Tag Archives: American Jewish History

From the Philadelphia Jewish Archives: Friend-Finding Service for Refugees

The task of acclimating to a new environment can be daunting for anyone relocating or settling in a new city or country. In addition to establishing a home, finding work, accessing health care and other services, and possibly learning a new language, developing friendships is an important part of feeling connected to a new community. In an increasingly technologically-dependent world, social networking tools and friend finder apps like Wiith, Hey! VINA, LykeMe, and Meetup can make easy work of connecting to like-minded individuals with similar interests. The challenges associated with establishing a social network in an unfamiliar place are certainly not new.

Recently, while processing and cataloging the records of the Philadelphia based social service agency Jewish Family Service held in the Special Collections Research Center, I discovered a card file containing profiles of WWII refugees. The profile cards were created by the Philadelphia Refugee Resettlement Committee, a committee established in February 1937 by the Jewish Welfare Society (later renamed the Jewish Family Service) to support the economic and social adjustment of individuals and families displaced by the war.

The Refugee Resettlement Committee saw one of the most basic social skills—the ability to make friends—as a necessity for the positive adjustment of refugees arriving in Philadelphia. To aid this process, the committee created a service staffed by volunteer “friendly visitors.” The committee would interview these “new Americans” after their arrival, creating a profile card summarizing the individual or family’s background and social preferences. Volunteers were then matched with refugees based on shared interests in the hopes of fostering a friendship.

Lauer family profile card
Lauer family profile card, 1939

Max and Fridericka Lauer and their two sons were just one of the many families who were matched with Refugee Resettlement Committee volunteers between 1938 and 1941. The Lauers’ profile card indicates the eldest son, Lothar, immigrated to Philadelphia in September 1938 and enrolled as a student at Temple University prior to his family’s arrival in March the next year. Described as a cultured family, the following excerpt from the Lauers’ profile provides some insight into the challenges they faced in creating a social network on their own:

“Mr. and Mrs. Lauer have always been interested in music, the theatre, the opera–but have been unable to partake of these activities in this country because of a financial inability, and a lack of friends with whom to share these interests. Mrs. Lauer is also interested in bridge but states that the women she has met in her neighborhood are old Jewish women whose sole interest is the house, thus giving her very little in common with them. Mrs. Lauer does not speak English at all, Dr. Lauer speaks quite poorly. It would therefore be necessary to find a German-speaking volunteer for this family.”

–Jessica M. Lydon, Associate Archivist, SCRC

From the Philadelphia Jewish Archives: Philadelphia’s Holocaust Memorial


Philadelphia Holocaust Memorial
Monument at 16th and Benjamin Franklin Parkway, April 27, 1964

As we enter the Days of Remembrance of the Victims of the Holocaust and Yom Hashoah, the Special Collections Research Center asked Natasha Goldman, Research Associate and Adjunct Lecturer in Art History at Bowdoin College, to share her recent experiences at the SCRC and the connections she made that led to Temple’s acquisition of a previously “hidden collection.”

Goldman writes:  “In 2011, I started research on Nathan Rapoport’s Monument to the Six Million Martyrs (1964), arguably the first public Holocaust memorial in the US, located in Philadelphia at the corner of 16th St., Arch St. and Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Designed by artist Nathan Rapoport, famous for his Warsaw Ghetto Uprising Monument (1948), the sculpture has largely been ignored in the literature of Holocaust memory in the US.

Abram Shnaper, a Holocaust survivor, had initiated the monument’s commission on the behalf of the Association of Jewish New Americans, a Philadelphia survivor organization that he had founded in 1954. Together with the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, the groups raised $47,000 for the monument. Shnaper painstakingly documented the entire process, from raising funds, to writing letters to the artist, to sending telegrams to Israel to invite Israeli officials to the dedication ceremony. When I visited him in his home in 2011, Shnaper conveyed to me his wish that the documents stay in Philadelphia, close to the monument. 

After Shnaper’s passing, I visited his collection once again, this time at the offices of his son-in-law. I also visited the Temple University Libraries’ Special Collections Research Center, where I found the documents of the Jewish Community Relations Council—including files relating to the committee responsible for the monument in the decade after its installation. When Shaper’s son-in-law asked me where he should donate Abe’s papers, I immediately knew that Temple University would be the best home for his collection. It was Shnaper’s greatest wish that young people learn about the Holocaust so as to pass on the legacy of the six million and of the survivors. Finally, students at Temple University and scholars from near and far have direct access to these rich primary documents. They demonstrate the dedication of diverse Jewish communities to create one of the earliest US Holocaust monuments in public space.

Selections from the Shnaper papers
Selections from the Shnaper papers

Acquired by the SCRC in 2014, the Abram Shnaper Papers on the Monument to the Six Million Jewish Martyrs are open and available for research. View the online finding aid or catalog record for a description of the collection’s contents and to request access to the materials in the SCRC reading room.

Natasha Goldman’s article on Rapaport’s memorial, “Never bow your head, be helpful, and fight for justice and righteousness: Nathan Rapoport and Philadelphia’s Holocaust Memorial (1964),” will be published in the Summer 2016 in the Journal of Jewish Identities, issue 9, number 2. The article will also appear in her forthcoming book, Holocaust Memorials in the United States and Germany: From Grass-Roots Movements to National Debates (under advance contract; Temple University Press, Spring 2017).

— Jessica M. Lydon, Associate Archivist, SCRC

From the Philadelphia Jewish Archives: Editorial Cartoons of Stu Goldman

Goldman business card
Stu Goldman business card, undated

Stu Goldman, an award winning syndicated editorial cartoonist, produced illustrations for the Philadelphia newspaper, The Jewish Exponent, from 1981 until his retirement in 2009. For many years, Goldman also served as a regular and feature cartoonist for a variety of periodicals:  Centre Democrat (Bellefonte, PA), Prince George’s Sentinel (Hyattsville, MD), and the predecessor to the alternative press publication, Philadelphia Weekly, previously known as Welcomat, which featured “Eavesdrawing,” a cartoon illustrating eavesdropped true-life conversations heard throughout the city.

[Jewish Voter Roll]
[Jewish Voter Roll] political cartoon, 1988
At the height of syndication, Goldman’s editorial cartoons were featured in over 70 publications. Similar to the work of fellow Philadelphia newspaper cartoonist Samuel R. Joyner, also held by the Special Collections Research Center, Goldman’s cartoons used political satire to comment on issues that affected his own community as well as those of national and international importance. During the 1988 presidential campaign season, for example, Goldman drew a number of cartoons depicting the struggle between then Massachusetts Governor Michael S. Dukakis and then Vice President George Herbert Walker Bush to attract the Jewish vote.

Dr. Who Convention, February 23, 1985
Dr. Who Convention, February 23, 1985

In addition to his editorial cartoons, Goldman’s papers also includes his sketchbooks, many of them produced during his travels in the United States and abroad. His sketchbooks contain images on a range of subjects from the 1984 annual meeting of the American Jewish Press Association in Washington D.C. to a 1985 Dr. Who Convention at the Valley Forge Convention Center.

To learn more about Stu Goldman’s Editorial Cartoon Collection, contact the Special Collections Research Center at scrc@temple.edu .



— Jessica M. Lydon, Associate Archivist, SCRC

Einstein Medical Center History

Jewish Hospital and Home, 1879
Illustration of Jewish Hospital and Home designed by Frank Furness and George W. Hewitt, Fourteenth Annual Report of the Jewish Hospital, 1879

On September 23, 1865, Jewish leaders in Philadelphia incorporated the Jewish Hospital Association of Philadelphia, now known as Einstein Medical Center. In the aftermath of the Civil War, the association’s officers, led by Alfred T. Jones, Isadore Binswanger, Samuel Weil, and Mayer Sulzberger, sought to erect a hospital under Jewish auspices in response to the lack medical care afforded to members of the Jewish community and the employment discrimination Jews were subject to at other area hospitals. The preamble to the constitution of the Jewish Hospital Association states “It is the duty of Israelites to take care of the suffering and needy ones among them, and as the sick are especially objects of charity and public solicitude, and since there is no institution now in existence within the State of Pennsylvania under the control of Israelites wherein they can place their sick, and where these can enjoy during their illness all the benefits and consolations of our religion.”

On August 6, 1866, the Jewish Hospital opened for the reception of patients. The original building was located at Haverford Road and 56th Street in West Philadelphia with room for twenty patients–ten for the sick and ten for inmates of the Asylum for the Aged, Infirm, and Destitute. Philadelphia’s Jewish Hospital was the third such hospital to be established in the United States after the Cincinnati Jewish Hospital (1849) and the Jews’ Hospital of New York (1852). In its first five months of operation, the hospital treated twenty-eight patients including three “non-Israelites.” Nonsectarian from its inception, the Jewish Hospital was committed to “reducing or eliminating the attitudes and prejudices that mixed medical practice with religious and moral views.” Unlike other hospitals in Philadelphia at the time, the Jewish Hospital was “was free of charge to all poor and worthy applicants without regard to nationality or creed.”

Jewish Hospital staff, 1896
Nurses, resident physician Dr. Edwin Jarecki, and Dr. Knipe, Jewish Hospital, York and Tabor Roads, 1896

To learn more about the history of the Albert Einstein Medical Center and its predecessor, the Jewish Hospital, use the hospital archives and these resources in the Special Collections Research Center:   Mankind and Medicine: A History of Philadelphia’s Albert Einstein Medical Center by Maxwell Whiteman; Edwin A. Jarecki, M.D. Resident Physician Jewish Hospital of Philadelphia, 1892-1934 by William I. Heine; and History of the Jewish Hospital Association of Philadelphia by Henry N. Wessel.

-Jessica M. Lydon, Associate Archivist SCRC

From Camp Kennebec to Camp Firewood

“The War Canoes” postcard
“The War Canoes” postcard, undated

In late July, Netflix released a much anticipated prequel to the quite literally campy cult classic Wet Hot American Summer which premiered in the U.S. in 2001.  The newly released series and the original movie both revolve around the often deviant misadventures of camp goers at a disorganized sleep-away camp in Maine called Camp Firewood. Both films are loosely based on the experiences their director, David Wain, had while attending a Jewish camp in Belgrade, Maine.

Established by three Jewish Philadelphians, Louis Fleischer, Charles Edwin Fox, and Milton Katzenberg, at the start of the twentieth century, Camp Kennebec was located in the scenic Kennebec County town, Belgrade. For almost a century, it catered to Jewish male youth ages 8 to 18, mainly hailing from Philly.

Kennebec Junior felt patch, undated
Kennebec Junior felt patch, undated

Camp Kennebec’s location and religious affiliation are likely the only similarities between it and David Wain’s camp memories. Kennebec was a no-nonsense kind of summer experience with few amenities. It was established to mold boys into “true men” during the tail end of the Progressive Era, when stoic masculinity was emphasized.

Camp Kennebec recruited counselors from Princeton, Harvard, Yale, and the University of Pennsylvania among other universities, and instructed campers to call each of them “uncle” (or the “uncs” as one camper affectionately noted in his photographic travel journal).  Kennebec’s primary emphasis was on the development of respectable traits such as masculinity, ruggedness, and independence. Kennebec’s campers engaged in athleticism, wilderness survival, and first aid, but also academic pursuits such as the study of literature. For many, the boyhood bonds formed at the camp and the lessons it taught them lasted well into adulthood.

Kennebecamper yearbook, 1978
Kennebecamper yearbook, 1978

A collection of records from Camp Kennebec and Kennebec alumni is available for research in Temple University Libraries’ Special Collections Research Center. The collection includes yearbooks, souvenirs, photo albums of hiking trips, and ephemera relating to alumni reunions, which were no doubt well attended. To learn more about Camp Kennebec and the alumni collection, view the online finding aid.

-Irena Frumkin, SCRC Student Assistant

From the Philadelphia Jewish Archives: Hollywood Mysteries

Scholars have long been interested in the cultural and socioeconomic conditions that led Jews to success in the early film industry. Jewish immigrants, and particularly those from Eastern Europe, were adept at developing film technology and skilled at writing, directing, and marketing movies. Even the moguls who created Hollywood’s studio system–William Fox, Samuel Goldwyn, Louis B. Mayer, and Adolph Zukor, among others–were Jewish immigrants who rose from unprepossessing circumstances to become some of the most powerful men in the country. In books, articles, and documentaries, historians and film buffs have attempted to explain this unique aspect of film history.

What’s been less well-studied, however, is the relationship between Hollywood and Philadelphia’s own rich Jewish history. And I must admit that I’ve never given it much thought either, despite being a Philadelphia Jewish Archives collections project archivist in the Special Collections Research Center and classic film enthusiast. That changed, however, after I discovered an intriguing letter in the Robert B. Wolf and Morris Wolf Papers.

Robert and his father, Morris, were prominent members of the Philadelphia Jewish community. Morris served with the American Red Cross during World War I and was stationed in Paris. It was among his letters from France that I came across a curious passage:

Letter to Edwin Wolf
Letter to Edwin Wolf, December 1918.

Dated December 26, 1918, the letter is addressed to Morris’ father, Edwin. “Dear Father:” Morris wrote, “I made my first visit to a moving picture house last evening….There was a picture of Gaby Deslys’s, which I thought was very good. It seems to me that Goldwyn would make a tremendous hit by trying to get say five pictures a year with this star for the United States.” He later reminded, “I suggest that you speak to Goldwyn about it.”

Call me crazy, but was Morris Wolf referring to THE Sam Goldwyn? The famous producer of dozens of classic American films? If he was, then what was the connection between the Wolf family and the Hollywood film industry?

A search of the collection produced more hints, but frustratingly few answers. I found an employment contract for First National Pictures, a film company that merged with Warner Bros. in 1928. The collection also includes a 1959 Philadelphia Inquirer article that mentions that the family starred in and produced Westerns at a Montgomery County motion picture studio (Betzwood, anyone?)

Hoping to find more information, I turned to secondary sources. To my surprise, I found that little has been written about Philadelphia Jews and their role in the national film industry. To be sure, Siegmund Lubin’s career has been well documented, but there are significant gaps in the literature on this subject.

So, if anyone out there decides to tackle this topic, Morris Wolf and I will be eagerly awaiting your findings. Until then, feel free to use the Robert B. Wolf and Morris Wolf Papers and take a stab at unravelling the mystery yourself….

— Jenna Marrone, SCRC Project Archivist

Morris Wolf in uniform
Photograph of Morris Wolf in uniform, 1918