wide range of cultural and educational programs. The fees were mostly kept at a minimal level, and often the expense of the camp stay was absorbed by the Federation, which paid particular attention to attracting to the camps children from underprivileged families. This can be seen, for example, in a paper by Asher Melzer, Surprise Lake Camp director and later camping consultant, titled: “Whom We Serve and the Philosophy and Practice of Fee Setting” (1961).


Among the agencies whose camping-related materials can be found  in the UJA collection are the Jewish Vacation Association (later Association of Jewish Sponsored Camps), the  Jewish Welfare Board, the Jewish Community Centers and the YM & YWHAs.  Other files include those of the Camping Services Department of the Federation and the Subcommittee on Camps of Federation’s Distribution Committee. The materials reflect a complex picture of various structures cooperating in the organized Jewish camping sphere, interacting in a huge number of projects and keeping active dozens of residential and day camps, camps for the aged, handicapped and mentally ill, camps for the artistically gifted and for the Orthodox. Among the persons active in the camping activities of FJP-UJA were Graenum Berger, Herman Sainer, Asher Melzer, Jerome Mark, who will all be written about as this blog continues.

Covering the time span from 1950s through 1990s, the documents mostly represent the files of the Camping department counselors and directors, the minutes of various committees and records of budget hearings, correspondence with individual camps, cultural programming materials, maps and blueprints, photographs and audio recordings, as well as many booklets and publications on Jewish camping. The materials will be of interest to today’s professional in the area of camping and recreation, as well as for historians and, perhaps, former campers, who might find something long forgotten but heart-warming in the files of the UJA camping services.


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