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APJI Status Report - July 2007

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The Archive of Progressive Judaism in Israel (APJI)

Status Report - July 2007

The Archive of Progressive Judaism in Israel (APJI), dedicated to the collection and organization of documents relating to the establishment of the Reform Judaism Movement in Israel is celebrating six years of operation.

The mission of the APJI is to collect, preserve, organize and disseminate materials pertaining to the establishment and development of Reform Judaism in Israel and to facilitate research on the subject. Our goal is to outline the [Hi]Story of Reform Judaism in Israel as manifested in documents gathered from the various offices connected with the movement and from personal archives. We serve members and staff of the various Reform institutions and congregations as well as independent and academic researchers.

Materials pertaining to the Progressive Movement in Israel were scattered until very recently among various agencies and archives such as the Takam (Unified Kibutz Movement), Leo Baeck Institute, The Progressive Movement and its affiliate offices, private homes and congregations. We have taken to assemble as much of these materials as possible into one unified and meaningful collection under the auspices of the library of the Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem.

The first step was to identify and map the locations of relevant historical documents. Ilana Oz, the archivist hired for this purpose, personally approached position holders in the various Progressive Movement and World Union organizations as well as Reform congregations and persons that were active in the movement past and present. It took a lot of follow up, nudging, and trips to private homes and dusty warehouses, but the materials gradually started to accumulate at the college.

We are now in possession of most of the material located in Israel. We have the records of Hebrew Union College, IMPJ and it affiliates, WUPJ, and most of the established congregations as well as a number of personal archives. We plan to approach the younger congregation as well and to implement a process by which all of the records created by Reform organizations in Israel will be as a general practice and in due course transferred to the archive.

The next step was to start processing and describing the collection. As clear from the above the material was received in haphazard and disorderly condition. It was necessary to organize the material and re-file the documents in new folders and archival grade containers. Making the documents accessible to potential users is the ultimate goal of the archive. We deliberated through a time consuming process of weighing options and planning a cataloging scheme. The archive world is going through a phase of adjustment to the possibilities presented by online technology. We finally concluded to catalog our holdings at the folder level and to post descriptive records on Aleph500 the library's online cataloging system.

In addition we launched the Oral History project. We identified people who have been active and/or involved with the movement and contributed to its development over the years. Some 30 taped interviews were conducted with key personalities by graduates of the Oral History Institute of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Representative interviewees are Rabbis Richard Hirsch, Moshe Zemer, Herbert Weiner, Robert Samuels, Miri Gold as well as Hank Skirball, Michael Livni and Prof. Avraham Biran.

We have already served users from congregations such as Har-El, as they prepare to celebrate their 50th anniversary and graduate level university students writing papers and theses about the history of Reform in Israel.

This is a work in progress and there is yet much to be done. We plan to continue this important undertaking toward fulfilling our goals for the sake of scholarship and out of respect for the founders of the movement in Israel and those who carry on the mission.