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American Jewish Historical Society


AMERICAN JEWISH HISTORICAL SOCIETY , scholarly organization founded in 1892. An interest in the Jewish experience on the American continent was brought into a formal framework with the founding of the Society on June 7, 1892, in New York City.

The need to collect and preserve the records of the native Jewish population and their forebears, as well as those of subsequent Jewish immigrants, became the serious concern of Abram S. *Isaacs, Bernhard *Felsenthal, Leo N. Levi, and, especially, Cyrus *Adler, then of the United States National Museum. To study American Jewry required research materials and thus it was necessary to begin a serious collection of books, manuscripts, pamphlets, periodicals, newspapers, and historical memorabilia and objects of art. The Society's first president Oscar S. *Straus declared at the initial meeting of the American Jewish Historical Society, "Every nation, race, and creed, which contributed toward the building of this great continent and country, should from motives of patriotism gather up its records and chronicles, so that our historians may be able to examine and describe the forces of our national and political existence." In 1966 the objectives of the Society were restated as "… the collection, preservation, exhibition, publication, and popularization of material of every kind having reference to the settlement, history, and life of Jews on the American continent, and the promotion and encouragement of research in, and the study of, Jewish history in general, and particularly in its relation to American Jewish history, and in connection with the causes and nature of Jewish emigration from various parts of the world to this continent."

For over half a century the American Jewish Historical Society was housed in the buildings of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York City. In 1968, after a few years in rented quarters in the same city, it moved to its own building on the campus of Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass.; the new building was financed by the bequest of Lee Max *Friedman, the Society's fourth president. The holdings of the Society consist of the collections and writings of some of the pioneers of Jewish historical research, such as A.S.W.*Rosenbach, Max J. *Kohler, George Alexander *Kohut, Philip *Cowen, Samuel Oppenheim, Jacques Judah *Lyons, Bernhard Felsenthal, N. Taylor Phillips, and Leon Huehner, as well as the theater and music collection of Abram Kanof.

The Society published 58 volumes of its Publications, which became a quarterly with volume 38, and assumed the title American Jewish Historical Quarterly with volume 51. Selected studies from these publications were reprinted in The Jewish Experience in America (5 vols. (1969), ed. by A.J. Karp). The Society's official publication is now called American Jewish History. The contents of this journal for the years 1893–1979 are available on adaje, an electronic repository of digitized American Jewish periodicals. The Society's quarterly newsletter is called Heritage. The Society also issues a monograph series, Studies in American Jewish History, and the American Jewish Communal Histories series. Each spring it sponsors American Jewish History Week; it also aids in the arrangement of exhibitions of American Jewish history and the publication of various bibliographies and literature. The Society's presidents have included Oscar S. Straus, Cyrus Adler, A.S.W. Rosenbach, and Lee Max Friedman and, more recently, Salo W. *Baron, Abraham Kanof, Bertram W. *Korn, Jacob R. *Marcus, Leon J. Obermayer, David de Sola *Pool, Abram Vossen Goodman, and Sidney Lapidus.


I.S. Meyer, in: Journal of Jewish Bibliography, 4, nos. 1–2 (1943), 6–24; American Jewish Historical Society, Report of Organization (1892); Appel, in: jsos, 23 (1961), 3–20; N.M. Kaganoff, A Preliminary Survey of the Manuscript Collections found in the American Jewish Historical Society (1967).

[Isidore S. Meyer]

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