Out of the Archives: Early Collaboration
submitted by Michael D. Montalbano, M.A., M.L.I.S., Institutional Archivist / Processing Archivist, Center for Jewish History
Some 25 years before the American Jewish Historical Society, Leo Baeck Institute and YIVO Institute for Jewish Research came together as three of the five partners of the Center for Jewish History, they were meeting to discuss potential for institutional collaboration on different initiatives. This invitation was found in the institutional records of the AJHS.
To search the partner collections now, click here.
Women in the Performing Arts: Molly Picon
by J.D. Arden, M.L.I.S. candidate, Reference Services Research Intern, Center for Jewish History
The transition of the performance industry of America from stage to film was difficult for many to manage. One of the most beloved Jewish American actresses who managed that transition successfully was Molly Picon. We all remember her as the elderly but impish Yente in the film version of Fiddler on the Roof, though her career started much earlier during her childhood in Philadelphia. Hailed as the ingénue of Yiddish stage and screen, Molly Picon was able to melt the hearts of audiences as easily with her endearing glances as with her incisive wit.
Here at the Center for Jewish History, the American Jewish Historical Society holds a large collection entitled the Molly Picon Papers. The collection includes her personal correspondence, scripts, performance programs, and various items from her professional and humanitarian work.
To watch and listen (and laugh and cry) to more of the comedic and dramatic genius of Molly Picon, follow the links listed below.
You can also find out more about Molly Picon on the Jewish Women’s Archive; see some original clips here; and read about Molly Picon’s awards and biography here. She is also on Internet Movie Database.
View the finding aid to the American Jewish Historical Society Collection by clicking here.
Above image: Molly Picon (standing) in a still from the Warner Bros.’ Vitaphone short Temperamental Tillie, 1928. c/o American Jewish Historical Society.
Out of the Archives: “The Ritchie Boys”
by Kevin Schlottmann, Levy Processing Archivist, Center for Jewish History
Werner Erwin Stark (1921 – 1995) was born in Munich, Germany, into a Jewish family of textile merchants. Together with his older brother Walter, he escaped to the United States via France in 1938.
During World War Two, Stark enlisted in the US Army and was trained in counterintelligence at Fort Ritchie, Maryland. He served in Europe as one of the so-called “Ritchie Boys,” a group of mostly Jewish German and Austrian young men whose language and cultural skills proved valuable to the Army in Europe.
Stark performed a variety of counterintelligence tasks, including being dropped into Germany behind enemy lines and there assuming a false name. According to a summary of an oral history, which Stark provided to the Holocaust Memorial Center, Zekelman Family Campus, in Michigan, he also “[served] as an interpreter at the Nuremberg trials of war criminals, … [interrogated] the infamous Dr. Josef Mengele, and [provided] surveillance of the former girlfriend of Ernst Kaltenbrunner, chief of the German Security Service as related to her associations with American army officers.”
The above image is Stark’s counterintelligence ID card, from the Leo Baeck Institute’s Werner Erwin Stark Collection ([AR 11946; click here]).
Modern Yiddish transliteration was created by early-20th-century scholars who saw Judaism as a nationality based on language and were fighting rising anti-Semitism.
The YIVO Institute for Jewish Research is one of the five partners of the Center for Jewish History.
In Memory of Frank Lautenberg
by David P. Rosenberg, M.P.A., Reference Services Research Coordinator, Center for Jewish History
Frank Lautenberg, the last World War II veteran in the United States Senate (he served from 1982-2001 and 2003-his death, today June 3, 2013), played an important role in allowing many Soviet Jews to come to America. His “Lautenberg Amendment” in 1990 relaxed certain standards for “refugee status” so that many Jews were able to immigrate to the US. He was also the Chairmen of the UJA in 1972 and the executive commissioner of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
He is represented in at least three American Jewish Historical Society collections and a book from the AJHS library here at the Center.
The book Living UJA history: an oral history anthology gives a personal insight into the moment when he accepted the chairmanship of the UJA in 1972. It describes how Irving Bernstein spent two hours in Lautenberg’s study trying to convince him to accept the leadership position to no avail. Then the next day Pinhas Sapir, finance commissioner of the state of Israel, “pointed his finger at Frank, looked him directly in the eye, and in his distinctive accent emphasizing each word, said, ‘Lautenberg, you must be the UJA chairmen.’ ” Later, Bernstein inquiries what made him change his mind.
“ ‘How could I say no to a man who wears high-button shoes?’ [Lautenberg said]. It was then I learned that Lautenberg’s father had worn high-button shoes.” (p.64)
The work also contains a portion of a New York Times supplement the UJA published in 1977:
“The challenge is to know that we are links in the chain of generations; that we transcend geography in expressing our unity with the people of Israel – and that we have the ability to make impossible dreams come true…if we act together in strength, and truly believe that Jewish destiny is in Jewish hands.” (p.71)
The AJHS houses the Archive of the American Soviet Jewry Movement, the preeminent source for information on the movement. Click here to explore this resource.
Image c/o United States Congress.