American Jewish Archives (AJA)

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AMERICAN JEWISH ARCHIVES (aja ), archives founded in 1947 by the historian Jacob Rader Marcus (1896–1995) on the Cincinnati campus of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. Marcus established the aja in the aftermath of the European Holocaust, when American Jews inherited a primary responsibility of preserving the continuity of Jewish life and learning for future generations. The aja functions as a semi-autonomous organization to collect, preserve, and make available for research materials on the history of Jews and Jewish communities in the Western Hemisphere, primarily in the United States. The term "history" is construed in its broadest aspect to embrace data of a political, economic, social, cultural, and religious nature.

In its collections, the aja attempts to assemble data describing the American Jew, both as a Jew and as an American. In this sense, the aja probably possesses the largest collection of source materials found anywhere documenting the history of the Jewish community of a country. Important accessions to the collection are listed annually in the American Jewish Archives Journal and in the successive volumes of the National Union Catalogue of Manuscript Collections. The aja began with a small assortment of congregational and societal minute books and a few collections of private papers. By the dawn of the 21st century, it contained more than 12,000 linear feet of manuscripts and archival records.

The collection includes the papers of famous Reform rabbis such as Isaac Mayer *Wise, David *Philipson, and David *Einhorn; scholars Trude *Weiss-Rosmarin, Horace M. *Kallen, and Maurice *Samuel; scientists and physicians Abraham *Flexner and Robert C. Rothenberg; lawyers and politicians Anna M. *Kross, Samuel Dickstein, and Fanny E. Holtzmann; and philanthropists and Jewish leaders Louis *Marshall, Jacob *Schiff, Felix *Warburg, among many others. The holdings also include documents and letters of prominent colonial and Civil War era Jews such as Aaron *Lopez, Raphael J. *Moses, Judah P. *Benjamin, and the *Gratz and *Franks families. In its collections are the records of district and local B'nai B'rith lodges, women's synagogue auxiliaries, and organizations such as the American Jewish Alternatives to Zionism, the Intercollegiate Menorah Association, the World Union for Progressive Judaism, the American Council for Judaism, and the Socialist Labor Party of America. The records of the New York office of the World Jewish Congress (wjc), one of the aja's largest archival holdings, contain data relating primarily to the wjc's activities during and after World War ii.

In 1998, the aja was designated as the official repository of the historical records of the Union for Reform Judaism (formally the Union of American Hebrew Congregations). These materials compliment the records of the Hebrew Union College, the Jewish Institute of Religion, and the combined Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion as well as the records of the Central Conference of American Rabbis.

The aja is divided into several departments: manuscripts and typescripts, "nearprint," photographs, indices, publications, and programs. The "nearprint" collection subsumes all ephemeral material in the vast zone between letters and books: throwaways, news releases, broadsides, mimeograph announcements and advertisements, newspaper and magazine clippings, brochures, etc. The collection's broad recorded tape holdings consist of over 6,500 cassettes of oral histories, lectures, religious services, and music. In addition, a photograph collection of well over 15,000 images is used by scholars, publishers, filmmakers, among others, to illustrate books, articles, movies, and television programs. All manuscript collections have been catalogued; indices have been made of important 19th-century magazines like Sinai, Israel's Herold, Occident, Deborah, and Menorah Monthly. One of the aja's most important publications is the American Jewish Archives Journal (est. 1948), which appears semi-annually. The institution has also published a wide-ranging series of monographs, including Malcolm H. Stern's Americans of Jewish Descent (1960), which marked a milestone in the study of American Jewish genealogy. This monumental volume was updated and revised in 1991, appearing under the title First American Jewish Families: 600 Genealogies, 1654–1988. An online version of Stern's classic text is available on the institution's website ( The aja also offers a series of enrichment programs for scholars, educators, and the public at large.

Closely associated with the American Jewish Archives is the American Jewish Periodical Center (ajpc), which microfilms all American Jewish serials to 1925 with selected periodicals after that date. ajpc catalogues have been published; microfilm copies of all listed entries are available on interlibrary loan.

Jacob R. Marcus directed the American Jewish Archives from its founding in 1947 until his death in 1995, when the institution was renamed The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives. Gary P. Zola became the second director of the American Jewish Archives in 1998.

[Gary P. Zola (2nd ed.)]

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American Jewish Archives (AJA)

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American Jewish Archives (AJA)