How does an archives come to be? If it is a good archives, the story is in the documents it holds. For the Philadelphia Jewish Archives Center, now beginning its 36th year, the question about its origin is vital because its continuation is tied very much to its past. In February 1972, a memorandum was sent to Donald B. Hurwitz, Vice-President of the Federation of Jewish Agencies: “Board of Trustees of Federation to establish a Philadelphia Jewish Archives Center as a Federation project with the Philadelphia Chapter of the American Jewish Committee as the implementing arm and allocating $10,000 a year for five years as an initial operating budget.”
Some 11 years earlier, an article in the Jewish Exponent, October 27, 1961 reported on comments by Maxwell Whiteman, author with noted Philadelphia historian Edwin Wolf II of a highly regarded history of Jews in Philadelphia. Mr. Whiteman, librarian at Dropsie College, in his remarks “deplored the fact that irreplaceable records of the community had been lost or destroyed for lack of adequate means of preserving them.” What had been germinating for over a decade came to fruition over ten years later. A July 27, 1972 article in the Jewish Times announced the formation of the Philadelphia Jewish Archives Center for the following September.