Posted September 9, 2009

Top Jewish archive comes to Temple

The collection of the Philadelphia Jewish Archives Center, one of the nation's finest regional collections documenting Jewish culture and history, is coming to Temple.

In a ceremony today in Sullivan Hall, Temple President Ann Weaver Hart and Dean of University Libraries Larry Alford will accept one of the collection's many priceless objects — the 1924-29 diary of Israel Chanin, written by a young Philadelphian after immigrating from Lithuania — from Carole Le Faivre-Rochester, president of the Philadelphia Jewish Archives Center's board. The handover will mark the official move of the collection to Temple University Libraries, where it will be known as the Philadelphia Jewish Archives Collection.

The collection will become part of Temple's Urban Archives, the premiere archives documenting the social, economic and physical development of the Delaware Valley in the 19th and 20th centuries. With approximately five million items, the Philadelphia Jewish Archives Collection will increase the size of the Urban Archives by about 20 percent.

"The Philadelphia Jewish Archives Collection is stunning," Alford said. "Talk about a perfect fit: A collection of national significance has found a home in the Urban Archives — the largest archives

Courtesy Philadelphia Jewish Archives Center
The 1924-29 diary of Israel Chanin, one of the five million objects in the Philadelphia Jewish Archives Collection, was written by a young Philadelphian after immigrating from Lithuania in 1921. Written in Yiddish, the diary captured Chanin's life in Philadelphia's Strawberry Mansion neighborhood, from his education to his experiences in Yiddish theater.
documenting any urban area in the United States — at one of the nation's top urban public research universities, site of strong programs in religion, Jewish studies and urban studies. We're thrilled."

Highlights of the Philadelphia Jewish Archives Collection include the records of the first Jewish orphanage established in America, the Jewish Foster Home and Orphanage Asylum, founded by Anna Allen; the Hebrew Immigration Aid Society, a genealogical treasure trove for those researching the arrival of Jewish families to America; the Hebrew Sunday School Society, America's first Jewish Sunday school, founded by Rebecca Gratz; the Jewish Publication Society, the oldest continuous publication house in the nation; the Jewish Community Relations Council, an organization that attempted to smooth the often bumpy road to acceptance travelled by the region's Jewish community; and the personal records of hundreds of Jewish men and women, from judges and rabbis to athletes and educators.

"This collection represents the soul of the Philadelphia region's Jewish community, from its beginnings to the present day," said Le Faivre-Rochester. "We see the growth of synagogues, institutions and families as well as the mission of an expanding Jewish community in the Philadelphia area, an area that includes Southern New Jersey and the suburbs."

Audrey Merves — a past president of the center's board, a major primary supporter of the center for more than a decade and an architect of the collection's move to Temple — urged Philadelphia area residents to do what they can to help the collections grow.

"If you believe that it is important to write your history so that generations to come — scholars, writers, students and historians — will see your life from your perspective, then you must help the collection by contributing your family's or your institution's stories," Merves said. "Give the collection and Temple the opportunity to save them for posterity. If you don't, your stories will be lost."

Researchers and scholars will be able to access the Philadelphia Jewish Archives Collection at the Urban Archives in Paley Library at Temple's Main Campus in Philadelphia. The materials will be stored in 4,500 linear feet of boxes in a secure, climate-controlled section of the Kardon Building, just east of Main Campus.