Abrams, Jerome (b.1926), Papers.

  • Dates: ca. 1920-1979; 1994
  • Size: 5 linear ft.
  • Number of Boxes: 5
  • Languages:
    • English
    • Hebrew
  • Location: Special Collections Reading Room, Jewish Theological Seminary Library.
  • Restrictions: Reproduction of fragile items is not permitted; consult the archivist about literary rights.
  • Gift Of: Jerome Abrams
  • Date: July, 1994; June, 1998

Related Collections: Records of The Jewish Theological Seminary, R.G.28, Camp Ramah, and records of the Cejwin Camps (unprocessed).

RP 8/17/94; rev. JM, 9/19/94; JM, 11/98

Table of Contents:

A Note on Folder Headings

Individual folders are identified in the following way on the left side of each folder: Name of Collection, box #/folder#, as in Ben Zion Bokser Papers, 4/22. Please use this format in citations and when referring to files for any other reason.

Biographical Note

Jerome Abrams, rabbi, camp director, educator, and educational administrator, received his BA and teaching degree from Yeshiva University in 1948, a masters degree in educational psychology from Teachers College, Columbia University, 1953, and rabbinic ordination from The Jewish Theological Seminary in 1953.

Abrams was the director of several Ramah camps, 1955-1991, and of the Cejwin Camps, 1967-1978. He also served as the director of personnel for the Ramah camps, 1960-1964, as a visiting instructor in education at The Jewish Theological Seminary, 1960-1963, and in administrative positions at the Metropolitan Leaders Training Fellowship and the Melton Center for Jewish Research, both at the Jewish Theological Seminary.

Abrams began a doctoral dissertation on the Cejwin Camps at New York University in the early 1970s. The material from the Central Jewish Institute and the Cejwin Camps in this collection was gathered by Abrams while doing research on his dissertation.

The Central Jewish Institute was founded in 1916 in Yorkville on New York's Upper East Side by the Orthodox synagogue Kehilath Jeshurun. Mordecai Kaplan, founder of the Reconstructionist movement in Judaism, was the rabbi at Kehilath Jeshurun, 1903-1909, and he inspired the CJI's founding. The CJI subsequently developed into an independent Jewish community center that aimed to integrate Judaism with the American way of life. In particular, it strove to vitalize Jewish education, then in decline as a result of the forces of assimilation. The CJI operated a school for children (Talmud Torah), a Hebrew high school, clubs for youth, an extension department, cultural activities for adults, and in 1919 began a program of summer camping which ultimately evolved into the Cejwin (CEntral JeWish INstitute) Camps in Port Jervis, New York. The founder and first president of CJI was Samuel I. Hyman of Kehilath Jeshurun, and its director until 1923 was educator A.P. Schoolman.

The CJI camp was begun by the CJI's Women's Auxiliary in 1919. Tillie Hyman, widow of Samuel I. Hyman, founder and president of the CJI, was particularly active in the founding of the camp. The first camp, referred to in the records as a "vacation home" was located in Parksville, New York. In search of a permanent home, the camp moved to Warwarsing, New York in 1920, and then to Central Valley in 1921. In 1923 it settled in Port Jervis where, with different camps for each sex and age group, it remained. In 1930 it was incorporated as the Central Jewish Institute Camps, and in 1934 it was renamed Cejwin. Led by A.P. Schoolman from 1923 until the 1970s, the camps, while not Hebrew speaking, had a Jewish educational program.

Camp Ramah, administratively centered at The Jewish Theological Seminary with camps in the United States, Canada, and Israel, was founded in 1947. Like the Cejwin Camps, Ramah offers a Jewish educational program yet, unlike Cejwin, it puts a particular emphasis on Hebrew speaking.

Collection Description

Abrams' papers consist of a mixture of material gathered by him in the process of preparing his doctoral dissertation on the Cejwin Camps; material produced or gathered by him in the course of his own career at camps Cejwin and Ramah; and material acquired as a result of his activites in the Rabbinical Assembly.

The strength of this collection is in its early documentation of the Central Jewish Institute and its summer camps. Of particular interest are two scrapbooks containing an array of printed and circular material from the CJI Camps and Cejwin Camps from the 1920s. Abrams' doctoral dissertation on Cejwin provides useful background material about the camp. Material from Camp Ramah and from the Rabbinical Assembly is largely published educational material gathered by Abrams in the course of his work. One exception of note is a group of copies of documents concerning the founding of the first Camp Ramah in Wisconsin in 1947.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: In the summer of 1998 Abrams located another cache of material that he had earlier gathered from the Central Jewish Institute and Cejwin for use in his doctoral dissertation. This group of papers is particularly rich in its documentation of the early years of the Central Jewish Institute and the founding and early operation of its camps.

Series Descriptions

I. CENTRAL JEWISH INSTITUTE, 1920-1947 Box 1, folders 1-12

Records of the Central Jewish Institute, ca.1920-1947, consist of correspondence, minutes, reports, and printed material. Much of this material documents the CJI's relationships with the other New York City Jewish organizations with which it cooperated. These included the Training School for Jewish Social Work, whose students did field work at the CJI's school and camp, the Jewish Education Committee of New York, with which it ran its Florence Marshall (or Marshallia) Hebrew High School, the Ramaz school, to which it rented classroom space, and Kehilath Jeshurun synagogue, from which both it and Ramaz had sprung. The correspondence is that of CJI's executive director A.P. Schoolman, Jonathan Rubin (president of the board of directors), and other officials. Their correspondents include Kehilath Jeshurun's Rabbi Joseph Lookstein and others.

Also included is a program from CJI's tenth anniversary, 1927, containing historical essays and photographs. Of particular note is a disbound scrapbook, or notebook, containing examples of forms, circular letters to campers and counselors, schedules, registration information, and other material from the CJI Camps, 1930-1932. Some additional camp material includes reports, 1925 and 1927, a guide for counsellors, 1930, and the 1925 issue of the Camps' magazine, Mahanenu.

II. CEJWIN CAMPS, 1924-1976 Box 1, folders 12-34

The Cejwin Camps files contain a mixture of material gathered by Abrams while in the process of researching his doctoral dissertation, plus some material generated by his own work at Cejwin. Included are correspondence, publicity brochures, legal and financial records, publications and printed material, a scrapbook (which has been disbound for reasons of preservation) and a copy of a draft of Abrams' doctoral dissertation on Cejwin. The bulk of this material dates from the 1920s to the 1950s and appears to have been gathered by Abrams for his dissertation. Some correspondence from the 1970s is Abrams' own.

The correspondence falls into two categories: correspondence from the 1970s is Abrams' and concerns Cejwin administrative matters. Correspondence from 1929-1938 largely belongs to director A.P. Schoolman and is with members of the camp's board of directors including Dr. Ira I. Kaplan and A.E. Kornfeld (Kaplan, a physician, expresses particular concern in 1938 that the camp not attempt to ease its budgetary problems by saving money on food at camp). In one interesting exchange between Kornfeld and Schoolman, 1930, Kornfeld enclosed a clipping in which Grover Whalen, then New York City Police Commissioner (later the charismatic head of the 1939 New York World's Fair) warned against "Bolsheviki" teaching in the schools, and advocated the importance of boy's clubs to combat them. Kornfeld felt Whalen's warning should be shared with members of the CJI's board of directors in order to make them "sit up and take notice," but Schoolman denounced Kornfeld's concern as "nonsense." Both Kaplan and Kornfeld have other suggestions and criticisms concerning the camp's programs and its physical plant.

The file concerning communal affiliation, 1949-1953, documents Cejwin's relationship with the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York, and its proposed affiliation with the Jewish Education Committee of New York, the National Jewish Welfare Board, and other groups.

Lawsuit material consists of correspondence, clippings, and legal documents from two lawsuits: Cejwin Camps vs. the assessors of Deerpark, New York, in which Cejwin succeeded in having itself removed from the town's tax rolls, and another, 1942-1960, concerning trusteeship.

Of particular interest is a scrapbook (disbound) containing a rich variety of informational material from 1924-1927. Included are: instructions for staff members concerning such matters as camp registration, publicity, and visiting day arrangements; examples of printed advertising and information material including postcards, clippings of newspaper advertisements, and information brochures; circular letters to parents and campers; examples of baggage tags and labels used by campers; examples of forms, including application, medical, camper record, housing forms. Many of the printed items have photographs, the originals of which are in the Ratner Center's separate Cejwin Camps collection.

III. CAMP RAMAH, ca.1947-1976; 1994 Box 1, folders 35-37; box 2, folders 1-31

This group of items consists largely of educational, training, programming, and planning material, ca.1950s-1970s (though much of the material is undated) produced by or used at Camp Ramah. It was presumably gathered by Abrams over the course of his career at the camp. Some of this material was produced by individual camps, some by the National Ramah Commission, and some by the Melton Research Center at The Jewish Theological Seminary. Some of this material - and more of a similar nature - can also be found in Records of The Jewish Theological Seminary, R.G.28, Camp Ramah.

Of particular note here is a group of copies of documents dating from the founding of the first Camp Ramah (provisionally called Camp Solomon Schechter) in 1947. These include a memorandum describing plans for the camp; a press release, February 3, 1947, announcing the opening of the camp; minutes of the Camp Ramah committee, September 25, 1947; and lists of members of the Camp Ramah Commission.

Also interesting is correspondence, 1994, concerning the Camp Ramah hymn between Jerome Abrams and Moshe Greenberg, its author.

IV. RABBINICAL ASSEMBLY, 1961-1979; n.d. Box 2, folders 32-47; box 3, folders 1-9

Abrams' Rabbinical Assembly material consists of a miscellany of circular letters, correspondence, and memoranda; copies of committee minutes; publications; essays on educational topics by Abrams and others, and printed material. Most of this material was either produced or gathered by Abrams while active in the Rabbinical Assembly.

V. LOUIS FINKELSTEIN FILE, 1963-1985 Box 3, folder 10

Included here is one file of letters and memoranda, mostly between Louis Finkelstein, chancellor of The Jewish Theological Seminary (1940-1972) and Jerome Abrams. These concern Camp Ramah and other professional matters, and personal matters. Of note are: a draft of a memorandum from Finkelstein to Philip Lown, 1966 titled "Towards a Re-Vitalization of Jewish Education"; Finkelstein's circular letters to colleagues announcing his resignation as chancellor of the Seminary, 1971; Finkelstein's circular letter to colleagues, 1964, reflecting on the state of Conservative Judaism at that time and his plans for its future on the occasion of the Seminary's jubilee; and a paper delivered by Raphael Arzt at a meeting of the Camp Ramah staff with Finkelstein, 1968.

VI. ADDITIONAL MATERIAL, 1913-1971 Boxes 4 and 5

Included here is material documenting the very earliest yeares of the Central Jewish Institute, from its founding in 1916 through the twenties - with some financial data continuing into the forties. Also - reflecting Abrams' research interests - is considerable material from the Cejwin Camps, from their roots in the camp committee of the CJI's ladies auxiliary, up to 1971. Also included are some odd items, including an interview and other biographical data about A.P. Schoolman, and some interesting printed material documenting the early twentieth century Jewish education movement in New York City. Included among the latter are: programs for the joint graduation exercises of the city's talmud torahs and Hebrew schools, 1918-1921. Also, a report of the Special Committee of Seven to the Federation on religious educational societies, 1917. This committee was appointed by a Committee of Twenty-Five chaired by Israel Unterberg and including Samson Benderly, Mordecai Kaplan, Louis Marshall, and others, and its mandate was to determine whether or not the city's religious schools could affiliate with, and thereby receive support from Federation. A program from the Yorkville Kehillah District's first annual assembly, 1918, and another from the installation of Rabbi Elias Solomon at Kehilath Jeshurun, 1918, are also included.

Of particular note in this group of records are: a program from the CJI's 1916 dedication, with a letter from Louis Marshall containing regrets that he was not able to attend, and a statement of his views on the need for better Jewish education; a transcript of speeches given at the first annual meeting of the CJI, 1918, including speeches by Isaac Berkson and Felix Warburg; and records of the extension activities, propaganda, school, and talmud torah committees, 1917- 1922. Also of note are minutes of the Executive Council of the General Organization - the body to which all of the CJI's clubs reported. These describe the dances, debates, athletic events, declamation contests, billiard playing, field days, and other activities of the CJI's youth, as organized by its entertainment, literary, athletic, and other clubs. Also significant is a file of reports of the Ladies Auxiliary. Most of these document the formation and early years of what began as a "vacation home" and evolved first into the Central Jewish Institute Camp, and then into Cejwin

 Box List

Box Folder(s) Description 
  I. Central Jewish Institute, 1920-1947
1 1 Article - A.P. Schoolman, "Thinking in Terms of the Community," The New Jewish Chronicle, March, 1920
 2 Correspondence - Training School for Jewish Social Work, 1926-1928
 3-4 Hebrew High School, 1943-1947
 4a Minutes of the board of directors, 1944-1945
 5 Program - tenth anniversary dinner, 1927
 6-7 Ramaz School, 1940-1945
 8 Reports and memoranda, 1936-1945
 9-11 Summer camp, 1925-1930
 12 Women's Auxilliary, reports, 1930; 1937
  II. Cejwin Camps, 1924-1976
 13 Abrams, Jerome, doctoral dissertation, 1972
 14 Brochures, 1935-1937
 15 Camp Securities, Inc. 1934-1938
 16 Communal affiliation, 1949-1953
 17 Correspondence, 1929-1938
 18 Correspondence, 1971
 19 Correspondence with Helen Finck, 1975-76
 20 "Jewish Objectives in the Camping Program," excerpts from an address by A.P. Gannes at a Camp Directors Conference, n.d.
 21-22 Financial records (including information about members of the board of directors), 1926-1953
 23-28 Lawsuits, 1938-1968
 29 Mahanenu, reunion issue, Spring, 1934
 30 Mortgage, 1958-1960
 31-32 Printed material on education, 1946-1966
 33-34 Scrapbook (disbound), 1924-1927
  III. Camp Ramah, ca. 1947-1976; 1994
 35 Berkshires, 1952-1970
 36 Blank forms
 37 Camp Solomon Schechter / Ramah early documents, 1947
2 1-2 Counselor in training material, 1963-1968
 3 Directors' meetings - statements and notes, 1967-1968
2 4 Educational material, articles by Joseph Schwab, 1958-1969
 5 Educational material, Birchat Hamazon, 1972
 6 Educational material, Kiddush and Havdalah, 1968
 7-8 Educational material, miscellaneous, 1963-1971
 9 Educational material, T'Filah, 1972
 10 Essay, "The Administrator," n.d.
 11 Essays on camp life, n.d.
 12 Formal/informal educational programming, Seminar on Informal Education, 1965; 1968; n.d.
 12a Hymn, Moshe Greenberg/Jerome Abrams correspondence, 1994
 13-16 Interest Group reports, 1961-1964
 17-18 Melton Research Center educational material, 1965-1970
 19-25 National Ramah Commission, 1955-1976
 26 Papers and reports, 1962
 27 Program material (Hebrew)
 28 Programming guidelines, n.d.
 29 Schwab meetings (notes, reports), n.d.
 30 Teachers Institute Programs, 1957-1963
 31 Tisha B'Av, plans and material for observance of (some in Hebrew), 1963-1967
  IV. Rabbinical Assembly, 1961-1979; n.d.
 31a Beineinu, 1979
 32 Brooklyn Region, 1963-1964
 33 Camp brochures, Kinneret, n.d.; USY, Glen Spey, 1968; Ramah, Glen Spey, 1968
 34 Committees (Administrative, Executive, Israel, Jewish Laaw and Standards, Structure) 1965-1977
 35 Conservative Judaism (magazine), 1967-1977
 36 Election, 1978
 37 Essay, "Jewish Worship - An Historical Survey," Jerome Abrams, 1965 (for Seminar on Worship)
 38 Essay, "Understanding Genesis," Melton Research Center, by Louis Newman for Camps USY, 1967
 39 Holiday sermons and messages, 1979; n.d.
 40 Jewish education, 1967-1968; n.d.
 41 Leaders Training Fellowship, guides, 1969; n.d.
 42 Metropolitan Council, minutes, 1964
 43 Paper, "An Analysis of Selected Courses of Study of Conservative Congregational Schools part 1," Walter Ackerman, 1965
3 1-2 Papers, Walter Ackerman paper on education, part 2, n.d.
 3 Prayer material, 1968-1974
 4 Ramah Advisory Committee, 1961-1963
 5 "Solomon Schechter After Seventy-Five Years: An Appreciation and Critique," David Wolf Silverman, 1977
 6 Soviet Jewry, 1971; n.d.
 7 Statement by Haim Dimitrovsky, (Hebrew)
 8 United Synagogue, Summer Activities Committee, 1964-1974
 9 Women's Role in Jewish Ritual, n.d.
 10 V. Louis Finkelstein File, 1963-1985
  VI. Additional Files
  Central Jewish Institute, 1913-1940s
4 1 Annual meeting, first, 1918, transcript
 2 Articles about, drafts, from American Hebrwe, Feb 22 1918; Hebrew Standard, Feb 13 1920; Jewish Tribune, Feb 13 1920
 3 Asinof Morris, Finance Committee chairman, 1920-1931
  Board of Directors:
 4     Lists of directors and committees, 1916-1928
 5     Minutes and reports, 1918-1923 (incomplete)
Building - purchase, rental, repair and sale, 1913-1944
 7 Camp, ca. 1920s-1930
  Committee Records:
 8     Extension Activities, 1918
 9     Propaganda, 1917
 10     School, 1917
 11     Talmud Torah, 1917-1922 (including teacher qualifications)
 12 Constitution and by-laws, 1916
 13 Correspondence, alphabetical, 1920-1923
 14 Dedication, 1916
 15 Educational Alliance, plan to send CJI boys to EA camp, 1920
 16 Financial data, miscellaneous, 1920s-1940s
 17 General Organization of Clubs, Executive Council minutes, Nov 25, 1918 - June 11, 1923
 18 Golub, Jacob, letter concerning resignation, 1923
 19 Hyman, Samuel I., address, 1915; memorial, 1917
 20 The Institute Scroll, Dec 15, 1922; Feb 1, March 2, 1923
 21 Ladies Auxiliary (including Camp Committee), ca. 1919-1928
 22 Parents Association, constitution, n.d.
4 23 Programs, schedules, calendars of programs and events, 1917-1929
 24 Proposed policy and plan, n.d.
 25 Reports, odd, ca. 1918-1927
 26 Speeches, 1915-1921, n.d.
  Cejwin Camps, 1920s-1971
 27 Aranow, Edward, board member, 1945-1965
 28 Articles about, 9124-1971
 29-30 Auditors Reports, 1929-1939
 31 Board of directors, agendas, reports (fragmentary), 1954; 1964-1965
 32 Board of directors, special metting, February 18, 1951
 33 Board of directors' visit to Cejwin, ca. 1923, "A Day at the CJI Camp," report and speeches
 34 Bonds, trustee for, 1958-1960
 35 Brochures and luggage tags
 36 CIT program, 1952-1956
 37 Capital improvements, 1955
 Volume Cejwin Book of Gifts, n.d.
 38 Cejwin Camps News, 1956-1968
 39 Communal affiliation, 1953
 40-41 Construction, 1960-1963
 42-43 Finances, employment, 1940s-1950s
 44 Financial data, 1930s-1960s
 45 Financial statements, 1922-1928
 46 Flood, 1955
 47 Founders and leaders, biographical data
 48 Gannes, A.P., executive director, 1965-1967
 49 Gifts and bequests, 1925-1941
 50 Internal Revenue Service, 1963
 51 Jewish Cultural Program Committee/Departrment of Jewish Cultural Activities, 1956-1963
 52 Jewish Education Committee, cooperation/affiliation with, 1953-1964
5 1-2 Job analyses and descriptions of routines, 1920s-1950s
 3 Mortgage, 1942-1959
 4 Publicity material, 1920s-1930s
 5 Staff organization, 1960-1967
 6 Teen camp (Camp Gesher) with Reconstructionist movement, 1960-1967
 7 Union, 1936-1946, n.d.
 8 Weekly bulletins, 1924
  Odd Items, 1917-1963
5 9 CJI and Cejwin, financial studies, 1919-1963
 10 Joint graduation exercises, talmud torahs and Hebrew schools in New York City, programs, 1918-1921
 11 Notes, miscellaneous
 12 Schoolman, Albert P., article about, 1965; articles by, 1920; correspondence with J.H. Rubin, 1922-1923, including resignation; interview with by A.M. Dushkin, 1962; PhD dissertation, 1923-1924.
 13 Solomon, Elias, installation at Kehilath Jeshurun, program, 1918
 14 Special Committee of Seven, report to Federation on religious educational societies, 1917
 15 Yorkville Kehillah District, first annual assembly, 1918, program