May 2, 2014

Bridge and UJA-Federation

This week, while processing some UFJC Public Relations files of newspaper clippings, I encountered this:



Being fairly ignorant of the game of bridge, but nonetheless having previously encountered this column dedicated to the discussion of bridge strategy in the New York Times, I thought it was unusual that UJA-Federation was mentioned there. But as I proceeded through subsequent years’ worth of clippings, I found a few other Times bridge columns mentioning UJA-Federation and its annual tournament. Indeed, it turns out that the Times bridge column regularly covered this charity event over the years, as a search of the newspaper’s database brings up many columns mentioning UJA-Federation. We found columns from as early as 1967 and as recently as February of this year.

While these bridge columns are mainly concerned with the game play itself, there is some UJA-Federation history to be gleaned from them as well. Raising many thousands of dollars each year, the tournament is routinely referred to in the column as “the world’s most successful charity bridge game,” and has been staged in such auspicious settings as the Harmonie Club and the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City. The event was organized by the Women’s Division, principally through Tubby Stayman, who has been involved with it since its inception over fifty years ago and who remains active with the tournament today, at age 90.

April 4, 2014

UJF EVP files complete!

Filed under: UJF people — Tags: , , , — thiscangobacktothearchives @ 1:28 pm

The processing of the files of the UJA-Federation (UJF) Executive Vice Presidents (EVP) is now complete! Ernest W. Michel (1986-1989), Stephen D. Solender (1986-1999), and Dr. John S. Ruskay (1999-2014) will soon be accessible and open to use by researchers, spanning the years of UJA-Federation’s existence, from 1986 through 2000.

The completed UJF EVP files constitute 167 linear feet. The files of Stephen D. Solender (SDS) and John Ruskay include chronological correspondence, general correspondence, and subject files. The alphabetical subject files of SDS alone are voluminous (over 100 linear feet in material). They arrived from storage in three separate shipments which were arranged separately and integrated intellectually.

Both Solender and Ruskay were visionaries in Jewish communal service. Upon his retirement from UJA-Federation in 1999, SDS became President and CEO of the United Jewish Communities (UJC), and the archive includes documentation of Solender’s early involvement with UJC. The United Jewish Communities was an organization incorporated in 1999 as a result of merger discussions held between representatives of the Council of Jewish Federations, (CJF), United Israel Appeal (UIA), and United Jewish Appeal (UJA). Pictured below is Solender at a public affairs event in 2000 (see also


Solender’s files cover a myriad of topics that UJF was involved with in its earliest years. Among them was the Capital Campaign, a campaign focused on earning funds for building and rebuilding the facilities of its beneficiary organizations. His files also document his involvement in UJA-Federation’s many committees. The files include his correspondence with international agencies such as the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI), continuing UJA’s work overseas. Solender’s files contain discussion topics with other UJA-Federation leadership, and the first evidence appears of substantial, permanent correspondence by e-mail. It is clear from the contents of the files that the best way to archive e-mail in the late 1990s was by printing it out and filing it in subject folders. There is some material concern the year 2000 and the future vision of UJA-Federation. A significant amount of topical overlap exists between the UJF EVP Subject Files and the UJF Budget Department Subject Files.

John Ruskay’s files were also recently processed, comprising 7 linear feet of material, representing his files up to the year 2000. His later files are not part of this project as they are still current and in active use. His files include his involvement with UJF’s Program Services Department prior to his becoming EVP of UJA-Federation, as well as his correspondence with outside organizations affiliated with UJF such as the Taglit-Birthright Israel program. In his fifteen years as EVP and CEO, Ruskay helped raise $2.7 billion for UJA-Federation and increased its endowment from $330 million to $880 million. In his weekly newsletter “From the CEO,” Ruskay touches upon many important issues to the Jewish community, ranging from Jewish poverty, aging, disaster relief from Hurricane Sandy and government relations. Pictured below is an image of John Ruskay announcing his resignation (


A complete finding aid to the EVP files (both FJP and UJF) is currently in progress and we will post a link to it in a future blog post as soon as it is completed.

December 16, 2013

Budget Files complete!

Filed under: the process of archival processing — Tags: , , , , , — thiscangobacktothearchives @ 1:25 pm

The processing of the budget files is now complete!  The files of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) are the largest series in the entire collection. The budget files themselves are over 500 linear feet after being processed (that’s over 5 football fields!).  The budget files consist of a variety of budgetary files such as annual agency files, Budget Department subject files, financial reports, agency financial reports, audited agency reports, Distribution Committee reports, functional committee reports, Greater New York Fund files, and Financial Experience of Affiliated Societies files.

Of significance to researchers is the completion of the annual agency files.  This means that agency files from 1917-2000 are now available to researchers, spanning 84 years and 9 decades.  The files cover the entire Federation of Jewish Philanthropies (FJP) lifespan, plus 13 years of UJA-Federation (UJF) files after the merger, from 1986 to 2000. This sub-subseries is the largest of any in the collection. The files comprise 293.5 linear feet (294 bankers boxes and over 8,000 folders).  The processing of the agency budget files is the culmination of more than a year’s work of arduous processing by a single archivist. The FJP Annual Agency Budget Files finding aid is now available online ( and the files are available for research.

This sub-subseries will be indispensable to researchers seeking information about a particular agency that Federation funded in a particular year or across many years.  In addition to the expected budgetary details, the files give a snapshot of the scope of Federation’s work in any given year or decade.  Without even looking at the files themselves, the folder lists are evocative of the time they represent just in the names of the agencies (Brightside Day Nursery – Auxiliary Guild, 1917; Recreation Rooms and Settlement, 1918; Hebrew Orphan Asylum – Ladies’ Sewing Society, 1919).  Because Federation provided funding where the need was greatest, it is possible to see the evolution of social services in the boroughs of New York City as more funding was provided by the government and as the City as a whole became wealthier.  Initially saving a poor population from starvation with funds for Passover food, and by supporting hospitals, care of the elderly and of orphans, Federation grew to support a more middle-class Jewish community that had spread out to Long Island and Westchester with summer camps, community centers and Jewish education, while continuing to support formerly Jewish hospitals in neighborhoods that remained poor.

We will continue to post more about our progress on the project as more series and subseries are completed.

October 30, 2013

UJA-Federation Budget Binders

Filed under: the process of archival processing — Tags: , — thiscangobacktothearchives @ 10:06 am

Binders were in considerable use by the Office of Management and Budget in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s.  Binders made it easy for the Budget Department staff to file and organize material in a quick and easy fashion.  Examples of materials kept in the binders include letters of allotment, grants awarded to UJA-Federation agencies, grants awarded by the Distribution Committee, reserves, chronological correspondence, transfers of capital campaign funds, manuals, and transportation study reports.  Some of the binders contain little material and take minimal time to process and transfer to acid-free folders, while the majority of binders are the 5-inch D-ring type full of paper and therefore take more time to process.  By organizing the binders in chronological order, we have identified some gaps in the material.  We are removing these binders in order to reduce the amount of space this material takes up, and the physical rehousing will be better over the long-term for the documents themselves. The folders are also much lighter in weight than these huge 5” binders.  Of the various kinds of files removed from the binders, it may be the chronological correspondence collected by Budget Director Steven Rosenbloom that will be of most interest to researchers, because they touch on such a multitude of topics in the Subject Files.

Pictured below is a huge binder, full of reserves from 1988 to 1989.

Binder full of Reserves, 1988-1989

June 21, 2013

The Reality of Jewish Poverty in New York

One of the major issues that UJA-Federation is faced with to this day is Jewish poverty.  Jewish poverty has been a concern to Federation of Jewish Philanthropies (FJP) and UJA-Federation (UJF) throughout its long history.  One agency in particular that FJP funded and UJA-Federation continues to fund that deals primarily with the issue of Jewish poverty is the Metropolitan New York Coordinating Council on Jewish Poverty (later the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty).  The files of this agency can be found in the annual agency budget files of FJP as well as UJF, starting in the 1978-1979 fiscal year as a subvention and later becoming a part of the Community Relations/Development files in the 1980s.  The files continue through the 1990s.  Files pertaining to Jewish poverty can also be found in the Budget Department Subject Files, in the Sanford Solender-William Kahn Subject Files, and in the Stephen Solender Subject Files.

In 1972, it was estimated that the number of impoverished Jews stood at approximately 300,000 people, most likely as a result of the 1971 Jewish population survey.  This statistic helped prompt the establishment of the Metropolitan Council in 1972 and its mission was “to combat poverty in Jewish neighborhoods through community-based offices on a city-wide basis.”  The agency’s mission was carried out in a two-fold manner.  First, social services agencies provided information and referral and crisis oriented services and second through community development programs which served to combat crime, improve housing and generate community policy in targeted areas.

In the UJF subgroup, during the 1990-1991 fiscal year, the Metropolitan Council provided services for the elderly, homeless and Jewish poor of New York in conjunction with 21 UJF-funded locally based Jewish Community Councils.  The Jewish Community Councils assisted the poor in their communities in obtaining essential services from government and private agencies such as Medicare, Medicaid, Public Assistance, SSI, Food Stamps, housing, employment, legal services, transportation and escort services, clothing and furniture.  The Met Council administered these programs in conjunction with the New York City Departments for the Aging, Human Resources Administration and the Community Development Agency, as well as UJA-Federation.

The Met Council also provided various neighborhood preservation services.  Crime prevention, housing issues and community policy were addressed in coalition groups with local synagogues, government offices and civic groups.  Funding for neighborhood preservation efforts came from the Department of Housing Preservation and Development of New York City and the State Department of Housing and Community Renewal.

Currently, Met Council works in conjunction with 25 locally based JCCs. The release of UJA-Federation of New York’s 2011 population study published in consultation with Met Council, “The Jewish Community Study”, is published on the Met Council website (accessible here).  On their website, it is stated that currently “the Met Council serves over 100,000 clients on site and throughout our network of Jewish Community Councils in each of the City’s five boroughs. From affordable housing, capacity building initiatives, career services, crisis intervention, and family violence services, to health insurance enrollment assistance, home care programs, home services, immigrant services, and kosher food distribution, Met Council continues to be the voice of New York’s poor and working poor.”

In the UJA-Federation of New York’s 2011 Executive Summary of this survey (, it was mentioned that today “nearly 1 in 5 Jewish households is poor today, with incomes under 150% of the federal poverty guideline, and the proportion of poor Jewish households is higher than it was 10 years ago.  The relative increase has been especially dramatic in the suburbs, where 10 years ago there was very little Jewish poverty.  In the eight-county area, 130,000 Jewish households are poor.  In terms of individuals, 361,000 people (both Jews and non-Jews) live in poor Jewish households.  About 19% of all Jewish households are poor, as are 20% of all people in Jewish households — a considerable increase since 2002, when 15% of people in Jewish households in the New York area lived in poverty.  Jewish poverty has increased considerably in the suburbs, but it is still greatest in New York City, where 24% of Jewish households and 27% of all people in Jewish households are poor (compared with 20% of all people in New York City Jewish households living in poverty in 2002).  An additional 1 in 10 Jewish households is “near poor” — households with incomes between 150% and 250% of the federal poverty guideline.  Beyond the people living in poor Jewish households, an additional 204,000 people can be classified as near poor.  Thus, 565,000 people living in Jewish households in New York are affected by poverty.”

In an email newsletter (“The Reality of Jewish Poverty in New York”) dispensed by John Ruskay, CEO of UJA-Federation of New York, nearly two weeks ago and accessible here, he mentioned that Jewish poverty is a painful reality in the New York community.  He cited the above statistics and talked about the magnitude of the numbers and why it is so difficult to comprehend.   In order to highlight the magnitude of poverty, Ruskay provided several examples such as the Masbia restaurant-style soup kitchens in Brooklyn and Queens run by the Met Council on Jewish Poverty and Project ORE operated by the Educational Alliance in Lower Manhattan.  He went on to mention how hundreds of people wait for hours on line for a package of groceries provided by the Met Council.  Finally, he stated that we must be a caring community and that no agency or philanthropy will eradicate Jewish poverty, but only through our eyes and hearts that we can make things better.

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