Government Relations in the 1980s: the Archival Arrangement

The American Jewish Historical Society’s HIAS project team recently completed processing on records of the Administration and Government Relations Department of the 1980s. The records cover the years 1982-1990. This post will take a look at how the records are organized.

But first, what was the Administration and Government Relations Department? You wouldn’t be alone if you assumed the two parts of the name must have had something to do with each other—some of us did too. But looking at the records, we found that the “Administration” part actually referred to the administrative functions of the entire agency. Yes, we’re talking about dealing with switchboard problems, setting policy, ordering computers, managing office renovations, evaluating workflow in the mailroom, etc.

The Government Relations part is a bit more interesting, and thankfully represents the bulk of the materials. The federal government was involved in every step in the process of refugee migration to the United States, from the moment a person applied for refugee status, to the time they stepped off the plane. Because of this, HIAS’ relationship with the government agencies responsible for oversight and implementation of the US refugee program was an essential one. The Government Relations department’s role was to establish and maintain a system of frequent and extensive contact with a wide range of entities in Washington, D.C. More on this in a future blog post.

As with other departments, Administration and Government Relations maintained their records alphabetically by subject file, in one to two year chunks. Here is how the records are arranged:

1982 The first set of folders belonged to Karl Zukerman, who at this time served as Assistant Executive Vice President. They are from 1982 and are labeled A-I . So the first folder in this group contains materials related to the American Council of Voluntary Agencies for Foreign Service (predecessor to InterAction), while the last relates to Indochinese Refugees. Folders for J-Z subjects are not present unfortunately.

1982-1983 The next set of Zukerman’s files is for a two year chunk, 1982-1983. For this group we have letters A-U, which is likely the full set of folders, since there weren’t many subjects beginning with letters V-Z. Yay! But you might be wondering, why is there an 82-83 set of folders, and a set of 82 folders by themselves? The reason is that the two sets had two different owners, or “creators” as archival science refers to them. For example, the set of A-I folders from 1982 could have been inherited by Zukerman from the prior staffer in that role. Alternatively, they could have been maintained by Zukerman’s assistant, while the 82-83 set belonged to him. Or, one set could have been what we might consider “general department files” to which multiple staffers contributed materials. It all depends on how the department was organized and what sort of filing scheme met the needs of that group of people.

A two year chunk makes sense because it means keeping recent documents close for when they are needed, while still being a manageable amount of stuff to keep right in the office. At the end of the two years, the files were probably boxed up and brought to the Central Files department. At that point, they were not as close as before, but close enough that one could still retrieve items as needed, probably with the assistance of a staff member in Files. After some period of time in Central Files, records were boxed up again and sent to warehouse storage.

1984 Here again we have one year of files. And again, only folders A-I are present! We do not have an explanation for this. In these materials we see Phillip A. Saperia come on as Director of Planning and Government Relations in June of 1984. He appears to have inherited the files previously kept by Zukerman. So memos, correspondence, notes, etc. addressed to or from both men are present here.

1985-1986 For this period, subjects A-U are covered, just like 82-83. During this time, HIAS reorganized the administrative functions of the agency. In these materials we see that in February or 1986, Saperia’s title changes from Director of Planning and Government Relations to Director of Administration and Government Relations.

1986 This next set is a small group of only administrative files, all pertaining to personnel policy. It is slightly curious that these files were maintained apart from the rest of the 1985-1986 materials, which contained Administrative files mixed in with the Government Relations material, including those related to personnel policy. Perhaps this set originally contained documents of a sensitive nature?

1987 The 1987 files are well represented, running from A-U.

1988-1990 This is the last set of files for this period, and they appear to be complete, ranging from A-W. Yes, this time the subjects went beyond U and into W: Washington Processing Center, and World Refugee Survey. This group appears to have been kept around for some of the next director’s tenure, because Saperia left in 1990 or 91, but there are a few things in here from 92 and 93.

 

Parting question: Do you know why the archivists didn’t just combine the files when there was more than one set? For example, the 1982 group of folders, and the 82-83 group. Leave your thoughts below, and we’ll discuss this topic in a future post.

 

 

 

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A Factory and a Find

Some time ago, we were working with the HIAS Photo Collection when we came across a photo of two men in a matzoh factory. We jotted down a little note to ourselves so we could post it in a few months for Passover.

There is no caption unfortunately, but wouldn’t it be great if this turned into one of those stories where just the right person happened to see the photo on the internet, and could tell us something about it? Maybe someone with a detailed knowledge of the history of commercial matzoh production equipment? An archivist can dream.

When we went to pull the print, we noticed in the same folder a number of adorable photos of children playing and having fun. They don’t have anything to do with Passover, but they were too cute to keep to ourselves. Most are unlabeled, but the few captions that do appear cite Iran and Morocco in the mid 1960s. For more on HIAS in those countries, please see these earlier On the Rescue Front blog posts:

James P. Rice, Executive Director, 1955-1966

International Intrigue: HIAS in Morocco

Here are the kids. Enjoy!

 

 

 

The photo below is labeled “Morocco” on the back in penciled script.

Jews have a long history in Morocco.

 

This last photo is one of the few in the folder with a caption. It reads:

IRAN. A GIFT FROM U.S. During the first six months of 1964 the Joint Distribution Committee distributed to needy Jews in Iran 280,000 pounds of Food-For-Peace supplies donated by the United States Government. These supplies, which included milk, flour, oil, beans and wheat, supplemented JDC’s feeding program which provides food for 8,500 Jews per month, 7,250 of them in school canteens. JDC receives funds for its welfare programs in 30 countries around the world mainly from the campaigns of the United Jewish Appeal. 1/1965.

Jewish child in Iran, 1965.

 

American Values as Seen by Immigrant Children: “People from different countries live peacefully in America!”

In 1995, the HIAS Communications department held a poster contest for Russian emigre youth to artistically express their feelings about their new country. The theme was “What America Means to Me.” One grand prize winner would receive an all expenses paid trip to Washington, D.C. with two family members. Three runners up would receive a special award. Twelve finalists received certificates of achievement and had their posters included in the 1996 HIAS calendar. All participants received a certificate of appreciation.

The following year, the contest was expanded to all immigrant children, and an annual tradition began.

For the 2000 contest, children were invited to look ahead to the 21st century, consider the values they felt America should support in the new millennium, and draw or paint a symbol that expressed their ideas. The winning posters would be printed in the 2001 agency calendar.

2001 was to be a special year, for it marked 120 years of HIAS’ work rescuing more than four million refugees and migrants, transporting them from oppression and persecution and delivering them to places of safe haven. The number was significant because of a common Jewish endearment: “May you live to be 120,” the age of Moses when he died.

Following is a selection of winning artwork from the 2000 contest.

 

Rostislav from California, age 11:

Rostislav’s explanation:

On the background of the earth is drawn my symbol of America in the 21st century. This is the sailing ship that is bringing peace, freedom, and progress to the people of the world as a remembrance of the first religious freedom ship, Mayflower.

-Rostislav, age 11

 

Edward from California, age 10:

Edward’s explanation:

My drawing shows an astronaut making peace with an alien. My symbol means that we should not only take care of our country, but our world, too. There might be other life forms out there. It also shows the future hope that if we can make peace with an alien, we should try to make peace between each other.

-Edward, age 10

 

Aleksandra from Ohio, age 14:

On the left side of the flag, Aleksandra included the message: “Our home is here — our home will be in the other worlds.”

 

Aleksandra’s 12 year old sister sister Anna also participated in the contest:

Anna explained:

It is on the river of time in the boat of love and care looking to the future. I thought of that because there is no life without tomorrow. We have to be prepared for the future even if we do not expect some things to happen.

I do not want to have any wars or stealing to happen so people can think about their future. I want peace! I want for all the countries to be together, have one kind of money and give it to everyone! I want the world to have its future and for no one to be sad. I want everyone to have what they need for the future and not think: what are we going to have for dinner tomorrow? are we going to have dinner?

This is the major and common thing about life. That is why I want this to stand in the most common place in the world so everyone can see it and go for the truth! And if this happens sometime then the Earth can be happy to look into the future!!!

-Anna, age 12

 

Genya from North Carolina, age 8:

Genya’s explanation:

 

My symbol means:

People from different countries live peacefully in America!

-Genya, age 8

 

The HIAS Scholarship Program

From the 1977 annual report.

In 1974, United HIAS Service (as the agency was then known) announced the establishment of the Richard Alan Shapiro Memorial Awards. The $250 awards would be presented annually to two individuals – immigrants or their children – who “were making or preparing to make through study significant contributions to social betterment.” The awards, presented at the HIAS annual meeting in 1975, were the first in what would come to be known as the HIAS Scholarship Program.

Richard Alan Shapiro, son of then Associate Secretary (and future HIAS President) Edwin Shapiro and his wife Claire, was fatally injured in a car accident on January 31, 1974 at the age of 23, when he was in medical school. HIAS Director Gaynor Jacobson and President Carl Glick suggested to the Shapiros that they create a fund in memory of their son.

Records of the Scholarship Program are included in the HIAS archives collection under the Development series. Documents such as meeting minutes of the Scholarship Committee, correspondence with judges, press releases, and newspaper clippings give an idea of the the evolution of the program from the 1970s to the early 2000s. The number of awards increased from one to hundreds as HIAS actively pursued donors. Requirements for eligibility were adjusted as the program became more established. Some of these changes can be traced via the press releases:

  • 1975: $250 awards for “immigrants…who were making or preparing to make through study significant contributions to social betterment.”
  • 1983: $300 awards for “refugees who have made exceptional progress or shown outstanding promise in resettling in the United States.”
  • 1984: $500 awards for “refugees who have come to this country and wish to enter into or advance in the professions of their choosing.”
  • 1988: $500-2,000 awards for “HIAS-assisted refugees and their children who have arrived here since 1977.” Dr. Arline Bronzaft, Chairman of the Scholarship Awards Committee, noted that this was the first year that the funds were earmarked “specifically for students who are pursuing or plan to pursue, a post-secondary education.”
  • 1991: $500-2,000 Israeli awards for “Israeli students who [were] immigrants from the Soviet Union or Ethiopia, who made aliyah during 1980 or after …  Awarded on the basis of need and academic excellence.” (Records in this subseries show that HIAS awarded scholarships to Israeli olim as early as 1978, possibly earlier.)
  • 1992: $500-2,000 awards for “HIAS-assisted refugees and their children who migrated to the United States after 1977. The awards are intended specifically for students who plan to pursue post-secondary education and must demonstrate at least one year’s attendance in an American high school or college.”

 

A few of the awards at a glance:

  • The Ann S. Petluck Award – A social work administrator who specialized in immigration and refugee work, Petluck’s efforts profoundly influenced the practice of migration casework and helped reshape United States immigration law. She served as associate director of the United Service for New Americans until its merger with HIAS in 1954 and then as director of U.S. Operations for  the merged organization until 1964, when she became deputy representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Established by Meyer Poses in 1977 in memory of his wife.
  • The Murray I. Gurfein Memorial Fund – Established in 1980 by Eva Gurfein to honor her husband, the late Judge Gurfein, who served as President of HIAS from 1956-57 and from 1960-67. For more information on Gurfein, see these blog posts: Judge Murray I. Gurfein and Judge Murray Gurfein in “The Post.”
  • The Harry Ginsberg Memorial Fund – Established in 1991 in memory of Harry Ginsberg, a longtime HIAS board member, by his children. Harry’s wife Sophie also devoted her time to the cause of the agency, serving in the Women’s Division for many years (the division’s Sophie Ginsberg Chapter is named for her).
From the 1987 annual report.

Thank-you notes from scholarship recipients (excerpts):

From a pre-med student originally from Syria:

“It is not the first time that I or my family receive support from the HIAS. When we arrived in the USA, the HIAS department for new immigrants took care of our asylum application. They made sure that we have a work authorization and Social Security.

When my parents moved to Israel, HIAS took upon themselves the responsibility to provide me with the proper legal documentation such as Social Security and political asylum.

It is an endless chain of efforts and accomplishments by the HIAS to provide each and every Jew with everything they need to live a decent life in the USA.”

From an NYC student from the former Soviet Union:

“Were it not for the one-thousand dollar scholarship I received from HIAS, I honestly may not have been able to go to college. It is important to understand that for recent immigrants, every little bit helps. I am most grateful for the opportunity HIAS has given me.”

 

 

What is Membership, really?

In the course of processing the archives of the HIAS Membership department over recent months, a few questions have echoed in my mind: Why does the agency solicit for membership, rather than just donations? Why is membership so important? What does it actually mean to be a HIAS member?

It seems that the answers may be related in part to HIAS’s institutional membership in Federation, and the Federation fund-raising structure designed to maximize effective giving and reduce competition among Jewish charities. The following records in the HIAS archives collection, dating to the 1980s and 90s, have helped me to understand this subject a little better.

(For more on the different types of membership campaigns run by the department, see this post.)

 

Member versus contributor

In 1984, newly appointed Executive Vice President Karl Zukerman investigated this topic (see bullet point seven):

 

 

Importance of membership

A 1980 letter from Annette Eskind and Walter Bieringer, co-chairs of the Membership Committee, discussed the “clout” a large membership brought the agency in its negotiations with government bodies:

 

 

Federation considerations

In a 1981 membership campaign report, Director of Fund Raising Hyman Brickman referred to membership campaigns versus other methods of bringing in money:

“While the timing of a campaign is dictated by the Federation, the timing of our request for a campaign is our own choosing. It should not be done while the allocations procedure is underway or an appeal for reconsideration has been filed, lest the community look upon its approval of a campaign as absolving it from giving us our request in full or considering supplementary funding. We must keep the two items separate and apply our maximum efforts to both.”

 

In the same report, Brickman provided an update on campaign prospects in a community that had not been solicited for membership recently. He described the situation this way:

“The community has not allocated to HIAS for many years, and this problem must first be addressed before we go further with membership, since the latter is intended to supplement the allocation and not be a substitute for it.”

 

In 1984, Manfred Weil, a Membership Committee member who for years ran a successful “personal campaign” for HIAS in Rhode Island, wrote to committee chair Eskind, stressing to taking care not to conflict with any Federation fund-raising efforts, “even though the appeal is only for membership.”  (see page two below)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A 1992 memo from Executive Vice President Martin Wenick to President Martin Kesselhaut referred to the distinction between fund-raising efforts and membership campaigns:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also included among the Membership records are these local Federation guidelines for independent and supplementary campaigns (see especially page two):

 

 

 

 

 

 

(HIAS membership dues were $50 annually, which is the same amount cited in these guidelines.)

 

Another Federation granted approval for a HIAS campaign to its members because the solicitation amount fell within a prescribed range:

 

What it means to be a member

Note: This subject relates to the question of what membership is all about, but it doesn’t appear to have anything to do with Federation.

In 1984, Eskind, who conducted many successful “personal campaigns” for HIAS over a period of years, wrote to Brickman on the subject of membership benefits:

“As requested by you, my personal view on ‘membership benefits’ reflects the comments expressed at the last Board meeting. I do not believe that a group insurance or travel program will enhance membership. I do feel that a well-planned membership drive, appropriate for each community, will be far more productive.”

 

In the same 1985 membership campaign report cited earlier, Eskind gave a matter-of-fact description of membership (she was discussing campaign prospects in a region that already supported many active volunteer membership groups):

“It is hard to say whether: a) the community would respond to a ‘newcomer’ that is essentially a paper membership, b) the federation would authorize a campaign (their regular campaign has dropped considerably mainly because of a high unemployment rate, necessitating a cut in our allocation after it was made), and c) the federation would, if it did grant clearance, make its lists available. On the positive side is the fact that we have acquired two new Board members from the community. The issue will be explored further with them.”

 

If I come across any additional documents that shed light on this topic, I’ll be sure to do another post.

 

 

Sources

Collection: I-363 HIAS; Subseries: Development; Subsubseries: Membership; Subsubsubseries: Subjects.

  • The 1992 memo from Wenick to Kesselhaut may be found in the Federations—Campaign Permission Letter folder.
  • The Federation Guidelines for Campaigns document is in a folder titled Federations—Allocations.
  • All other documents are from the Membership Committee folder.

Types of Membership Campaigns

During the 1980s and 1990s, the HIAS Membership department conducted a variety of mailings every year to solicit contributions from new and existing members.

 

Membership campaigns are important because they are a source of revenue and because a strong membership base strengthens our voice.

-from a Membership committee report

 

There were two different types of campaigns:

  1. Board member / Membership department joint campaigns
  2. Membership department-only campaigns

Let’s take a closer look.

 

Board member / Membership department joint campaigns

These types of campaigns were commonly referred to at HIAS as “Board member campaigns,” but that name is a little misleading because it implies the board member ran the campaign or was in charge of the campaign. In fact, these campaigns were run by the Membership department with the assistance of a board member. The Membership department would get the campaign going, draft a solicitation letter, work with a printing firm on the letter and inserts, manage the mailing list, send out thank yous, and bear the costs.

Board members varied in terms of how much assistance they provided for their campaigns. Some got very involved, running through multiple drafts of the campaign letter, weighing in on various details of the mailing, strategizing with staff on how to get better returns, passing valuable information to HIAS, requesting regular updates on how the campaign was doing, and analyzing the results. Other board members did little more than provide their signature for the bottom of the letter.

  

There were four kinds of Board member / Membership department joint campaigns:

  1. Federation
  2. Personal
  3. Synagogue
  4. Trade / Professional

In 1994, a committee of the board described the campaigns in a report:

  • “Running a Federation membership campaign is not difficult; basically it involves encouraging your local federation to allow a campaign – the [HIAS] office does all the work. If it is not possible to do a federation campaign,
  • A personal campaign can also be effective – you just need to submit a list of names to the [HIAS] office – again, most of the work is done there.
  • Trade or business: Almost all of us are involved in a profession or business – obtaining a list of colleagues really should not be too hard, and is very productive.
  • A campaign through your Synagogue, asking permission of the Rabbi and generally following the same procedure as the other kinds of campaigns, is also very productive.”

 

Membership department-only campaigns

The Membership department also ran mailings on its own, without the involvement of board members. Here are some of the kinds of campaigns they ran:

  1. HIAS clients
  2. Lapsed members
  3. Big Givers (over $250)
  4. Holidays: Chanukah, Passover, Purim, Rosh Hashana
  5. National Council
  6. New York UJA
  7. Gift Membership

These campaigns tended to be larger and more lucrative than Board member / Membership department joint campaigns.

 

Archival documents referenced in this post may be found under Development—Membership—Subjects in the folder “Membership Campaign Reports and Records, 1976-1996.” 

The 1993 Los Angeles Membership Campaign

The HIAS Membership Department was responsible for running fundraising appeals through the mail. These fundraising appeals were known at the agency as membership campaigns. In today’s blog post, we’ll take a look at what was involved in organizing and executing a campaign, using the records of the 1993 Los Angeles appeal as a kind of case study.

 

In June of 1993, Carolyn Agress, Director for Membership Services & Women’s Division, wrote to HIAS board member Judith Sommerstein to follow up on their conversation at the recent Annual Meeting.  It seems they had discussed membership campaigns, with Sommerstein expressing interest in participating.

In the letter, Agress explained how these campaigns worked:

  • The Membership Department would first provide the board member with a copy of the solicitation letter (the “ask”) for that year.
  • The board member would edit the solicitation letter if they saw fit, in order to tailor it to the concerns and issues of their community. The final version would be signed by the board member.
  • The board member would provide HIAS with the names and addresses of personal and professional contacts they wanted to solicit.
  • HIAS would add these names to the list of members in the board member’s geographical region.
  • HIAS would have the letters printed and sent out, along with a membership dues form and a return envelope.

Letter from Agress to Sommerstein:


This appears to be the solicitation letter Agress included, sent back with Sommerstein’s comments on front and back:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The records include memos and notes about the logistics of carrying out the campaign, such as this one dated August 18, 1993:

On August 19th, Agress sent Sommerstein another copy of the solicitation letter, which Sommerstein sent back with comments:

 

 

 

 

 

 

(It was not typical that HIAS would request comments on the solicitation twice; this seems to be an aberration, or we may just not have all the information about what happened.)

This appears to be the final draft of the text:

The letters that actually went out included the name and address of the member, as well as a personal salutation, as in the earlier draft. HIAS provided the printing company with a copy of the board member’s signature to place in the closing.

In September, the Membership Department sent Sommerstein an update on the results of the campaign. Many of the campaign files contain computer reports on how the campaign did, and sometimes multiple updates would be sent to the board member, but for Los Angeles in 1993, there’s just this one:

The last step was for the Membership Department to send thank you letters for the donations, whether from a new or renewing member.

Then the next year, the whole process would be repeated, with the board member adding new names to their list, and often crossing out those of any friends who had passed away. Not all board members participated in campaigns year after year, but many did. Those records are very interesting for learning about board members’ devotion to the mission of HIAS, the relationships of mutual respect they developed with Carolyn Agress and other staff, and the tireless efforts to craft the most effective “asks” possible.

 

Archival documents referenced in this post may be found in the 104 Los Angeles campaign files under Development—Membership—Campaigns. Final box number will most likely be 0297.