Record Group 11: Communications Department

  • Dates: 1930s-1980s
  • Size: 99 linear ft.
  • Number of Boxes: 82
  • Languages:
    • English
    • Hebrew
  • Location: Special Collections Reading Room, Jewish Theological Seminary Library.
  • Restrictions: Jewish Theological Seminary records are available for research, with permission, through 1972; records dating from 1973 and afterward are currently closed. For permission to see records of The Jewish Theological Seminary write to: Archivist, Ratner Center for the Study of Conservative Judaism, Jewish Theological Seminary, 3080 Broadway, New York, NY 10027. Reproduction of fragile items is not permitted; consult the archivist about literary rights.
  • Related Collections: Marjorie Wyler Papers

JM, 4/27/92; rev. TH, 4/95

Table of Contents:

A Note on Folder Headings

Individual folders are identified in the following way: record group# -- box# -- folder#, as in R.G.1-10-32. Please use this format in citations and when referring to files for any other reason.

Historical Note

The Jewish Theological Seminary's Communications Department, formerly known as the Office of Public Information, is in charge of publicity and public relations. It was founded in the 1930s.

Collection Description

The records of the Seminary's Communications Department/Office of Public Information, date from its beginnings in the 1930s and continue until the 1980s. The files consist of: scrapbooks and clippings; press releases; extensive subject files containing photographs, memoranda, press releases, and other publicity material; biographical files; a group of reel to reel tapes from the early 1950s that record JTS speeches and broadcasts and some 1954 meetings of the Conference on Science, Philosophy, and Religion; and files documenting the celebration of the JTS centennial in 1986.

All of this material documents JTS; its affiliated programs and institutions; faculty, students, board members, administrators, honorary degree recipients and visitors; and the Conservative movement in general, all from the perspective of public presentation.

Of particular note are extensive files about the Jewish Museum. The museum was located at JTS from its founding in 1904 until 1946, when it moved into the building at 1109 Fifth Avenue it currently occupies. Publicity for the museum was handled by this office until approximately the early 1980s, thus explaining the presence of the files here.

Both the subject files and the biographical files contain many photographs. Descriptions of these have not been added to to the Ratner Center's photograph database, since the arrangement of these files makes the pictures easy to find.

Series List

A. Scrapbooks and Clippings, 1950s-1963

1. Scrapbooks, 1953-1958

2. Disbound scrapbooks, 1950s

3. Loose clippings, 1960-1963

B. Chronological Press Releases, 1950-1979

C. Subject Files, ca. 1930s-1980s

D. Biographical Files, ca. 1930s-1980s

E. Tapes, 1950s-1980s; n.d.

F. Centennial Files, 1986

Series Descriptions

A. Scrapbooks and Clippings, 1950s-1963

Scrapbooks 1-32; boxes 1-2

Included here are thirty-two scrapbooks of clippings and other printed material from ca. 1953-1958. The clippings were gathered by clipping services from newspapers around the country, and document a wide variety of Seminary and Seminary-related events. These events include: fundraising drives, convocations, commencements, matters relating to the University of Judaism in Los Angeles, meetings of the Conference on Science, Philosophy, and Religion and the Institute for Religious and Social Studies, exhibits at the Jewish Museum, and more. Also documented are personal events, such as births, marriages, academic or rabbinic appointments, publications, retirements, and deaths involving Seminary students, alumni, professors, board members, and others associated with the institution.

Twenty-five of these scrapbooks contain clippings on all subjects arranged by date, but the remaining seven contain pamphlets, flyers, and similar printed items arranged by theme. Themes documented are: The Jewish Museum, 1952-1958; a National Planning Conference meeting in Miami Beach, 1956; a meeting of the Council of Jewish Federations and Welfare Funds held in Toronto, 1956; campaign dinners, 1956; the Institute for Ethical Studies in the Atomic Age, 1955; the tercentenary of the arrival of Jews in North America, 1954; and a variety of other matters.

A group of loose clippings, 1936-1937 and 1960-1963, which are exactly the same as those in the scrapbooks, is also included.

Five additional scrapbooks have been disbound for reasons of preservation. These contain press releases, programs, brochures, posters, flyers, reprints of articles, newsletters, manuals, and other, generally printed, material, 1950s, documenting the Seminary as well as the other institutions associated with the Conservative movement. Themes treated in these scrapbooks include: the American Jewish History Center, Camp Ramah, "The Eternal Light" radio program, Institute for Religious and Social Studies, Seminary programs in Israel, the Herbert H. Lehman Institute on Ethics, Universal Brotherhood Movement, National Planning Committee, and the United Synagogue are all documented.

B. Chronological Press Releases, 1950-1979

Boxes 3-8

The series comprises press releases, in chronological order, issued by the Office of Public Information, documenting a wide range of Seminary events.

C. Subject Files, ca. 1930s-1980s

Boxes 9-70; 73-75

The subject files make up the bulk of the collection. They contain many press releases and photographs as well as: texts of speeches (both transcripts and drafts); correspondence and memoranda; programs, invitations, and lists of participants for various events; brochures and newsletters (in both final and draft versions); flyers and posters; reports; clippings; printed material.

This material documents a wide variety of events and programs at the Seminary and its affiliated institutions. There is a significant amount of material documenting the activities of the Seminary's Board of Overseers (largely press releases and reports); the Bernstein Pastoral Psychiatry Center; Camp Ramah; fund-raising campaigns; Conference on Science, Philosophy, and Religion; commencements and convocations; the "Eternal Light" radio program; the Institute for Religious and Social Studies; the library, particularly the fire of 1966; the Seminary's annual High Holiday message (drafts and reprints of messages, and correspondence from the public about them); the Jewish Museum; publications, including the Seminary Beacon, Seminary Bulletin, and Seminary Progress (issues of publications and material about their production); the Seminary's semi-centennial celebration in 1936; student life (including photographs, publications, handbooks, and other material); and Rabbinical Assembly and United Synagogue conventions.

Some items are of particular interest.  These include: files containing publicity material documenting the arrival and exhibition of a shipment of Jewish ceremonial objects from Danzig, sent over in 1939 for safekeeping (Boxes 24, 25, 45); nearly four linear feet of files of the Jewish Museum and its predecessor, the Museum of Jewish Ceremonial Objects containing brochures, catalogs, calendars, invitations, and photographs, 1940s-1980s; a transcript of a discussion among a group of rabbis representing the Rabbinical Assembly who went to Birmingham, Alabama in 1963 to demonstrate support for Martin Luther King, Jr. (Box 14); and nine folders of press releases, texts of speeches, clippings, photographs and correspondence documenting the Seminary's relationship with Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren, 1960s-1970s.

There is also a significant amount of material documenting the activities of Gerson Cohen, Seminary Chancellor, 1972-1986, including approximately twelve folders of transcripts and annotated typescripts of his speeches from the 1970s and 1980s (Boxes 15 and 16).

See the box list for a complete list of the contents of this series. Note that an additional group of subject files has been added to the end of this series.

D. Biographical Files, ca. 1930s-1980s

Boxes 68-70; 76-79

Biographical files were (and still are) maintained by the Office of Public Information/Communications Department . People for whom files are kept include students, alumni, faculty and administrators, members of the boards of directors and overseers, donors to the Seminary, prominent friends of the Seminary, and a variety of other people who had to do with the Seminary in some way.  Biographical files contain many photographs, completed questionnaires, letters, clippings, press releases, and other material documenting these people and their relation to the Seminary. Additional biographical files are still in active use at the Communications Department.

E. Tapes, 1950s-1980s; n.d.

Boxes 70-71; 80-82

Included are thirty-three reel to reel tapes recording speeches, radio broadcasts, and some meetings of the 1954 Conference on Science, Philosophy and Religion. There are speeches (all from 1952) by Martin Buber, (possibly during his Seminary-sponsored United States lecture tour), Abba Eban, Seminary chancellor Louis Finkelstein, Israeli government official Hayim Greenberg, Seminary professor Saul Lieberman, the popular lecturer and author Maurice Samuel, and others. Some speeches in Hebrew are included. These tapes are in fairly frail condition and should not be used until preservation measures have been taken.

An additional group of 93 cassette tapes and one film reel was received between December, 1991 and April, 1994. The tapes date primarily from the 1980s and contain speeches made by Chancellor Gerson D. Cohen at various Seminary functions, conventions Conservative movement organizations, and in Conservative synagogues. Of note is a collection of twelve tapes of the "Gardens and Ghettos" conference on Italian art held at the Jewish Museum in 1989. The film shows Dr. Simon Greenberg, Seminary Vice-Chancellor, laying the cornerstone at the Seminary's Pnimiya in Jerusalem in 1958.

These tapes have been added to the sound database.

F. Centennial Files, 1986

Box 72

Included are correspondence, memoranda, notes, press releases, press kits, flyers, publications, and other material documenting the public relations work done for the Seminary's centennial celebration in 1986.

Box List

This Box List is available in Adobe Acrobat (PDF) format. Download it now.