Philip Bernstein was a Jewish communal professional for over sixty years, involved with numerous cultural, civic and philanthropic organizations. These included the National Foundation for Jewish Culture, the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council, the United Jewish Appeal-Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York, the Jewish Agency for Israel, the Joint Distribution Committee, the United Jewish Appeal, and the local and national offices of the Council of Jewish Federations (CJF), where he served from 1934 until his death in 1995. From 1967 until his retirement in 1979, Bernstein was the Executive Vice President of CJF. HIAS has long benefitted from CJF’s financial assistance to support its daily operations and special projects. At Bernstein’s retirement party on September 15, 1979, numerous well-wishers came together to celebrate his long career and all that he had done in the field of Jewish communal service.
The festivities included a musical revue tribute during which executives of national Jewish aid and immigration organizations, as well as CJF officers, sang a song about collaboration between the various national agencies.
Gaynor I. Jacobson, the Executive Vice President of HIAS at the time, was invited to take part but he objected to the original version of the song as HIAS was not included.
While it is not clear how serious his protest was, organizers changed one of the couplets in the song to include HIAS so that Jacobson would take part.
As of Monday, August 17, I will no longer be working on the HIAS Archives Project—I’m moving horizontally into the position of the Photo & Reference Archivist and Social Media Manager here at the American Jewish Historical society.
Since my last post, I have begun to process boxes from the Development department. The set of boxes I’m currently working with contains records regarding HIAS membership campaigns run by HIAS Board members in their local synagogues and organizations. While processing these materials, I came upon a folder labeled “#125 – Greenburgh Hebrew Center.”
It seems fitting that I should find that folder during my last week on the HIAS project; the Greenburgh Hebrew Center was my first Synagogue, and where I first attended preschool in the early 1990s.
In 1954, shortly before the official merger between HIAS and the United Service for New Americans (USNA), Mildred Tuffield, a files consultant, was hired to survey the file systems in use by both agencies.
Tuffield’s general findings included the fact that “each agency [has] a departmentalized structure organized along functional lines”, and then went on to say that the Survey and Report on HIAS/USNA Files Integration, “had to concern itself with the major problems of the central records used by all departments”.
10 pages of the report deal with the system each agency used to maintain their case files prior to the merger; 5 pages deal with their respective systems for indexing and filing what Tuffield refers to as “General Files” – files that we refer to as “Administrative Files”; these would have been the files maintained by the central filing department, separate (although often duplicative of) individual department files. Subject headings included Executive Overseas Files, US Branch Files, Congregations and Federations.
While there were many specifics in the 15 pages of Tuffield’s report, she advises in her cover letter, above, that a staff committee be appointed immediately, with representation from both agencies, to negotiate a records merger plan.
There are just a few boxes of files from just after the merger in the 1950s that have become part of the HIAS archives project, and these early files, so far, are scattered through the US Operations department in New York, and in some of the files from the Paris office. (Many more of the USNA and HIAS files from this era can be found in the HIAS collections at YIVO.) I recently completed the processing of European Personnel and Administrative files from the HIAS office in Geneva, and many of those files begin at the time of the merger in 1954, so it is not possible to directly compare indexing systems from before and after. I would guess, however, that Tuffield’s recommendations were followed, and ultimately were successful in categorizing at the very least the documents and files created post-merger.