American Jewish Historical Society

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Newsletter "Heritage"

Society Receives Major Grant from NFJC

The National Foundation for Jewish Culture has awarded AJHS a grant of $50,000 to assist with the management and preservation of the papers of the National Jewish Welfare Board (JWB). Founded in 1913 to promote "the religious, intellectual, physical and social well-being and development of Jews, especially young men and women, and to that end stimulate the organization in the United States of Jewish Centers and kindred societies," the JWB became the national coordinating body for the network of Jewish community centers and Young Men's and Young Women's Hebrew Associations. When World War I broke out, the JWB also directed the activities of Jewish chaplains in the United States Armed Forces. JWB took a leading role in creating the USO, which continues to serve American military personnel around the world. Today, JWB is known as the Jewish Community Centers Association (JCCA).

While generous, the NFJC grant covers only a portion of the costs of doing the critical work of organizing and preserving the JWB collection. Currently, archivists Catherine Lea and Susan Earle and their supervisor, Dominic Grandinetti, are working to reorganize, preserve and catalog the collection, which is composed of more than 1,500 linear feet of material. Over the next two years, the Society needs to raise at least an equal amount of funding to assure that the history of this important organization is available to future generations.

If you have benefitted from the activities of a Jewish community center or JY or been served by a Jewish military chaplain and want to preserve the history of these efforts, please consider contributing to AJHS and earmarking your gift for preserving the JWB collection.

Unique AJHS Army Talmud Exhibit Premieres in Norfolk, VA

In May, 2001, the Chrysler Museum in Norfolk, Virginia hosted the world premiere of a powerful exhibition, "A Particular Responsibility: The US Army and the Making of the Survivors' Talmud." The American Jewish Historical Society and the Tidewater Jewish Foundation collaborated to create the exhibit in memory of Leonard Strelitz of Virginia Beach, VA.

The story of the Survivors' Talmud is a little-known chapter in American and Jewish history. When World War II ended, more than 100,000 Jewish survivors were herded into Displaced Persons (DP) Camps. While most non-Jewish DP's were eventually repatriated to their homelands, Jewish DP's had no homes to which they could safely return. While they wished to emigrate to the United States or Palestine, immigration quotas effectively closed the gates of both lands to Jews. In 1946, a group of European rabbi survivors and U. S. Army Jewish military chaplains requested of General Philip McNarney, commander of the U.S. Zone of Occupied Germany, that he help rebuild religious life for those Jews con…ned inde…nitely to the DP camps. To start the rebuilding, the rabbis argued, the Army should print and distribute copies of the Talmud.

McNarney agreed to the rabbis' request, but the Nazi scourge had so thoroughly decimated Jewish culture in Europe that no complete set of the Talmud could be found there. McNarney diverted scarce paper, imported two sets of the Talmud from America so that photo offset copies could be made and requisitioned a printing plant formerly used to publish Nazi propaganda. It took two years to …nish, but in 1948 – for the …rst and only time in world history – a national government published an edition of the Talmud.

The exhibition next travels to the Boston area, where it will be featured in the opening of the new campus of Hebrew College in Newton, MA, in December 2001.

Additionally, AJHS is working with the US Army Chaplain's Corps and the Army's Center of Military History to travel the exhibition to the Pentagon, the Chaplain's Training School and other military venues.

AJHS hopes to duplicate copies of the exhibition so that it may travel and be shown at several sites simultaneously. The cost to produce and travel an additional copy of the exhibition to 3 venues is $25,000. Please use the reply form on the insert to help with this effort. Donors of $15,000 or more will be listed as the sponsor of a duplicate exhibit. Donors of $1,000 or more will be listed as associate sponsors. For further information, please contact Michael Feldberg, Ph.D., executive director of AJHS, at 212-294-6162 or

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    Center for Jewish History

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This section was last updated on September 17, 2014
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