Guide to the National Council of Jewish Women. Department of Service for the Foreign Born Records - New York and Brooklyn Sections
1920-1968

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Collection Overwiew

Creator: National Council of Jewish Women. Department of Service for the Foreign Born
Title:National Council of Jewish Women, Department of Service for the Foreign Born Records
Inclusive Dates:1920-1968
Size:430 linear feet (388 record storage boxes)
Abstract:The National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) was founded in 1893. It undertook a wide range of religious, philanthropic, and educational activities in response to the wave of Jewish immigrants to American shores. One department, the Service for the Foreign Born, was founded in 1903 to help new immigrants adapt to life in the United States. The collection consists of this department of the NCJW's New York and Brooklyn Sections' case files dealing with the agency's efforts to help refugees adjust to the United States, its work to locate immigrants' missing relatives and friends, and administrative records of the Service for the Foreign Born.
Language: The records are primarily in English, with the exception of occasional correspondence and legal documents in Yiddish, Hebrew, and a variety of European languages.
Call No:1976.001

About This Guide

Processed by archival staff members, 1994.

Finding aid encoded on November, 2008.

Encoding is in English.

Organizational History/Chronology

The National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) was founded in 1893. It undertook a wide range of religious, philanthropic, and educational activities in response to the wave of Jewish immigrants to American shores. It operated based on the belief that those in need required skills instead of alms. The NCJW organized vocational training for Jewish women and girls, managed settlement houses, and offered free baths to poor urban dwellers. Council sections sponsored free libraries, employment bureaus, kindergartens, day nurseries, and projects providing summer outings for children.

The New York Section of the NCJW was founded initially as a religious organization. Its early efforts included the formation of Study Circles. These discussion groups familiarized women with traditional Jewish texts previously accessible only through male study and discussion. While this was not an invention of the NCJW, it was the first Jewish organization to utilize the principle of adult education. Their focus quickly expanded to include social reform. One department, the Service for the Foreign Born (SFB), was founded in 1903 to help new immigrants adapt to life in the United States. They offered assistance on a variety of levels at their New York and Brooklyn sections, providing immigrants with legal counsel, education, naturalization, retraining programs, and help with social adjustment.

The Service for the Foreign Born closed in 1976, while the New York Section of the NCJW exists to this day.

Chronology of the National Council of Jewish Women

1893National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) formed
1903Immigrant Aid Department formed, Port and Dock work of meeting unaccompanied women at points of entry to the U.S. begins
1927Immigrant Aid Department assumes International Case Work (locating relatives and reuniting families), formerly handled by the National Office
1929Legal Aid and Naturalization Bureau comes under the jurisdiction of the Immigrant Aid Department
1930Department of Immigrant Aid and Department of Immigration are consolidated as the Department of Service to the Foreign Born (SFB), which assists immigrants with affidavits, visas, naturalization, education, social adjustment and retraining
1933Bulk of cases now Jews from Germany rather than from Eastern Europe
1935Translation Bureau formed to help German physicians become licensed in the U.S.
1937A psychiatric consultant volunteered to help German girls with psychiatric problems: SFB takes over placement of married women at the request of the Greater New York Committee of German Emigres
1938Courses for training waitresses begun to arrange part-time employment for women
1939National Refugee Service established; absorbs Translation Bureau
1942Nurses' Committee formed to help nurses trained abroad present their credentials to the New York State Board of Examiners
1945Waitress program discontinued
1946United Service for New Americans (USNA) formed by merger of the National Service for the Foreign Born with the National Refugee Service: SFB gives up work with unattached women
1950Americanization program for new immigrants set up, but discontinued because of poor attendance
1954USNA and HIAS merge; Ellis Island closed
1956New York Section takes over SFB work of Brooklyn Section
1960American Council for Emigres in the Professions asks SFB to find English teachers
1976SFB offices are closed

Scope and Contents

The collection consists almost entirely of NCJW's Department of Service to the Foreign Born's New York and Brooklyn Sections' case files dealing with the agency's efforts to help refugees adjust to life in the United States. It also contains a set of search files, which record the NCJW's effort to help people locate missing relatives and friends, as well as one box of administrative records.

Arrangement

The records are divided into the following three series:

Series I: Administrative Records, 1923-1966
Series II: Case Files, 1920-1968
Series III: Search Files, 1945-1959

Index Terms

This collection has been indexed under the following terms:

Subjects:
Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945)
Jewish women -- Societies and clubs
Jews -- Charities
Refugees, Jewish
Document Types:
Administrative records
Case files
Reports
Persons:
Perl, Gisella
Rubin, Reuven, 1893-1974
Places:
United States -- Emigration and immigration

Related Material

Related Manuscripts and Archival Collections outside Yeshiva University
National Council of Jewish Women, New York Section Records, American Jewish Historical Society, Center for Jewish History, New York, NY
National Council of Jewish Women Records, Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Washington, D.C.
United Service for New Americans Records (RG 246), YIVO Institute, Center for Jewish History, New York, NY
National Coordinating Committee for Aid to Refugees Coming from Germany (RG 247), YIVO Institute, Center for Jewish History, New York, NY
National Refugee Service (RG 248), YIVO Institute, Center for Jewish History, New York, NY

Provenance

Acquisition Information

The collection was donated to Yeshiva University by the National Council of Jewish Women, Service for the Foreign Born, New York Section, in December, 1976.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is available to researchers deemed to be qualified by the Archivist. However, due to the confidential nature of the case files, access will be primarily granted to those concerned and their descendants; for extensive research on the entire collection, special arrangements will be made to ensure privacy of living individuals.

Conditions Governing Use

Restrictions may apply concerning the use, photoduplication, or publication of materials in this collection. Please contact the Curator of Special Collections for information regarding Yeshiva University's reproduction policies and fees.

Alternative Form Available

A portion of this collection is available on microfilm. Users may be requested to view microfilm instead of handling original materials.

Preferred Citation

A suggested form for citing the collection is as follows: Item description, date, Yeshiva University Archives, National Council of Jewish Women, Department of Service for the Foreign Born Records, Box #, Folder #.

Detailed Description of the Collection

Series I: Administrative Records, 1923-1966. Box 1

Series Description: This series includes Annual Reports of the Department of Service to the Foreign Born (New York section), 1923-1952, and minutes and occasional correspondence of the Advisory Committee of Service for the Foreign Born, 1942-1966.

The Annual Reports provide a broad overview of the work of the Service for Foreign Born and changes in its concerns and mandate over the years, which varied in accordance with world conditions, U.S. immigration laws, and cooperative agreements with other social service agencies serving immigrants.

The Advisory Committee consisted of Council members and the Director of the SFB, who was a paid professional. The chairwoman of the Committee and the director worked closely together to coordinate the efforts of the professional staff and the volunteers. The Advisory Council held monthly meetings to discuss current and potential projects, review policy, and keep track of relevant legislation and the work of other organizations in the field. The minutes of the Advisory Committee meetings reveal how the lay leaders ran the Service and their views of the immigrants and their mission towards them. They are also a social document which describes the milieu of the women who were the lay leaders and how they recruited other like-minded women as leaders or volunteers for the Service.

Series II: Case files, 1920-1968. Boxes 2-324

Series Description: This series contains the records of the immigrants aided by the Service for the Foreign Born of the New York and Brooklyn sections. There are approximately 42,000 case files in this series.

The New York Section serviced Manhattan, the Bronx, and some portions of Queens. The exact areas of Queens serviced varied over time. In 1956, the New York Section took over the SFB work of the Brooklyn section after its reorganization. The agency basically served what it termed "unattached" women, although it did extend its services to men and families at some points in its history, particularly after 1946 at the request of other social service organizations.

The case files have a uniform setup. Each one has an information sheet on the client, summaries of the case and the client's interviews with the caseworker, correspondence with or about the client. and legal documents about the client's visa or status in the United States. In some of the files there are articles or artwork produced by the client which were included as samples to illustrate the client's profession or skills. The files document the client's adjustment to life in the U.S. and the NCJW's role in providing clients with the appropriate social, vocational, educational, financial, psychological, medical and legal services as needed. Two exceptional cases files are those of Reuven Rubin, an Israeli artist, whom the NCJW helped with a visa extension during a visit to the U.S. in 1941; and Dr. Gisella Perl, a physician in Auschwitz, who was aided by the NCJW during her stay in the U.S. in 1947.

The clients serviced were mainly from Central and Eastern Europe, but the files also include cases from Western Europe, Israel, and other Middle Eastern countries. The national origins of the majority of the clientele in a given time period generally depended on the world situation at the time, e.g. most clients in the 1930s were of German origin, most clients in the late 1950s were of Hungarian origin.

Arrangement: This series is divided geographically into two subseries: New York Immigration, 1920-1968, and Brooklyn Immigration, 1942-1955. The dates represent the closing dates of the cases. The New York Immigration files are divided chronologically into the following sections: 1920-1938, 1939-1949, 1950-1952, 1953-1954, 1955-1959, and 1959-1968. These divisions represent the way the files were received from the NCJW, with the exception of the first group, 1920-1938. These files were discovered in the 1939-1949 section and were removed to create their own chronological group. The Brooklyn Immigration files are in two chronological sections: 1942-1952 and 1953-1955 and are arranged in alphabetical order within each section. The Phonetic (Soundex) filing system was used by the agency to alphabetize its records.

Series III: Search Files, 1945-1959. Boxes 325-339

Series Description: This series contains approximately 4,000 case files recording NCJW's efforts to help people locate or find information on relatives and friends whose whereabouts were unknown. Persons were sought both in the United States and abroad. Most cases were initiated in order to help the person sought immigrate to the U.S. Others were undertaken in order to help settle estates or for personal reasons.

The files consist of searches that were initiated through NCJW's New York and Brooklyn sections, as well as searches that were referred to NCJW by other agencies. generally the United HIAS Location Service or the United Service for New Americans.

Each file of the searches initiated by the NCJW includes a "history sheet" which is a brief record of inquiries undertaken in the case, and correspondence, memos, reports from other social service agencies such as USNA and HIAS, and legal papers generated by the inquiry.

New York search files are for 1945-1959; Brooklyn search files are for 1947-1955, and only for the letter "Z".

Search files referred to NCJW by other agencies consist of NCR (NYANA Clearance Reports), 1949-1959, generally referred by the United HIAS Location Service, and No. Loc. (Numbered Locations), 1950-1958, referred generally by the United Service for New Americans.

Arrangement: The NCJW's New York and Brooklyn search files are arranged according to the Phonetic System by name of the person who initiated the search. The cases referred to the NCJW are arranged in numerical order by case numbers, which were assigned in chronological order.