Dr. Gary P. Zola, Executive Director of The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives (AJA) at the Cincinnati campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR), has announced that the AJA has been awarded a $500,000 matching grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). The grant will enable the AJA to construct a new four-story archival facility adjacent to its current 52,000 square foot Marcus Repository Building to house The Jewish Federations of North America’s (JFNA) multi-million document collection. The collection includes historic documents from JFNA’s predecessors: The United Jewish Appeal and the Council of Jewish Federations.
“We are most grateful to the NEH for this crucial grant award,” said Dr. Zola, who is also the Edward M. Ackerman Family Distinguished Professor of the American Jewish Experience & Reform Jewish History at HUC-JIR. “In order for the AJA to complete the accession of the monumentally important collection, a new facility has become essential. JFNA selected the AJA to receive its collections, which comprises 8,000 archival boxes, and approximately 6500 linear feet of documents and related materials. Without this additional space, the JFNA collection would consume all of the remaining space in the AJA’s existing repository building — and more.”
The AJA’s award is among the NEH’s $30.9 million in grants for 188 humanities projects nationwide. “These new NEH grants will expand access to the country’s wealth of historical, literary, and artistic resources by helping archivists and curators care for important heritage collections, and using new media to inspire examination of significant texts and ideas,” said NEH Chairman Jon Parrish Peede. “In keeping with NEH’s A More Perfect Union initiative, these projects will open pathways for students to engage meaningfully with the humanities and focus public attention on the history, culture, and political thought of the United States’ first 250 years as a nation.”
Andrew Rehfeld, Ph.D., President of HUC-JIR, says that the significance of the JFNA collection is difficult to overstate—as is the collection’s value to the understanding of how the activities of Federated communities helped shape American Jewish experience and culture. “Jewish Federations sustained the institutional structures required to build strong Jewish communities—where individuals could live with dignity, meaning and purpose, and where Judaism in all of its variety was part of a life well lived. The model of communal collective responsibility begun in the late 19th century would become the model of the United Way in the United States. These papers tell the story of our people’s confrontation with modernity in North America: from our immigrant roots, to our connection with world Jewry throughout the urgent existential crises of the 20th Century. These priceless records will uncover new insights into the evolution of American Jewish communal life.”
Today, JFNA raises money to support a wide network of organizations that care for communities and people in need in America, in Israel, and around the world.
“We are thrilled at the news that this major NEH matching grant has been given to the American Jewish Archives,” said Eric D. Fingerhut, President and CEO of JFNA. “This award ensures that the archives of the United Jewish Appeal and Council of Jewish Federations, our predecessor organizations, are housed in a setting where they will be properly curated by the expert archivists at the AJA. Upon completion, they will be added to the AJA’s web presence as a major manuscript collection. This will make the entire collection available to scholars, researchers, students and educators throughout the world.”
Once JFNA’s vast and significant historical collection comes to the American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati will be the home of the world's largest cataloged collection of documentary evidence on the history of American Jewry. HUC-JIR and the AJA are currently engaged in efforts to match the requested NEH Challenge Grant ($500,000) with non-federal funds of $1.5 million. These fundraising activities for construction of the new repository are being co-led by Dr. Gary P. Zola and Lissie Diringer, Vice President for Institutional Advancement at HUC-JIR, with the dedicated support from JFNA.
For more information or to arrange for an interview, please contact Joyce Kamen at 513.543.8109.