The Special Collections Research Center is pleased to announce the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Philadelphia Records are now open for research use. The JCRC records were donated to the Philadelphia Jewish Archives Center between 1976 and 2006 and acquired by the Special Collections Research Center in June 2009 where they were the focus of a two-year processing project. View the online finding aid or guide to the collection on the Libraries’ website.
The Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Philadelphia (JCRC) was founded on January 30, 1939, as the Anti-Defamation Council but changed their name in 1943. The impetus for the formation of the JCRC was the rise of antisemitism in America after fascism took hold of much of Europe in the late 1930s. Jewish community leaders perceived the need for a unified voice dedicated specifically to fighting antisemitism and protecting the rights of the Jewish Community in Philadelphia. The JCRC’s mission has traditionally been defined as “…helping members of all religious, racial and ethnic groups to work and live together democratically and cooperatively by equalizing their treatment, enlarging their opportunities and deepening their mutual appreciation.” The Jewish Community Relations Council is still in existence and works as a constituent agency of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.
The bulk of the records span JCRC history from its founding in 1939 through the mid-1990s. Subject strengths include the struggle against antisemitism and racism in any form, including violence, vandalism, and propaganda, or in any aspect of society, such as education, employment, and housing. Other well-documented subjects include prayer in schools, interreligious relations, the relationship between the black and Jewish communities, Holocaust remembrance, Soviet Jewry, and the state of Israel.
Of particular interest are data, surveys, and compiled reports on the admissions practices of Philadelphia’s professional schools in the 1940s.
Also noteworthy are records pertaining to the Black-Jewish Loan Fund, a JCRC–created program which offered low or no interest loans to members of the black community interested in purchasing Jewish-owned business in neighborhoods of shifting demographics.
As part of the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries (PACSCL) project Bibliotheca Philadelphiensis, the Special Collections Research Center has been cataloging and digitizing its medieval and early modern collections, which include financial ledgers, notated music, a Book of Hours, and philosophical texts.
While illuminated manuscripts are what immediately comes to mind when most people think of medieval manuscripts, Temple’s collections are a little different. We do hold the beautiful Book of Hours: Use of Toul from the 15th century, but the bulk of our medieval and early modern manuscripts are financial or legal documents.
While less artistically inclined, these manuscripts provide a glimpse into the everyday life of the period: how people held and transferred property, how businesses conducted their work, how banks managed their customers’ money, and how governments taxed their citizens.
In that last category, the Spanish Treasury in Peru Account Book is a ledger maintained by the Royal Treasury of Peru in 1571, then under Spanish control. The volume records not only general revenue and expenses, but also the tributes forcibly levied against the native people whose land was colonized by Spain. Another 16th century volume, an Italian Banking Ledger covering 1593-1595, is notable primarily for its extravagant binding and large size: over 19 inches tall. It contains debits and credits for a banking firm based in Rome.
An earlier manuscript, the Florentine Grain Dealer Account Book, which covers the years 1466-1524, contains entries showing payments made for grain, rent, taxes, alms, and other income for this Italian business. The Marcoux Family Estate Account Book, which begins around the same time but continues into the 18th century, documents income for the estate, which was located in Dauphiné, France. The volume contains pages written right side up and upside down, as well as multiple paging conventions—perhaps to be expected in a ledger used for around three hundred years.
These are just four of the finance-related manuscripts recently digitized for the project. All four belong to SCRC’s Harry C. Cochran History of Business Collection, which was established by Temple University Head Librarian Walter Hausdorfer in 1950. The Cochran Collection includes a wide range of manuscripts and a smaller number of books documenting the evolution of commerce in Europe and the Americas between the 4th and 20th centuries.
The Bibliotheca Philadelphiensis project is funded by the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR), and aims to digitize and make available online medieval manuscripts from fifteen institutions in the Philadelphia area. Images and descriptive metadata will be released into the public domain and easily downloadable at high resolution via University of Pennsylvania Libraries’ OPenn manuscript portal. Temple is contributing nearly forty manuscripts to the project. SCRC’s digitized manuscripts are also being added to Temple’s Digital Collections website.
–Katy Rawdon, Coordinator of Technical Services, SCRC
On October 25, 2018, SCRC Associate Archivist Jessica Lydon, joined historian of Vietnam and migration, Professor Dieu T. Nguyen, and Executive Director of HIAS Pennsylvania, Cathryn Miller-Wilson, in Paley Library for a panel discussion. Professor Lila Corwin Berman, Director of the Feinstein Center for American Jewish History, moderated the panel which featured HIAS (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society) Pennsylvania’s history, its various resettlement efforts, and the work HIAS PA is doing to address today’s refugee crisis.
Lydon highlighted portions of the HIAS Pennsylvania Records collection held in Temple University Libraries Special Collections Research Center, most notably the organization’s resettling of Jewish refugees fleeing persecution in the Russian empire during the late 19th and early 20th centuries; advocacy work against restrictive immigration legislation including literacy tests and head taxes; and collaborative resettlement work with local VOLAGs (voluntary agencies) to assist Southeast Asian refugees in the aftermath of the Vietnam War.
Nguyen shared with attendees a chronology of key events surrounding Vietnam War-related refugees, how Vietnamese refugees regarded American aid associations that assisted them in the resettlement process, current characteristics and figures of Southeast Asian populations in Philadelphia and beyond, as well as her personal connections to these events, through the experiences of her two brothers.
Miller-Wilson spoke about HIAS PA’s current efforts to assist vulnerable populations and some of the challenges to this work including the Department of Homeland Security’s proposed wealth test regulation known as the “public charge rule,” which if enacted would deny green card and other visa applicants for using “one or more public benefit” in the past or being “likely at any time” to receive such benefits in the future.
All of SCRC’s medieval music manuscripts are leaves, meaning single pages. Originally, these leaves would each have been one page in a larger bound volume. Practice in previous times was often to cut apart such volumes in order to sell the individual pages at higher prices–which meant that the context of the original item was lost. The practice did, however, allow libraries which might not have been able to afford an entire medieval manuscript volume to acquire an example in the form of a single page.
The fate of the remainder of the volumes from which the SCRC leaves came is unknown. One benefit to digitizing dis-bound leaves is the possibility of one day finding their former companions and digitally reuniting the dismembered book, such as the project to reconstruct the Beauvais Missal.
One leaf typical of SCRC’s holdings is from a 16th century Spanish antiphonary or choir book displaying a page of music with Latin text for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. This leaf would have been bound in a huge volume—over 30 inches tall—originally used by the choir of Jaén Cathedral in southern Spain. Antiphonaries were volumes containing the sung portions of the Divine Office and were intended to be placed in front of the choir for reference, hence their large size.
A French missal leaf from 1285 is an outlier in size at only a little over 7.5 inches tall. A missal is a liturgical book containing the texts necessary for the celebration of the Mass.
All images and descriptive metadata for manuscripts in the Bibliotheca Philadelphiensis project will be released into the public domain, easily downloadable at high resolution via University of Pennsylvania Libraries’ OPenn manuscript portal. Temple is contributing nearly forty manuscripts to the project. SCRC’s digitized manuscripts are also being added to Temple’s Digital Collections website.
–Katy Rawdon, Coordinator of Technical Services, SCRC
As we anticipate the celebration of the 200th anniversary of Walt Whitman’s birth on May 31, 2019—and the start of the World Series this month—we are reminded of the role the 1988 film Bull Durham played in connecting a new generation to Whitman and his love of baseball.
Horace Traubel, a writer and editor, his wife, Anna, and his daughter Gertrude knew Whitman in Camden, NJ, and worked to preserve his memory after his death in 1892. Traubel was one of Whitman’s three literary executors, and the family prepared much of the material for the multi-volume series, With Walt Whitman in Camden.
The Bull Durham connection comes when Annie Savoy (mis-)quotes Whitman on baseball. LA Times writer Brian Cronin set about correcting that in a March 28, 2012 article, saying:
“Walt Whitman, the great American poet, essayist and journalist (best known for his poetry collection, Leaves of Grass), is referenced again in Bull Durham, at the very end of the film, as Annie speaks to the audience, saying, “Walt Whitman once said, ‘I see great things in baseball. It’s our game, the American game. It will repair our losses and be a blessing to us.’ You could look it up.” “
Cronin points his readers to a quote from Horace L. Traubel With Walt Whitman in Camden, vol. 2 (stated by Whitman in September 1888):
“I like your interest in sports ball, chiefest of all base-ball particularly: base-ball is our game: the American game: I connect it with our national character. Sports take people out of doors, get them filled with oxygen generate some of the brutal customs (so-called brutal customs) which, after all, tend to habituate people to a necessary physical stoicism. We are some ways a dyspeptic, nervous set: anything which will repair such losses may be regarded as a blessing to the race. We want to go out and howl, swear, run, jump, wrestle, even fight, if only by so doing we may improve the guts of the people: the guts, vile as guts are, divine as guts are!”
Cronin goes on: “Later on,… in Volume 4 (published after Traubel’s death), Whitman spoke more about baseball (this time in April of 1889):
“Baseball is the hurrah game of the republic! That’s beautiful: the hurrah game! well—it’s our game: that’s the chief fact in connection with it: America’s game: has the snap, go, fling, of the American atmosphere—belongs as much to our institutions, fits into them as significantly, as our constitutions, laws: is just as important in the sum total of our historic life.”
You could look it up.
Director, Special Collections Research Center
Harold Ash was educated in Philadelphia and Atlantic City schools before attending Temple University. In 1934, he began his involvement with American labor unions, becoming a staff member of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) and the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO).
Ash actively followed the work of organizations representing teachers and industrial workers throughout the country. By corresponding with and collecting the materials of unions and federations as they sought to defend their rights and interests, Ash created reference files he could draw upon when tasked with assisting these groups.
Until his death in 2010, Ash served both educational and industrial unions. Portions of the Harold Ash Papers document his committed role as federation negotiator for the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT) and the Pennsylvania Federation of Teachers (PaFT) during his time as a staff member of the Industrial Union Department of the AFL-CIO. Due to his experience with collective bargaining contracts, Ash received many thank-you notes in response to his assistance with teachers’ organizations all over the United States, and the collection contains many agreement drafts and final agreements that Ash had a part in.
Additional material in the collection chronicle Ash’s work with the Telephone Workers Organizing Committee, Insurance and Allied Workers Organizing Committee (IAWOC), Industrial Union of Marine and Shipbuilding Workers of America (IUMSWA), and various other national unions. Ash also served as a teacher in Division of Extension, School District of Philadelphia, and compiled bargaining course materials for college students, federations, and individual workers alike. Materials touching on matters of race, gender, and religion suggest an interest in the array of issues facing workers in all fields.
Ash was not alone in his dedication to labor organization—his wife Martha also took part in union efforts, running as a delegate on the United Bargaining Slate of the PFT.
Problem-Based Learning (PBL) is a teaching method commonly used in medicine and science curriculum, but it has also been applied in teaching history. (See Stallbaumer-Beishline, “Problem Based Learning in a History Classroom,” in Teaching History: A Journal of Methods, 2012.) Stephen Hausmann, an instructor in Temple’s History Department, contacted our Rebecca Lloyd, History’s library subject specialist, about using this approach for assignments in his General Education course, “Founding Philadelphia.” He hoped that this method of answering historical questions would increase student engagement and help them to develop information literacy and critical thinking skills. Rather than writing a research paper, the course was designed to have students working together in teams over the course of the semester to learn to think like historians and answer specific questions based on evidence drawn from primary sources.
Librarian Rebecca Lloyd, held instruction sessions early in the semester to show students how to find and use the secondary and primary sources (drawn from her American history subject guide) that they would need to come up with answers to the PBL-based questions. She held follow up sessions to help with research and checked in throughout the semester to see how things were going.
Using this same teaching approach the Special Collections Research Center (SCRC) hosted a class session in our reading room. This was the last of the seven PBL-based assignments for the semester. Students were encouraged to handle and engage with the materials pulled for the class and use these primary sources to address two historical questions:
Question 1: The 1876 Philadelphia Exposition showcased the city as a modern, industrial, symbol of American strength and promise. This was very much in contrast with the dire economic situation the United States faced after the Panic of 1873. Look at some of the fair materials – in what ways did the Centennial Exposition foster this image? What attractions, items, displays, architecture, and landscape were used to create an American mythology at the event? Compare these with other collections from the 1870s. What contradictions do you see? In what ways was the exposition an accurate portrayal of late nineteenth century American life?
Question 2: One job of a historian is to piece together the basics of daily life in the past for different groups of people. Find two sets of documents that catalogue two different people from Philadelphia’s history. How were their economic and social situations different and similar? Describe their daily lives as best as you can and explain how they compared with one another. What did they eat and drink? What about their leisure activities or family life? What about the work they did or how they otherwise earned their pay?
At the end of the semester, Stephen Hausmann shared the following comments about his class’s experience in the SCRC working with primary sources:
“I had spent much of the semester training my students to use online databases. The visit to SCRC was a chance for them to use their skills in an “active” archival setting. One of my major objectives was to teach information literacy and ways of “reading into” a document, and I hoped that viewing archival material in the flesh would give students an opportunity to use those skills.”
Actively looking at documents in groups led his students “to draw many conclusions about the materials at hand in a way that never really happened during the usual, online, archival research sessions I held in class. Being able to walk around tables and pick up documents, turn pages, and discuss with their peers what they were seeing made for an archival experience I didn’t really foresee. in short, the visit’s collaborative nature achieved what I had been trying to get my students to understand all semester.”
“I think maybe faculty think a session like this will be extra work for them, while on the contrary it actually lessened my burden by allowing me to walk around and talk more with students substantially about the documents they were looking at. I couldn’t have been happier with how things went and some of my students told me it was their favorite single class of the semester.”
We intend to encourage instructors to try PBL-based assignments in their courses, as a hands-on alternative to the traditional research paper. The SCRC is uniquely suited to collaborate on just such an approach.
–Josue’ Hurtado, Coordinator of Public Services, SCRC
In the late 1960s, the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Philadelphia (JCRC) saw it a priority to take a public stance regarding gun control legislation. While cases of local antisemitic incidents often included violence, they did not generally include firearms. However, in June 1968, gun control legislation was on the JCRC Board of Directors meeting agenda resulting in the board adopting a policy in support of stricter gun control legislation. The primary motivating factors appear to have been two-fold. First, the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert F. Kennedy had just occurred. And second, there was concern for Jewish merchants and surrounding neighborhoods due to an increase in violent crimes in historically Jewish neighborhoods. This had produced increased fear and a call for action from the community. The JCRC argued the solution was to address wider, systemic problems and that an escalation of violence and vigilantism could only beget more violence. In a statement by Executive Director Albert Chernin:
[W]hat we must do is to forge with others a national consensus to persuade the federal government to carry out that massive program that we have postponed for more than 25 years to deal with our massive social, political, and economic problems….That, my friends, is Jewish self-defense. Jewish self-defense is better schools…full and fair employment…full and fair housing….In short, Jewish self-defense is a dynamic, thriving democracy.
Between 1968 and 1971, the JCRC did very little beyond releasing public statements. Their involvement in the gun control debate began again in earnest in 1972. Motivated by a desire to reduce violence in their community, the Old York Road Suburban Division of the JCRC reminded the board of their 1968 opinion and called on them to renew their public stance advocating gun control. While reassessing their position, the JCRC solicited advice from the Philadelphia Crime Commission, the criminal justice expert at the American Jewish Committee, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Executive Director of the National Council of Responsible Firearms Policy on the question of the constitutionality of private hand gun ownership. JCRC counsel concluded that, “The United States Supreme Courts and lower courts have consistently interpreted the Second Amendment as a prohibition against federal interference with the state militia and not a guarantee of an individual’s rights to bear arms.”
The board then sanctioned the petitioning of elected officials and public advocacy groups, supported most notably by the Philadelphia Fellowship Commission. Though they received positive responses from the community, the responses from elected officials were tepid. For instance, in response to the JCRC’s suggestion that gun control legislation be advanced at a federal level, the Pennsylvania Senate’s minority caucus chairman Wilmot Fleming called the JCRC’s petitioning of Congress “somewhat meaningless.” The JCRC continued to lobby Fleming to push a total ban on handgun ownership, but he remained unmoved, citing the belief that, “The problem with any gun control measures, either state or federal, is the fact that a criminal who wishes to obtain a firearm of any kind to be used in the commission of a drime [sic] will get it regardless of any law on the statute books.”
In 1975, after failing to make any headway, the JCRC’s focus on gun control legislation began to wane. A change in the executive directorship brought a reassessment of priorities and a focus on Soviet Jewry and the defense of Israel.
Casey Babcock, Project Archivist, SCRC
This is the fourth post of an occasional series highlighting the work of Philadelphia’s Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC). The records of the JCRC, housed in Temple University Libraries’ Special Collections Research Center, are currently being processed and will be available for research in late summer 2018.
Richard Williamson Ellis, born in 1895, was a successful book designer and printer. After being introduced to and inspired by the acclaimed typographer, Bruce Rogers, Ellis went on to launch his own press in 1924, calling it the Georgian Press. Initially locating it in New York, Ellis moved in 1927 to a renovated barn in Westport, Connecticut, where he stayed until 1933. Although some of the books carried his own imprint, Ellis printed the majority of projects produced at the Georgian Press for publishers and private collectors. When forced to sell the Georgian Press due to financial difficulties, Ellis sold it to George Macy, founder of the Limited Editions Club.
During his career, Ellis printed close to fifty books. He often collaborated with friends, most notably, the famous typographer, Frederic Goudy. Ellis often included Goudy’s work in his own. Five Hundred Years of Printing from Type: A Series of Notes on Printing History, from Johann Gutenberg to Bruce Rogers, a book designed and authored by Ellis, has a section devoted to Goudy. When Goudy’s press had a devastating fire in 1939, Ellis and other friends held a dinner to help him recoup his losses. Ellis’s files, housed in the Special Collections Research Center, includes not just examples of Goudy’s influence on Ellis, but correspondence between the two, photographs, and even keepsakes and ephemera Ellis designed for him.
In 1935, Ellis and his wife Esther moved to Camden, New Jersey, where Ellis took a position with Haddon Craftsmen. Ellis’ time at Haddon Craftsmen ended in 1942. From 1942 to 1944 he worked for Kingsport Press in Kingsport, Tennessee. In 1945, Ellis moved to New York as a consulting book printer. He was employed by Curtis Publishing Company in Philadelphia from 1947 to 1956, working on the firm’s popular magazines, The Saturday Evening Post, Ladies’ Home Journal, Country Gentlemen, Jack and Jill, and Holiday. After leaving Curtis, Ellis once again struck out on his own. His final work, commissioned by the Free Library of Philadelphia, was completed while Ellis was in his eighties: Pennsylvania German Fraktur of the Free Library of Philadelphia. Publication of this book marked the end of a sixty-year career in book designing and printing. During that lengthy career, Ellis gained recognition among his New York and Philadelphia colleagues as a master of fine printing. Ellis died on October 9, 1982, in Philadelphia.
Ellis’s papers and the majority of his work product and book collection are now available for research use in the SCRC.
Established in 1974, the National History Day competition is a year-long educational program that attracts thousands of middle and high school students and educators nationwide. Students compete at the local and state levels, which award participants the opportunity to present their work in a national contest held every June at the University of Maryland, College Park. Since 2006, the Special Collections Research Center has participated in NHD and has hosted classes from numerous Philadelphia area schools, including the Julia R. Masterman Laboratory and Demonstration School.
In preparation for the 2017 NHD competition, Masterman High School students Abigail Leighton, Eva Faenza, and Madeline Kim visited the SCRC to use the original news clipping and photograph files of the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin and Philadelphia Inquirer newspapers for information to include in their group documentary, “The Selma Marches: Two Steps Forward One Step Back for Voting Rights.” Their project placed second in the Senior Division, Group Documentary category at the Pennsylvania state NHD competition.
Abigail Leighton describes the class visits to the SCRC as “…instrumental in the creation of our film. The sources we studied not only helped us develop our knowledge of the Selma Marches, they also provided us with visuals such as headlines that articulated key points that we made in our documentary. The insights we developed from the articles we discovered at the SCRC helped propel our documentary from the NHD Philly competition at the National Constitution Center, to the NHD national competition at the University of Maryland. “
“We visited the SCRC very early on in our research. Because of this, the sources we found there provided a framework for our project. We worked with over twenty articles from the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin Clipping Collection. Primarily, these articles helped us place the Selma Marches in historical context, a crucial part of the National History Day process. They were like puzzle pieces. Each article told the story of a different day leading up to the three major voting rights marches. When we pieced the puzzle together, we were able to understand the motivation behind the movement. The articles also helped us interpret the immediate national impact of the marches. We read about protests sparked by the violence in Selma in major cities across the nation. Although throughout this year we consulted many primary sources from speeches to letters to footage and pictures and even conducted a primary source interview with James H. Barker, photographer of the third Selma March, the most instrumental sources were those first articles that we read at the SCRC.”