Through the establishment of the Archives in 1972, Federation and the American Jewish Committee ensured the preservation of very valuable records going back to the middle of the 19th century when Philadelphia was the leading Jewish community in this country. Until the Archives was established, these records, for the most part, were unavailable to historians. Because of the support and cooperation of Federation's agencies, records of the first Jewish orphanage established in America, part of the Association for Jewish Children collection, are now available for research. We have the records of the first Jewish Sunday school in this country, the Hebrew Sunday School Society. The first Alliance Israelite Universelle in America originated in Philadelphia, and its original minute books were among Federation's records. Neighborhood Centre, the first Jewish settlement designed to help Jewish immigrants adjust through the process of Americanization, has brought researchers from all over the country. Another outstanding collection is that of the Jewish Publication Society, the oldest continuous Jewish publishing house in this country. Its records are so clearly of national importance that we were able to obtain a highly competitive National Endowment for the Humanities grant for $51,000 to preserve them on microfilm.
In supporting the Archives, Federation anticipated the needs and interests of the community. The community's positive response has been manifested through continuous unsolicited donations of records and through support of the Friends of the Archives drive. With growing interest in genealogy, the Archives was there to serve them with the outstanding arrival records of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS).
Over 800 individuals and organizations have contributed records representative of important Zionist, cultural, educational, religious, beneficial and fraternal organizations, and synagogues. Included are records of community leaders such as Edwin Wolf 2nd and the Hon. Abraham Freedman and religious leaders, such as Rabbis Bernard Levinthal and Pinchos Chazin. Records include memoirs and biographies of Philadelphians relating their experiences in Europe and their lives as new immigrants to this country.
The Archives' artifacts are on display in museums in this country and in Israel. Its photographs have been used and are continually called upon to illustrate published books. Our biannual newsletter is sent to libraries, colleges, universities, archives, historical societies, genealogists, scholars, and researchers all over this country and to Canada and Israel as well.
The Archives Center continually seeks to enhance its service as the central repository of the Jewish community's records. Contact the Philadelphia Jewish Archives Center to schedule an appointment.