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Oscar I. Janowsky Papers

Identifier: P-874

Scope and Content Note

This collection consists of the personal and professional correspondence, research files, various clippings, and work of Oscar I. Janowsky.

Series I: Academic

His work as a professor and administrator is documented in Series I: Academic. This bulk of this series documents his career at the City College of New York. Of particular interest are those files pertaining to his work establishing City College's graduate program in history. This includes correspondence to colleagues and college officials, and committee meeting minutes and reports. During his tenure at City College, Janowsky was integral to the establishment of the Metropolitan New York Area Studies department by securing grants from the Rockefeller and Stuart Hirschmann Foundations. Related to his research is the file containing his coursework for a class on modern imperialism.

This series also documents his work with the American Friends of Hebrew University and Hebrew University where he served as a member of the Academic Council, Library Committee, and Board of Governors. The type of records found here include correspondence, meeting minutes, and reports. In addition to this material are an assortment of correspondence with colleagues, friends, students, and other universities.

Series II: League of Nations

His work with the League of Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, James G. McDonald is documented in the second series of this collection. Due to the differing types of material, the series required additional division into subseries. The first subseries contains the correspondence of Janowsky with associates and others. The second subseries contains correspondence, diaries, and reports of Commissioner McDonald. Of particular importance is a copy of McDonald’s letter of resignation. Along with this letter are various clippings and correspondence collected by Janowsky in the aftermath of McDonald’s resignation.

Janowsky’s work as an advisor and scholar in pre-war Europe, specifically his research and observations on the plight of minorities, especially Jews, is documented in the sub-series three, titled Papers and Reports. Much of the material here is part of his larger research files associated with minorities found in Series IV: Research and Writings – Sub-series 1. These papers were not moved due to issues of original order. Found in this sub-series are the notes and drafts of two of his major works International Aspects of German Racial Policies, which he coauthored with Melvin Fagan, and People at Bay.

Sub-series four that contains a number of photographs. A unique document in this collection is the photo-essay, "Pictorial experiences of a Dutch motor cyclist," depicting German anti-Semitism through various signage.

Series III: Personal

This series contains material related to the personal and professional life of Oscar Janowsky as researcher and scholar. This series has been divided into six sub-series due to the various types of documents and their content.

The first sub-series is an assortment of clippings, notes, notices, mailings, records, and speeches made by Oscar Janowsky throughout his career. Of particular interest to the researcher are Janowsky’s obituary and his official records and credentials.

The second grouping is his correspondence to various friends, colleagues, and associates. These include such notable figures as Cyrus Adler, Morton Gottschall, Louis Brandeis, Felix Frankfurter, James, T. Shotwell, Salo Baron, and many others. Topically this material is quite diverse and ranges from a personal statement made to his youngest child and her husband to correspondence with Hebrew University regarding Janowsky’s honorary doctorate.

The third sub-series contains the diaries of Oscar Janowsky from 1917 to 1988 with gaps. The format of this material consists of loose sheets that appear to have been part of a bound volume and small day planners that were used as diaries.

An unpublished autobiography is found in the fourth sub-series. The memoirs of Oscar Janowsky can be found here in draft form with various notes and marginalia found throughout the sub-series. The manuscript appears to be complete with the exception of a chapter 2.

The fifth sub-series contains various printed mementos and memorabilia collected during his trips abroad. The last sub-series contains various photos of Janowsky with colleagues and unnamed persons.

Series IV: Research and Writings

This series contains the bulk of this collection. Included in this series is an assortment of clippings, notes, and correspondence documenting the thought processes and observations made in the course of producing works related to his research interests. This series was divided into three parts based primarily on content, except in the case of the note cards.

The first sub-series documents the main focus of his research efforts. These include such topics as American Jewry and anti-Semitism to Human Rights and Jewish Community Centers to Israel and Minorities. Within this topical arrangement the researcher will find all of Janowsky’s notes, clippings, drafts, articles, and assorted information pertaining to each topic.

The second sub-series contains an assortment of clippings from newspapers and journals on a variety of topics ranging from the clearly defined "Media Bias in Headlines" to the ambiguously titled “Cynical, Droll, Antics, Sloganeering.” These clippings, while not part of the larger research file, are tangentially connected to the research interests of Janowsky.

The third sub-series contains the note cards related to the research of Oscar Janowsky. These have been left in the arrangement as found in his file cabinet. They contain notes and clippings related to his major interests found in the research files and his minor interests as found in the clippings folders. Any researcher should consider examining these for additional information; while they may lack the overall depth of his main research files, they should be considered supplemental to them.


  • undated, 1916-1993
  • undated, 1916-1993


Access Restrictions

The collection is open to all researchers, except items that may be restricted due to their fragility, or privacy.

Use Restrictions

No permission is required to quote, reproduce or otherwise publish manuscript materials found in this collection, as long as the usage is scholarly, educational, and non-commercial. For inquiries about other usage, please contact the Director of Collections and Engagement at

For reference questions, please email:

Biographical Note

Oscar I. Janowsky was born on January 15, 1900 in Suchowola, Poland to Aaron and Dina (Bobre) Janowsky. In 1910 the Janowsky’s immigrated to the United States. In 1921 he graduated from City College of New York with a BSS. He then went on to earn his Ph.D. in History from Columbia University in 1933. In 1922 he married Pauline; they had three children Sylvia, Melvin, and Tamar. They remained married until her death in the 1980s. Sometime thereafter he married Lillian who cared for him in the remaining years.

Oscar Janowsky served as Professor of History at City College of New York from 1922 until his retirement in 1966. During his tenure at the college he initiated the development of the MA Liberal Arts program and served as the Director of Graduate Studies (1951-1957). Additionally, he served as part of the doctoral faculty at City University of New York while there he assisted in the development of the doctoral history program. Upon his retirement in 1966 he was named the Jacob Ziskind Visiting Professor of History and Contemporary Jewish Studies at Brandeis University.

Much of Janowsky’s research focused on the common ground between Jewish Studies and general subjects with special emphasis on modern history. The courses he taught focused on international relations and imperialism, the rights of national minorities, Jewish history and literature, American Jewry, Israel, and modern European history. If one were to take his research as journey of discovery to discovery, the common theme would be seeking an understanding of minority rights and culture in pluralistic societies.

Initially Oscar studied the effects of imperialism on national minorities in Europe. His first major work Jews and Minority Rights (1898-1919) was published in 1933. Due to his research he served as an advisor (1935-1936) to League of Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, James G. McDonald, whom he assisted in the writing of McDonald's Letter of Resignation. The following year he, along with Melvin Fagan, wrote International Aspects of German Racial Policies (1937). He then traveled throughout the Balkans and East-Central Europe researching the problems of national minorities, these travels and his notes were used in the writing of People at Bay: The Jewish Problem in East-Central Europe (1938) and later Nationalities and National Minorities (1945).

Following his time abroad Janowsky returned to the United States, and with other Jewish scholars sought to understand the place of American Jews within American culture and how best to combat anti-Semitism in the United States. Their efforts were edited by Janowsky in The American Jew: A Composite Portrait (1942). Due to his research and knowledge of American Jewry, he was commissioned by the National Jewish Welfare Board to direct a study on the Jewish orientation of Jewish community centers in the United States by surveying 300 community centers. The results where published in the seminal JWB Survey (1948) also known as the “Janowsky Report.” His recommendations emphasized the Jewish cultural aspects of the centers rather than non-sectarian programming.

Continuing to examine Jewish life in the United States and the changes taking place in community centers, Janowsky sought to understand how Jewish teachers were trained. In 1952 he was named Chairman of the Commission for the Study of Jewish Education in the United States. Along with U.Z. Engelmann, Janowsky, working for the commission, organized and directed the study of Jewish Education in the United States. His research in the field of Jewish Education was published in The Education of American Jewish Teachers (1967).

For most of his academic career he served as member of various groups working to establish and support the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. These included the Board of Governors, the Academic Council, where he served as chairman, and the American Friends of Hebrew University. He also organized the American Student Program for the university. Sometime in the 1950s his research interests changed again, this time focusing on the welfare-state policies practiced in Israel. His findings are covered in his Foundations of Israel: Emergence of a Welfare State (1959).

Nearing the end of his career, he returned to the study of American Jewry and in 1964 edited The American Jew: A Reappraisal (1964) more than two decades after the original examination of Jews and Jewish culture in the United States was published. Two years later Janowsky retired from his post at City College and moved to the community of Rossmoor in New Jersey. From the time of his retirement until his death in 1993, he continued to serve the academic and Jewish communities as a teacher and scholar. From the study of Jewish and other minorities facing turmoil in Europe, to Jewish community centers and education in the United States, to the establishment of Israel’s welfare policies, Oscar Janowsky’s research is both broad and deep.


24 Linear Feet (45 Manuscript boxes and 6 Card boxes)

24 Linear Feet (45 Manuscript boxes and 6 Card boxes)

Language of Materials








University professor, historian, and scholar Oscar I. Janowsky sought to understand Jewish culture and human rights in light of modern anti-Semitism, imperialism, and pluralistic states. Throughout his robust career he was a professor of history at the City College of New York, he also served as an advisor to League of Nations High Commissioner James G. McDonald, directed and authored major studies in the fields of Jewish community centers and education. The papers in this collection include his correspondence with colleagues and friends, research notes and article drafts, and his unpublished memoirs.


The arrangement of this collection has been imposed by the processing archivist with the intention of maintaining the order in which the documents were found. At the start of processing, it was determined that prior attempts had been made in organizing the collection or at the very least estimating the research value of the papers contained within. No continuity either of content or record type was found upon initial inspection. The imposed arrangement was made based on an understanding of Janowsky’s career and research interests and what might be of interest to potential researchers. Where this could be accomplished while still maintaining some original order, changes were made. In short, the order of the collection is not that of Oscar Janowsky but of the processing archivist and therefore certain oversights and errors are wholly his.

The folders within series are organized primarily by a mixture of artificial and original terms describing the general contents, followed by terms that are more specific. These were then placed in alphabetical order and then chronological order.

Additionally all Photographs, and atypical documents are given their own series for research purposes. The note cards have been left in the order as found in a small file cabinet.

Acquisition Information

The papers were given to the American Jewish Historical Society by Mr. Janowsky in three accessions: 1993.019; 1993.130; 1994.001.

Related Material

The partners of the Center for Jewish History’s library, print and archival holdings contain an abundance of material related to Oscar Janowsky. These include all of his monographs, articles, and edited works. The following list represents some additional materials that the researcher will find relevant to the academic and professional work of Oscar Janowsky. The following list of material has been organized by topic.

For related material regarding his work and research interests during his early career namely, his work with the League of Nations and the study of Jews and other minorities consider looking in the following:

High Commission for Refugees from Germany Collection 1933-1935 (LBI AR 7162)

The Papers of James G. McDonald at Columbia University

League of Nations. Report of the Governing Body of the High Commission for Refugees (Jewish and Other) Coming from Germany, 1934 (YIVO Call #00003852)

League of Nations. Petition in Support of the Letter of Resignation of James G. McDonald, addressed to the XVIIth plenary Assembly of the League of Nations, 1936. (YIVO Call #0000025184)

James G. McDonald's letter of resignation as League of Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 1935 (YIVO Call # 00025175 and LBI Call # f DD 253 M2)

Two works on James G. McDonald edited by Richard Breitman, Barbara McDonald Stewart, and Severin Hochberg titled:

James G. Mcdonald: Advocate for the Doomed (AJHS Call # E748.M1475 A3 2007 and YIVO Call # 000122894)

Refugees and Rescue : the Diaries and Papers of James G. McDonald, 1935-1945 (AJHS Call # E748.M1475 A3 2009 and YIVO 000127078)

For additional material related to Jewish Community Centers and American Jewry see:

National Jewish Welfare Board, Army-Navy Division records, 1917-1955 (AJHS I-180)

Jewish Educational Service of North America records, undated, 1939-. (AJHS I-75)

Louis Kraft papers, undated, 1914-1975. (AJHS P-673)

National Jewish Welfare Board records, undated, 1889-1995. (AJHS I-337)

National Jewish Welfare Board. Community Center Division. (YIVO Call # 0070.080)

Guide to the Oscar Isaiah Janowsky (1900- ) Papers, undated, 1916-1993 P-874
Processed by Michael D. Montalbano
© 2010
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English.
Processed as part of the Leon Levy Archival Processing Initiative, made possible by the Leon Levy Foundation
Edition statement
[This version was derived from Janowsky.xml]

Revision Statements

  • October 2020: RJohnstone: post-ASpace migration cleanup.

Repository Details

Part of the American Jewish Historical Society Repository

15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States