In Honor of International Holocaust Remembrance Day

by David P. Rosenberg, M.P.A., Reference Services Research Coordinator, Center for Jewish History

The UN General Assembly designated January 27—the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau—as International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The children of today will be the last generation to meet Holocaust survivors.

The Center for Jewish History houses countless artifacts and archives concerning this horrific period in history. However, learning about what happened by examining yellow stars, ghetto money, transfer lists, books and other papers cannot truly replace the experience of hearing a survivor speak of the terror, seeing numbers on a human being’s arm and being shaken by someone retelling their experiences decades later.

I’ve met many survivors, and I learn more about the scale and scope of the atrocities from each experience. While technology will never replace in-person conversation and the real-life emotion it conveys, recorded oral histories can capture the testimony better than written words alone.

Oral history is defined as “the collection and study of historical information using sound recordings of interviews with people having personal knowledge of past events.”

Our partners here at the Center have many oral histories about the Holocaust. Other institutions, such as the USC Shoah Foundation or the Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies, are solely dedicated to this important form of documentation.

With the help of Aurora Zinder and Reference Services Research Intern Aliza Schulman, I have compiled a list of institutions that have oral histories concerning the Holocaust.

Resources Available from the Center for Jewish History

Holocaust Resources: An Annotated Bibliography

Family History: Holocaust Research

Through the Ackman & Ziff Family Genealogy Institute, you can access the book Oral history interview guidelines / United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. ”The guidelines were originally created for the Department of Oral History’s own interviewers … However, they also provide general advice that can be applied to a wide variety of oral history projects …” It includes bibliographical references (p. 81-84).

Leo Baeck Institute

“The Austrian Heritage Collection, a program whose specific goal is to document the history of Austrian-Jewish émigrés who fled to the USA during the Nazi years, has been centered at the Leo Baeck Institute since 1996.”

Note: LBI’s collection of unpublished memoirs also offers insights into individual experiences of the Holocaust.

YIVO

Eyewitness Accounts of the Holocaust Period (RG 104): “The YIVO Institute was involved in several projects to collect written testimonies by survivors of the Holocaust. Series I includes the earliest testimonies and consists of 1,143 items. Series II includes 500 interviews with survivors collected in 1954. Series III includes most testimonies received from the 1960’s to the present. At present there are over 300 items in this series.”

Resources Available from Other Institutions

This select list is intended to highlight major repositories and projects that showcase materials for educational purposes.

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) website contains an excellent list of institutions that hold oral history collections. The “International Database of Oral History Testimonies” is meant “to provide a tool for all those interested in the location of Holocaust oral history collections worldwide. There are over 125 entities represented in this catalog.”

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum: “The US Holocaust Memorial Museum’s oral history collection is one of the largest and most diverse resources for Holocaust testimonies in the world.”

USC Shoah Foundation: The Institute for Visual History and Education: Started in 1993, recorded over 50,000 oral testimonies of survivors. The Foundation is now halfway through digitizing these interviews.

Yale University Library: Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies: The Fortunoff Video Archive has around 4000 oral Holocaust testimonies. In addition to “single-witness programs” which focus on one person’s story, they have “thematic programs,” which weave more than one person’s story together. Includes testimony of bystanders as well. 

Museum of Jewish Heritage:  A Living Memorial to the Holocaust: Includes many exhibits about the Holocaust and the persecution and annihilation of Jews from all over Europe. Additionally, they have about 4000 audio and video testimony from survivors, rescuers, liberators and Jews in the Allied Armies. 

Yad Vashem (Israel) has collected over 36,000 testimonies since 1945. 11,000 have been digitized and can be seen at their Visual Center.

Museum of Tolerance: The museum has a “Hall of Testimony A specially designed room of witness where visitors can see and hear unforgettable stories of the courage and sacrifice of Holocaust victims and Survivors.” 

Letters from the Front: Jewish War Heroes Focuses Russian Jewish War veterans and the persecution Russian Jews during WWII. It has Audio and Video resources available online.

Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive: “The Voice/Vision Archive promotes cultural, racial and religious understanding through unprecedented worldwide access to its collection of Holocaust survivor narratives.” 

Telling Their Stories: “High school students at the Urban School of San Francisco conduct and film interviews with Bay Area Holocaust survivors in their homes. Students then transcribe each 2-plus hour interview, create hundreds of movie files associated with each transcript, and then post the full-text, full-video interviews on this public website as a service to a world-wide audience interested in Holocaust studies.“ 

Voices of the Holocaust is a collection of interviews with Holocaust survivors and other displaced persons conducted by Dr. David P. Boder in Europe in 1946. 

The Virginia Holocaust Museum The Oral History Archive contains over 230 digitized testimonies from people who witnessed genocide firsthand. 

Wisconsin Historical Society - Wisconsin Survivors of the Holocaust collection: Archivists from the Wisconsin Historical Society interviewed 22 Wisconsin Holocaust survivors and two American witnesses between 1974 and 1981. The scope of the collection includes 156 hours of audio and 3,400 transcribed pages. These interviews are available digitally, in their entirety, for the first time.

——

For more Center-based resources about the Holocaust, see these previous blog posts.

Translating Charles Darwin
by Melanie J. Meyers, M.S., Senior Reference Services Librarian, Special Collections, Center for Jewish History

November 24 was the 154th anniversary of the publication of Charles Darwin’s most famous work, The Origin of the Species. The full title of the work was On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life, but this title was shortened for the sixth and subsequent editions. Charles Darwin—or sharlz Darṿin in Yiddish—wrote many other scientific books based on his extensive travels and observations, but Origin remains his most well-known work.

Here at the Center for Jewish History, we have a wealth of material by and about Darwin and his theories. We have copies of works such as The Structure and Distribution of Coral ReefsThe Expressions of Emotions in Man and Animals, and dozens of others including critical essays, biographies and collected letters. We also have copies of another famous Darwin work, The Descent of Man, in many different editions. The YIVO Library holds copies of Descent in both Yiddish and Russian, in addition to works discussing Darwin’s theories, written by Frederick Engels and translated into Russian. Both Leo Baeck Institute and The American Jewish Historical also hold works by and about Darwin, in both German and Yiddish. YIVO Library also holds what appears to be a complete set of Darwin’s works in English, published in New York by D. Appleton and Co. publishers. Appleton, founded in 1831, specialized in science books at moderate prices that were affordable for the layperson.

See above for pictures of The Descent of Man in Russian (courtesy of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research) and Yiddish (courtesy of the American Jewish Historical Society).

Remembering Kristallnachtby David P. Rosenberg, M.P.A., Reference Services Research Coordinator, Center for Jewish History
November 9th -10th marks the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht, a series of attacks on Jews in Germany and Austria that was a turning point for the Nazi Party. Kristallnacht is often looked at as the beginning of the Holocaust.
Each of the five partners of the Center for Jewish History has material on Kristallnacht or the Holocaust. A search of the library catalog, catalog.cjh.org, reveals over 730 records with the word “Kristallnacht” in the description, and over 15,000 with the word “Holocaust.”
The amount of digitized material available to anyone with an internet connection is similarly vast, with 550 results containing the word “Kristallnacht,” including over 100 photographs and over 40 oral histories. Using “Holocaust,” there are over 1,900 results, including more than 300 photographs and 300 oral histories.
The following is a small sampling of relevant holdings from each of our five partners.
American Jewish Historical Society
The oral history of Fred Margulies contains memories of Kristallnacht. It has been digitized and is available online.
There are digitized letters on the conditions in the displaced persons camps. This material was originally in Box 1, Folder 26 of the Abraham Klausner Papers, available here.
American Sephardi Federation
Birkenau (Auschwitz II) : memories of an eyewitness : how 72,000 Greek Jews perished by Albert Menasche, number 124,454. (1947)
The destruction of the Dutch Jews by J. Presser. Translated by Arnold Pomerans. (1969)
Leo Baeck Institute
One example of the many memoirs in the LBI collections is Kristallnacht and Aftermath, November 1938: German original and English translation of notes written in March 1939, in London, three months after release from Dachau concentration camp by Siegfried Koppel. This material has been digitized and is available online.
One example of the many photographs memorializing the event that have been digitized is Wiesbaden Synagogue Burning; Kristallnacht (see above).
Yeshiva University Museum
"Jews Have Always Fought for Freedom” Arthur Szyk image from 1943.
Yom Yahadut Polin Poster From 1945.
YIVO Institute for Jewish Research
Digitized photograph of Shlomo Grzywacz, a Jewish child from Warsaw hidden from the Nazis by Righteous Gentiles in Dembniki, Poland.
Digitized flier for an event to commemorate the first anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, New York City, April 13, 1944.
——
These ten items are a very small selection of items concerning the Holocaust held by the partner organizations here at the Center. The types of material are as impressive as the scope; the collections contain newspapers, memoirs, ephemera, archival material, oral histories, photographs, artwork, books and other types of material. Click here to explore the materials. You can also start a reference chat here, send an inquiry here or book a librarian here.

Remembering Kristallnacht
by David P. Rosenberg, M.P.A., Reference Services Research Coordinator, Center for Jewish History

November 9th -10th marks the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht, a series of attacks on Jews in Germany and Austria that was a turning point for the Nazi Party. Kristallnacht is often looked at as the beginning of the Holocaust.

Each of the five partners of the Center for Jewish History has material on Kristallnacht or the Holocaust. A search of the library catalog, catalog.cjh.org, reveals over 730 records with the word “Kristallnacht” in the description, and over 15,000 with the word “Holocaust.”

The amount of digitized material available to anyone with an internet connection is similarly vast, with 550 results containing the word “Kristallnacht,” including over 100 photographs and over 40 oral histories. Using “Holocaust,” there are over 1,900 results, including more than 300 photographs and 300 oral histories.

The following is a small sampling of relevant holdings from each of our five partners.

American Jewish Historical Society

The oral history of Fred Margulies contains memories of Kristallnacht. It has been digitized and is available online.

There are digitized letters on the conditions in the displaced persons camps. This material was originally in Box 1, Folder 26 of the Abraham Klausner Papers, available here.

American Sephardi Federation

Birkenau (Auschwitz II) : memories of an eyewitness : how 72,000 Greek Jews perished by Albert Menasche, number 124,454. (1947)

The destruction of the Dutch Jews by J. Presser. Translated by Arnold Pomerans. (1969)

Leo Baeck Institute

One example of the many memoirs in the LBI collections is Kristallnacht and Aftermath, November 1938: German original and English translation of notes written in March 1939, in London, three months after release from Dachau concentration camp by Siegfried Koppel. This material has been digitized and is available online.

One example of the many photographs memorializing the event that have been digitized is Wiesbaden Synagogue Burning; Kristallnacht (see above).

Yeshiva University Museum

"Jews Have Always Fought for Freedom” Arthur Szyk image from 1943.

Yom Yahadut Polin Poster From 1945.

YIVO Institute for Jewish Research

Digitized photograph of Shlomo Grzywacz, a Jewish child from Warsaw hidden from the Nazis by Righteous Gentiles in Dembniki, Poland.

Digitized flier for an event to commemorate the first anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, New York City, April 13, 1944.

——

These ten items are a very small selection of items concerning the Holocaust held by the partner organizations here at the Center. The types of material are as impressive as the scope; the collections contain newspapers, memoirs, ephemera, archival material, oral histories, photographs, artwork, books and other types of material. Click here to explore the materials. You can also start a reference chat here, send an inquiry here or book a librarian here.

Conducting Research on Jewish Fighters, WWIIWith a Focus on Ukraine, Belarus and Russiaby J.D. Arden, Reference Services Assistantwith assistance from Aurora Zinder, Volunteer, and David P. Rosenberg, M.P.A., Reference Services Research Coordinator, Center for Jewish History
Above image: Kniga Pamiati Voinov-Evreev and Biographical Dictionary of Jewish Resistance
In the Lillian Goldman Reading Room here at the Center for Jewish History, you can explore Hebrew-language compilations of narratives and historical documents that testify to Jewish armed resistance in Europe during World War II. For example, the YIVO Institute holds three volumes published in Israel: Book of the Jewish Partisans / Sefer ha-partizanim ha-Yehudim, Memories of Partisans and Jewish Partisan Units in Belarus.
Since the breakup of the Soviet Union, more information about Soviet soldiers (both Jewish and non-Jewish) has become available. A 10-volume alphabetical Memory Book index in Russian of the Jewish soldiers who perished on the Soviet front is available in the Reference Section of the Lilian Goldman Reading Room under the title Kniga pamiati voinov-evreev, pavshikh v boiakh s natsizmom, 1941-1945 / Memory Book of Jewish Soldiers, who perished in combat with Nazism. This index is organized alphabetically by last names, and in most cases includes the birth date, death date and hometown of the soldier, and information on whether he died in action or subsequently from battle-related injuries. Some black-and-white photographs are available in a separate chapter. 
For research on soldiers (and some civilians) who were from the republics of Ukraine, Belarus and Russia, and were killed during the War, YIVO has a large series of “Memory Books” in Ukrainian, Belorussian and Russian languages. These extensive volumes are indexed by individual towns and regions of each republic. The soldiers of each town are listed alphabetically with brief biographical information (including Jewish or other ethnicity, in some volumes). These and similar books (some that are not related to World War II) are searchable in our catalog under the keyword “pamiati.”  
If you are interested in researching topics related to the geography and history of the War, there are many resources available across the collections of all of the partner organizations of the Center for Jewish History. For example, in the collections of the the Ackman & Ziff Family Genealogy Institute and the YIVO Institute: Jewish documentary sources in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus : a preliminary list edited by Dorit Sallis and Marek Web  (Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1996. Online resources include “Letters from the Front: Jewish War Heroes” from the Center for Jewish History and Blavatnik Family Foundation, Memorial Database of Jewish Soldiers, Partisans and Workers Killed in Action during the Nazi Era by the Jewish Genealogical Society of New York; Pobediteli - Soldiers of the Great War, in English and Russian; and a website in Russian with more listings of Jewish Soviet soldiers who perished in detention brigades (shtrafnoi battalion). On the topic of  forced labor, search our archival collection here. 
For more information on how you can access these resources and others like them, chat now with a librarian or schedule an appointment.

Conducting Research on Jewish Fighters, WWII
With a Focus on Ukraine, Belarus and Russia
by J.D. Arden, Reference Services Assistant
with assistance from Aurora Zinder, Volunteer, and David P. Rosenberg, M.P.A., Reference Services Research Coordinator, Center for Jewish History

Above image: Kniga Pamiati Voinov-Evreev and Biographical Dictionary of Jewish Resistance

In the Lillian Goldman Reading Room here at the Center for Jewish History, you can explore Hebrew-language compilations of narratives and historical documents that testify to Jewish armed resistance in Europe during World War II. For example, the YIVO Institute holds three volumes published in Israel: Book of the Jewish Partisans / Sefer ha-partizanim ha-YehudimMemories of Partisans and Jewish Partisan Units in Belarus.

Since the breakup of the Soviet Union, more information about Soviet soldiers (both Jewish and non-Jewish) has become available. A 10-volume alphabetical Memory Book index in Russian of the Jewish soldiers who perished on the Soviet front is available in the Reference Section of the Lilian Goldman Reading Room under the title Kniga pamiati voinov-evreev, pavshikh v boiakh s natsizmom, 1941-1945Memory Book of Jewish Soldiers, who perished in combat with NazismThis index is organized alphabetically by last names, and in most cases includes the birth date, death date and hometown of the soldier, and information on whether he died in action or subsequently from battle-related injuries. Some black-and-white photographs are available in a separate chapter. 

For research on soldiers (and some civilians) who were from the republics of Ukraine, Belarus and Russia, and were killed during the War, YIVO has a large series of “Memory Books” in Ukrainian, Belorussian and Russian languages. These extensive volumes are indexed by individual towns and regions of each republic. The soldiers of each town are listed alphabetically with brief biographical information (including Jewish or other ethnicity, in some volumes). These and similar books (some that are not related to World War II) are searchable in our catalog under the keyword “pamiati.”  

If you are interested in researching topics related to the geography and history of the War, there are many resources available across the collections of all of the partner organizations of the Center for Jewish History. For example, in the collections of the the Ackman & Ziff Family Genealogy Institute and the YIVO Institute: Jewish documentary sources in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus : a preliminary list edited by Dorit Sallis and Marek Web  (Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1996. Online resources include “Letters from the Front: Jewish War Heroes” from the Center for Jewish History and Blavatnik Family Foundation, Memorial Database of Jewish Soldiers, Partisans and Workers Killed in Action during the Nazi Era by the Jewish Genealogical Society of New York; Pobediteli - Soldiers of the Great War, in English and Russian; and a website in Russian with more listings of Jewish Soviet soldiers who perished in detention brigades (shtrafnoi battalion). On the topic of  forced labor, search our archival collection here

For more information on how you can access these resources and others like them, chat now with a librarian or schedule an appointment.

An Archive of My OwnOctober 2 – November 9, 2013
Meet the artist, Nino Biniashvili, on Sunday, October 6 from 12pm to 6pm.
In An Archive of My Own, Nino Biniashvili commits acts of artistic recovery. She rescues rare archival materials from obscurity and transforms them into compelling art exploring Georgian-Jewish experience. 
In an exhibition that challenges traditional methods of history-making, Ms. Biniashvili brings history home. She answers Virginia Woolf’s insistence that a female artist have access to a personal study. An Archive of My Own is Biniashvili’s “room of her own”—a space that feels at once domestic and revolutionary. 
A wooden table, chair and lamp, a large picture-book, a house plant and projected slides invite you into a world of actively engaging with the past for a meaningful experience of the present.
Ms. Biniashvili grew up in Georgia during the last years of the Soviet Union. As a Prins Fellow at the Center for Jewish History, she focused her historical inquiry on material available from the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, one of the Center’s partners. The slides that she found inspired her drawings. 
In her art Ms. Biniashvili challenges borders between external and internal, collective and individual, historic specificity and timelessness. Her project explores the role an artist can have in investigating, interpreting and representing history—and the ways in which delving into archives can help us discover new things about our families and ourselves.

An Archive of My Own
October 2 – November 9, 2013

Meet the artist, Nino Biniashvili, on Sunday, October 6 from 12pm to 6pm.

In An Archive of My Own, Nino Biniashvili commits acts of artistic recovery. She rescues rare archival materials from obscurity and transforms them into compelling art exploring Georgian-Jewish experience. 

In an exhibition that challenges traditional methods of history-making, Ms. Biniashvili brings history home. She answers Virginia Woolf’s insistence that a female artist have access to a personal study. An Archive of My Own is Biniashvili’s “room of her own”—a space that feels at once domestic and revolutionary. 

A wooden table, chair and lamp, a large picture-book, a house plant and projected slides invite you into a world of actively engaging with the past for a meaningful experience of the present.

Ms. Biniashvili grew up in Georgia during the last years of the Soviet Union. As a Prins Fellow at the Center for Jewish History, she focused her historical inquiry on material available from the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, one of the Center’s partners. The slides that she found inspired her drawings. 

In her art Ms. Biniashvili challenges borders between external and internal, collective and individual, historic specificity and timelessness. Her project explores the role an artist can have in investigating, interpreting and representing history—and the ways in which delving into archives can help us discover new things about our families and ourselves.

Learning from Children’s Literature

by Sarah Ganton, Reference Services Research Intern, Center for Jewish History

The ways in which we preserve history for future generations are particularly relevant during holiday seasons, when we remember traditions and objects that mark special days. We might save our grandmother’s menorah, or pass down the secret family recipe for hamentashen. The yearly Sukkah is, of course, too big to save for future generations, but, nonetheless, we remember many happy times during Sukkot.

While looking through archival items housed at the Center for Jewish History that pertain to Sukkot, I stumbled upon three children’s books. All are sweetly illustrated and fun to read, but they represent something much deeper than nostalgia for childhood. These books, with their Sukkah-building bears and prayer-chanting children, are essentially teaching aids, helping to introduce young children to their Jewish heritage and the traditions of Jewish culture. 

One of the books, The Sukkah and the Big Wind by Lily Edelman, was published in 1956 by the United Synagogue Commission on Jewish Education and features a discussion of decorating the Sukkah, children singing a Hebrew song of welcome to their friends, and a nightly Hebrew bedtime prayer.

Similarly, Leo and Blossom’s Sukkah, by Jane Breskin Zalben, depicts two baby bears building their own Sukkah next to that of their parents, and shows the family equating the harvest feast of Sukkot to American Thanksgiving.

Succos Time with Fishele and Fraydele, self-published by author Faige Shain, is part of a series of books that show an observant family as they celebrate Sukkot, buying the appropriate decorations and attending services together. Succos Time in particular includes many Hebrew Sukkot-related words that a Jewish child might need to know, such as s’chach, the material used to make the roof of a Sukkah, and arba minim, the Four Species of plant that are waved in a traditional Sukkot ceremony.

To search the Center partners’ collections for these books and others like them, click here. To view other Sukkot-related materials, click here.

Books referenced:

The Sukkah and the Big Wind, by Lily Edelman. United Synagogue Commission on Jewish Education, 1956. YIVO Archives 000131676

Leo and Blosssom’s Sukkah, by Jane Breskin Zalben. H. Holt, 1990. AJHS Archives BM695.S8 Z3 1990

Succos Time with Fishele and FraydeleI, by Faige Shain. Self-published, 1974. AJHS Archives PZ7.S4 S8

Jewish Labor Committee: Part 2

by Ilana Rossoff, Reference Services Research Intern, Center for Jewish History

This post is part of the Jews and Social Justice Series. To view all posts in the series, click here.

At the same time that they were coordinating post-war refugee relief in Europe, Jewish Labor Committee members began to take an active role in supporting African-American-led efforts to advocate for civil rights legislation. According to the Encyclopedia of American Jewish History, the JLC established its Anti-Discrimination Committee in the immediate years after World War II to “make itself the center for anti-discrimination work in the labor movement, and the link between organized labor and community relations activity within the Jewish community” [6].

As evidenced in the Jewish Labor Committee archival collection (AJHS)—which includes programs and pamphlets of various JLC activities and events—they were active in numerous cities around the country, working alongside the American Federation of Labor, the Labor Conference on Civil Rights, the Negro Labor Committee, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) [7]. They worked for the passage of fair employment practices legislation and ordinances in different states, and supported legislation to eliminate segregation and discrimination in housing.

One item in the JLC archives, a 25-year progress report of the Anti-Discrimination Department of the Jewish Labor Committee entitled “In Freedom’s Cause,” exemplifies their concern for civil rights issues that affect Jewish, worker, and African-American populations. The booklet report warns about the rise of Southern organizations like the White Citizens Council “in which the anti-Negro, anti-Semitic, and anti-union groups have joined forces [and] carry on the campaign to keep the Negroes in their place and spread hate against Jews and foreigners” [8]. It further discusses how the White Citizens Council was behind campaigns to prevent Southern industrialists from hiring African-Americans, and the way that the JLC worked to challenge the company. The JLC put pressure on Jewish organizations such as the American Jewish Committee and Anti-Defamation League, which had recently given an award to the president of that company.

Though the JLC worked to oppose racism and discrimination, it was not immune to racial tension. It and its Jewish labor partners found themselves on the defensive regarding fair practices towards African-Americans. In “Blacks, Jews, and the ‘Natural Alliance’: Labor Cohabitation and the ILGWU,” Nancy L. Green discusses the tensions that arose between the ILGWU and black labor leaders in unions that were majority black or Puerto Rican but retained mostly white leadership in the union. The Jewish Labor Committee was one organization of many that was accused of “having been incapable of eliminating discrimination from their own ranks and, on the other, of having gotten the upper hand in the civil rights movement” as well as having “’paternalistic and missionary’ attitudes toward blacks” [9].

Something I found interesting in my research on JLC and black labor relations was a letter published in an article “Unions and the Negro Community” by Herbert Hill (then Labor Secretary of the NAACP) in Industrial and Labor Relations Review. The letter was from Roy Wilkins, soon-to-be Executive Director of the NAACP, written to Emanuel Muravchik of the Jewish Labor Committee, (reflecting what he considered the “attitude of the [NAACP] and […] generally of the entire Negro Community on the future of Negro labor coalitions”):

 When you declare in 1962 that the NAACP’s continued attack upon discrimination against Negro workers by trade union bodies and leaders places “in jeopardy” continued progress toward civil rights goals or rents the “unity” among civil rights forces, or renders a “disservice” to the Negro worker or raises the question, “Whether it is any longer possible to work with the NAACP” you are, in fact, seeking by threats to force us to conform to what the Jewish Labor Committee is pleased to classify as proper behavior in the circumstances. Needless to say, we cannot bow to this threat. We reject the proposition that any segment of the labor movement is sacrosanct in the matter of practices and/ or policies which restrict employment opportunities on racial or religious or nationality grounds. We reject the contention that bringing such charges constitutes a move to destroy “unity” among civil rights groups unless it be admitted that this unity is a precarious thing, perched upon unilateral definition of discrimination by each member group. In such a situation, the “unity” is of no basic value and its destruction may be regarded as not a calamity, but a blessed clearing of the air. [10]

According to Green, some press tried to portray these tensions as a “war” between labor organizations and black advocacy organizations like the NAACP. However, an article was written in response entitled "Randolph, Wilkins deny ‘War’ but Cite ‘Differences,"allegedly dispelling the idea of an all-out war (though this was in 1960, so earlier than the Wilkins letter previously quoted). [11] The article is a discussion on the presumed idea of the “natural alliance” between blacks and Jews, what it is based on and whether it ever truly existed.

The Jewish Labor Committee continued its global advocacy for the human rights of Jews and non-Jews throughout the next few decades. Beginning in the late 1940s, the JLC became aware of and publicized the plight of European Jews under the Soviet communist regime, and appealed to the U.S. State Department to send aid to the millions of Jews whose “culture, language, religion, literature, and national consciousness” were being “eradicated” [12].

In 1950, the JLC organized the Labor Conference to Stop Communist Aggression, in which 2,000 delegates of various labor organizations committed to fighting the spread of communism and its impact on Soviet Jews [13]. This folder in the archival collection also contains a manuscript entitled “An Appeal to the Conscience of Mankind,” which is a report to the United Nations “for an inquiry into and the redress of the Cultural and Spiritual Genocide systematically pursued against the Jewish people by the Soviet Union,” submitted by the Jewish Labor Committee around 1951. According to a JLC anniversary booklet, “70 Years Strong: The Jewish Labor Committee Story,” the JLC brought a report on discrimination against Soviet Jews to the world congress of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions held in West Berlin in 1955, and in 1960 helped found the National Conference on Soviet Jewry [14].

The JLC was also very vocal on behalf of Israel’s pursuit of statehood. It later charged Arab nations with discrimination against American citizens and diplomats when entering their countries. “70 Years Strong” describes the support the JLC provided to Zionist labor organizations in pre-state Israel as well as to labor and socialist organizations around the world to push their representatives to support the Partition Plan. In the 1980s, the JLC organized educational programming for the younger generation to learn about the Holocaust and Jewish resistance.

The Jewish Labor Committee continues to be active today in labor struggles. It supports agricultural workers’ campaigns for fair wages, for example, and gathers Jewish support for workers rights’ campaigns. According to its website, its current programming includes support for labor campaigns, holding Passover Labor Seders, creating “Friendship Ties” between American trade union councils, and opposing the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement to hold Israel accountable for human rights violations against Palestinians.

It is clear from its broad history of advocacy work that the Jewish Labor Committee primarily works for the welfare of Jews around the world. However, its civil rights work through its Anti-Discrimination Committee has also included advocacy on behalf of non-Jews. Emerging in response to the Holocaust, the JLC was on the forefront of fighting against the targeting of Jews in Western Europe and later the Soviet Union, as well as in supporting the direct organizing efforts of the resistance movements. Similar to the Jewish Labor Bund, from whom it derived some of its early membership and inspiration, the Jewish Labor Committee has and continues to take a uniquely Jewish approach to addressing labor rights issues and international human rights crises.

Notes:

[6] “The Jewish Labor Committee,” Encyclopedia of American Jewish History, Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO, 2008. page 254.

[7] Box 1, Jewish Labor Committee archival collection, American Jewish Historical Society archives.

[8] “In Freedom’s Cause,” Report of the Anti-Discrimination Department of the Jewish Labor Committee, pages 10-11. This report was issued for the 1957 Biennial Convention of the JLC in Atlantic City, NJ. It can be found in the Jewish Labor Committee archival collection in the American Jewish Historical Society archives. The Electronic Finding Aid to the archival collection can be found here.

[9] Nancy L. Green, “Blacks, Jews, and the ‘Natural Alliance’: Labor Cohabitation and the ILGWU” Jewish Social Studies, New Series, Vol. 4, No. 1 (Autumn, 1997), page 87. This article can be found in the JSTOR database and accessed at the Center for Jewish History.

[10] Herbert Hill, “Unions and the Negro Community” Industrial and Labor Relations Review, Vol. 17, No. 4 (Jul., 1964), page 621. This article can be found in the JSTOR database and accessed at the Center for Jewish History.

[11] Green, page 87

[12] From a New York Post article, “Ask Aid for 2,500,000 Jews in ‘Iron Curtain’ Inquisition,” reprinted in a news bulletin of the Jewish Labor Committee, 13 March 1950. Folder 4, Box 1, Jewish Labor Committee archival collection, American Jewish Historical Society archives. The Electronic Finding Aid to the archival collection can be found here.

[13] “Jewish Labor Fights Communism,” Folder 4, Box 1, Jewish Labor Committee archival collection, American Jewish Historical Society archives. The Electronic Finding Aid to the archival collection can be found here.

[14] “70 Years Strong: The Jewish Labor Committee Story,” originally prepared as a supplement to the 70th Anniversary Commemorative Journal of the Jewish Labor Committee (1934-1970), Bund Archives of the YIVO Institute.

Further Reading:

Berman, Aaron, Nazism, the Jews, and American Zionism, 1933-1948 Detroit : Wayne State University Press, 1990.

Catherine Collomp, “The Jewish Labor Committee, American Labor, and the Rescue of European Socialists, 1934-1941” International Labor and Working-Class History, No. 68, Labor in Postwar Central and Eastern Europe (Fall, 2005), page 117. This article can be found in the JSTOR database and accessed at the Center for Jewish History.

Nancy L. Green, “Blacks, Jews, and the ‘Natural Alliance’: Labor Cohabitation and the ILGWU” Jewish Social Studies, New Series, Vol. 4, No. 1 (Autumn, 1997), page 87. This article can be found in the JSTOR database and accessed at the Center for Jewish History.

Herbert Hill, “Unions and the Negro Community” Industrial and Labor Relations Review, Vol. 17, No. 4 (Jul., 1964), page 621. This article can be found in the JSTOR database and accessed at the Center for Jewish History.

Jewish Labor Committee archival collection, American Jewish Historical Society archives. The Electronic Finding Aid to the archival collection can be found here.

Gail Malmgreen,. “Labor and the Holocaust : the Jewish Labor Committee and the Anti-Nazi struggle.” Silver Spring, MD : The George Meany Memorial Archives : 1991, page 22. This article was reprinted in Labor’s Heritage in 1991 and can be found in the YIVO library stacks.

Jews and Social Justice Series: Introduction

Profiles of select Jewish organizations from the second half of the 20th century
by Ilana Rossoff, Reference Services Research Intern, Center for Jewish History

In March 2012, the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research and the American Jewish Historical Society, partner organizations of the Center for Jewish History, co-hosted a two-day symposium on “Jews and the Left” featuring scholars from many different fields to discuss the historical relationship between Jews and leftist movements. Presenters discussed such topics as the roles of Jews in Marxist movements in Europe and the United States, Marx and “the Jewish Question,” the relationship between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, and uniquely Jewish approaches to leftist politics. The symposium, which can be viewed online here [1], offers a thorough overview of an important segment of Jewish contributions to social welfare and social change. 

As was discussed in the symposium, American Jews have played notable roles in American leftist movements throughout the last century and a half. With the wave of mass immigration from Eastern Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Jewish immigrants, many of whom were involved in revolutionary movements in Eastern Europe, became involved in the burgeoning labor unions and socialist organizations of the early 20th century.

During the second half of the 20th century, a new wave of socially-concerned activists emerged around the United States to address such issues as civil rights, militarism, gender equality, environmentalism, and others. Many Jews joined their ranks, some as veterans of the earlier labor movements and some as first-time activist youth. At the same time that Jews were active in such organizations, there arose numerous specifically Jewish organizations that addressed a variety of social justice issues of the time, some directly related to Jewish communities, and others related to non-Jewish populations in the U.S. or around the world (from a uniquely Jewish vantage point).

As part of my internship with the Center for Jewish History, I did a research project for which I wrote a series of articles on four Jewish organizations that were active between the time of the 1950s/60s and the 1990s on issues related to social justice. I was interested in learning about the work that they did, from whom and where the organizations originated, and what their Jewish approach to social justice looked like. My goal was to give a glimpse of organizations’ overall histories while ultimately trying to discern their motivations and assess the extent to which their work impacted the welfare of Jews and/or non-Jews.

Each Monday for the next several weeks, the 16th Street blog will feature one article from my “Jews and Social Justice” series. The series will include:

Jewish Labor Organizations

I. The Jewish Labor Committee
II. The International Jewish Labor Bund

These entries will focus on two labor organizations, the International Jewish Labor Bund and the Jewish Labor Committee, both of which were founded during the end of the 19th century and earlier part of the 20th century. For this, I will look at the YIVO Archives of the Jewish Labor Committee (1933-1969) [2]; various archival materials from the vast Bund Archives in the YIVO Library such as “Report and resolutions” of the International Jewish Labor Bund World Conference 1985 [3]; books such as The International Jewish Labor Bund after 1945 : Toward a Global History [4]; and as articles on Jewish labor organizations such as “The Bund Abroad in the Postwar Jewish World” [5]  and “Labor and the Holocaust : the Jewish Labor Committee and the Anti-Nazi struggle” [6].

Social Justice at Home

III. Jews for Urban Justice 

This blog entry will focus on a racial and economic justice organization called Jews for Urban Justice, active in the late 1960s in Washington DC, which targeted Jewish individuals and institutions for their complicity in perpetuating social injustice.  I will give an overview of the organization’s history and different programs as well as analyze its ideological platform and its unique position vis-a-vis the Jewish community.  To do so, I will look at Jews for Urban Justice archival collection (1967-1970) of the American Jewish Historical Society [7], as well as Torn at the Roots: the crisis of Jewish liberalism in postwar America by Michael E. Staub [8] and other publications.

Israel and its Jewish Critics 

IV. American Jewish Alternatives to Zionism

In this entry, I will look at one small organization that expressed explicit Jewish criticism of Zionism:  American Jewish Alternatives to Zionism. In doing so, I will look at the activity of the organization, attempt to determine its size and membership, and seek to understand its ideological platform and its impact on its audience. I will look at the American Jewish Alternatives to Zionism collection (1959-1988) from the American Jewish Historical Society archives [9] and “Discordant Voices: The US Jewish Community and Israel during the 1980s” [10].

Conclusion

I will end the series with a piece that reflects on my findings in my research and my experience doing this project as an intern at the Center for Jewish History. 

Notes:

[1] Click here to view the “Jews and the Left” symposium.

[2] Jewish Labor Committee archival collection, YIVO Institute archives. The Electronic Finding Aid to the archival collection can be found here

[3]  International Jewish Labor Bund, Report and resolutions of the Seventh World Conference of the Jewish Labor Bund, October 20-25, 1985. World Conference 1985 : New York, N.Y. Available here. 

[4] David Slucki, The International Jewish Labor Bund after 1945: Toward a Global History. Rutgers University Press: New Brunswick, NJ, 2012.

[5] David Slucki, “The Bund Abroad in the Postwar Jewish World,” Jewish Social Studies, Vol. 16, No. 1 (Fall 2009), pages 111-144. This article can be found in JSTOR and accessed at the Center for Jewish History.

[6] Malmgreen, Gail. “Labor and the Holocaust : the Jewish Labor Committee and the Anti-Nazi struggle.” Silver Spring, MD : The George Meany Memorial Archives : 1991, pages 79-104. This article was reprinted in Labor’s Heritage in 1991 and can be found in the American Jewish Historical Society library stacks.

[7] Jews for Urban Justice archival collection, American Jewish Historical Society archives. The Electronic Finding Aid to the archival collection can be found here.

[8]  Michael Staub, Torn at the roots: the crisis of Jewish liberalism in postwar America. New York: Columbia University Press, 2002.

[9] American Jewish Alternatives to Zionism archival collection, American Jewish Historical Society.  The Electronic Finding Aid to the archival collection can be found here.

[10] Jonathan Marcus, “Discordant Voices: The US Jewish Community and Israel during the 1980s” International Affairs (Royal Institute of International Affairs 1944-), Vol. 66, No. 3 (Jul., 1990), pages 545-558. This article can be found in JSTOR and accessed at the Center for Jewish History.

"Knaidel" is the Winning Wordby David P. Rosenberg, M.P.A., Reference Services Research Coordinator, Center for Jewish History
Perhaps you heard that a Yiddish word won the National Spelling Bee for Arvind Mahankali. Yes, knaidel is spelled K-n-a-i-d-e-l according to Webster’s Third New International Dictionary—the official dictionary of the National Spelling Bee. As you may know, Yiddish is a fusion language of principally German, Hebrew and Aramaic elements. Although there is evidence of a written form dating to the 13th Century the language is a living oral language with the dialects that are spoken in many areas having more German, Lithuanian, Polish, Ukrainian or American influences. 
Not to take anything away from Arvind, but the question arises: Is there really one correct way to spell a Yiddish word? 
YIVO, one of the Center partners, tried to answer that question. They created a work called the “The Standardized Yiddish orthography.” The catalog (search.cjh.org) reflects imprints from 1937, 1966 and 1999. In addition to the rules, the most recent copy has an essay “The history of the standardized Yiddish spelling” by Mordkhe Schaechter.
This work, in addition to the Harkavy, Weinreich dictionaries and the “The Language and culture atlas of Ashkenazic Jewry” (This work is “Based on an investigation entitled Geographic differentiation in coterritorial societies”) are some of the most frequently referenced books on Yiddish linguistics. 
To learn more about Yiddish, you can read an article in the YIVO encyclopedia by clicking here.
You can find recipes for knaidels in many of the cookbooks we have available. To learn more about cookbooks, click here. 
(Image source.)

"Knaidel" is the Winning Word
by David P. Rosenberg, M.P.A., Reference Services Research Coordinator, Center for Jewish History

Perhaps you heard that a Yiddish word won the National Spelling Bee for Arvind Mahankali. Yes, knaidel is spelled K-n-a-i-d-e-l according to Webster’s Third New International Dictionary—the official dictionary of the National Spelling Bee. As you may know, Yiddish is a fusion language of principally German, Hebrew and Aramaic elements. Although there is evidence of a written form dating to the 13th Century the language is a living oral language with the dialects that are spoken in many areas having more German, Lithuanian, Polish, Ukrainian or American influences. 

Not to take anything away from Arvind, but the question arises: Is there really one correct way to spell a Yiddish word? 

YIVO, one of the Center partners, tried to answer that question. They created a work called the “The Standardized Yiddish orthography.” The catalog (search.cjh.org) reflects imprints from 1937, 1966 and 1999. In addition to the rules, the most recent copy has an essay “The history of the standardized Yiddish spelling” by Mordkhe Schaechter.

This work, in addition to the HarkavyWeinreich dictionaries and the “The Language and culture atlas of Ashkenazic Jewry” (This work is “Based on an investigation entitled Geographic differentiation in coterritorial societies”) are some of the most frequently referenced books on Yiddish linguistics. 

To learn more about Yiddish, you can read an article in the YIVO encyclopedia by clicking here.

You can find recipes for knaidels in many of the cookbooks we have available. To learn more about cookbooks, click here

(Image source.)