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Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America Records

 Collection
Identifier: I-66

Scope and Content Note

The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America Records document the activities and missions of the UOJCA and its auxiliary branches. Materials include correspondence, press releases, educational pamphlets, manuals, directories, minutes, newsletters, notes, speeches, reports, photographs, and product packaging.

This collection is divided into two subgroups; Subgroup I: General Administrative Records begins in 1911 and ends in 1995, the bulk of materials in this Subgroup cover the period between 1933 and 1968, during the presidencies of William Weiss (1933-1942), Samuel Nirenstein (1942-1949) and Moses Feuerstein (1954-1966). This subgroup is particularly strong in materials related to annual and regional conventions, Women’s Branch and Jewish Life.

Subgroup II: Rabbi Pinchas Stolper’s Records range in date from 1961 to 1997, with materials markedly increasing when Rabbi Pinchas Stolper became UOJCA’s Executive Vice President in 1976, and trickling off after 1992. This Subgroup reflects the aspects and branches of the UOJCA in which Rabbi Pinchas Stolper was administratively or tangentially active across three and a half decades, including NCSY, the Israel Center, the Department of Synagogue Services and the Kashruth Division.

Documentation cutting across both subgroups includes general administrative, regional, Kashruth and youth materials.

Dates

  • 1911-1915, 1925-1997
  • Majority of material found within 1933 - 1992

Language of Materials

The collection is in English, with a few items in Hebrew, Yiddish, and Russian.

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 mmeyers@ajhs.org.

For reference questions, please email: inquiries@cjh.org

Historical Note

In 1898, Rabbi Henry Pereira Mendes of Shearith Israel, and representatives of fifty Orthodox congregations, founded the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America (UOJCA), also widely known as the Orthodox Union (OU). The organization’s founding mission was to perpetuate and preserve Modern Orthodox Judaism and to unify Jewish immigrant populations by connecting and strengthening Orthodox synagogue congregations across the United States, as well as Canada. The UOJCA steadily grew in scope and influence, especially following World War II.

From its inception, the UOJCA has worked to integrate Orthodox traditions both seamlessly and in pace with changing American lifestyles. Their success is due to the breadth of their efforts and approaches. They have standardized and enabled easy access to trustworthy information – in lending their easy-to-spot kosher insignia to food labels and in the regular publication (and now web presence) of a kosher products directory and mikvah directory. Starting in 1956 they commissioned designs for prefabricated synagogues, which could then be quickly erected by new congregations, especially in suburban communities.

At the same time, regional branches were developed to encourage cooperation between synagogues in the same towns and cities in order to solidify communities outside of major metropolitan areas, and strengthen the presence of the Orthodox community in suburban America.

In response to rising rates of intermarriage, the UOJCA began to organize singles events. The UOJCA also actively supported Jewish education with scholarships (particularly for American college students studying abroad in Israel), lectures, and educational programs.

A major founding function of the Union was to speak out on a public and national level on behalf of Orthodox Jews, responding to such wide-ranging topics as Sabbath and slaughterhouse legislation, US policy in the Middle East, Soviet Jewry, funeral standards, and the role of women in Orthodox Judaism. In addition to advocacy, another cornerstone of UOJCA’s strength and influence has been its outreach to youth and the disabled.

Over its years of operation, the UOJCA created a number of auxiliary branches. The histories of the five major branches reflected in the collection are summarized below.

In 1923, during Rabbi Herbert S. Goldstein’s tenure as UOJCA President, the Women’s Branch was founded, with the primary goals of creating and strengthening the network of synagogue sisterhoods in North America, and of increasing the understanding and practice of Orthodox traditions and rituals among Jewish women and youth. The Women’s Branch sponsored educational and social activities, leadership events, and scholarships for women. Rabbi Goldstein’s wife, Rebecca Fischel Goldstein, was the Women’s Branch’s first President.

The UOJCA’s role in the kosher food industry and certification process began with a Kashruth Committee formed by the Women’s Branch, 1923-1925. The Committee approached food manufacturers, analyzed the Kashruth status of their products, and worked to persuade manufacturers to replace non-kosher ingredients with kosher. Building on the Committee’s exploratory efforts, in 1925 the UOJCA officially started their non-profit supervision service and certification process under the auspices of the Kashruth Division. Heinz ketchup was the first product to sport UOJCA’s certified kosher symbol.

The UOJCA formed the National Conference of Synagogue Youth (NCSY) in 1954 with the goal of organizing Orthodox synagogue adolescent youth groups, and formally affiliating them with the UOJCA. With time, NCSY broadened its target community to adolescents of all Jewish affiliations, especially those coming from nonobservant families, and introduced them to Orthodox Judaism through social, educational, cultural, and religious communal activities. NCSY developed regional branches within the US, with international programs in Israel and Ukraine. The group contributed to the development of outreach programs--Our Way, and Yachad--for disabled youth; deaf youth in particular. NCSY played a significant role in the Teshuva movement and resurgence of Orthodoxy in and after the 1960s.

Rabbi Pinchas Stolper (b. 1931), a 1954 founder of NCSY, became the organization's first National Director in 1959, a position he would hold until 1976, when he became the Executive Vice President of UOJCA--he held that post through 1994, and returned to the position of NCSY National Director between 1994 and 1998. Rabbi Stolper graduated from Brooklyn College in 1952, and was ordained at Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin in 1956. He later worked as an Adjunct Professor of Jewish Studies at Touro College, and authored and edited several books and manuals for Jewish youth.

The Israel Center, also known as the OU/NCSY Israel Center, opened in Jerusalem in 1978, originally intended to act as a community center for NCSY college students studying abroad in Israel. Though youth remains at its core, the Center has also expanded beyond that original mission and target group to reach out also to Russian immigrants and senior citizens. The Center offers social, educational, cultural, and religious programming intended to aid foreigners (whether students, travelers or immigrants) in integrating into life in Israel, and strengthening their Jewish identities.

Extent

23.25 Linear Feet (46 manuscript boxes, 1 half manuscript box, 2 microfilm reels.)

Abstract

Collection documents the activities and missions of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America (UOJCA), primarily during the presidencies of William Weiss (1933-1942), Samuel Nirenstein (1942-1948), Moses Feuerstein (1954-1965), and Rabbi Pinchas Stolper’s tenure as Executive Vice President (1976-1994).

Founded in 1898, the UOJCA, also known as the Orthodox Union, serves as the leader, organizer, and voice of affiliated Orthodox Jewish congregations in North America. Divisions of the UOJCA reflected most prominently in the collection include the National Conference of Synagogue Youth, the Women’s Branch, the Kashruth Division, the Department of Synagogue Services, the Israel Center, as well as regional branches.

Subjects addressed in the collection include Sabbath and high holiday observance, dietary laws, Baal Teshuva, slaughterhouse legislation, funeral standards, education, and synagogue management and outreach. Materials include correspondence, minutes, clippings, speeches, UOJCA publications, financial documents, and a few photographs.

Arrangement

  1. Subgroup I: General Administrative Records, 1911-1915, 1923-1995 (bulk 1933-1968)
  2. Series 1: Administrative, undated, 1911, 1913, 1926-1988
  3. Series 2: Conventions, 1915, 1925, 1951-1978
  4. Subseries A: Biennial National Conventions, 1915, 1925, 1951-1978
  5. Subseries B: Regional Conventions, 1958-1969
  6. Series 3: Women’s Branch, undated, 1925-1985
  7. Series 4: Jewish Life, undated, 1951-1964
  8. Series 5: Publications, undated, 1923-1995
  9. Series 6: Financials, 1941-1961
  10. Series 7: Microfilmed Materials, 1913-1915, 1933-1946
  11. Series 8: Photographs, 1959-1960
  12. Subgroup II: Rabbi Pinchas Stolper’s Records, 1961-1997 (bulk 1976-1992)
  13. Series 1: Administrative, undated, 1963-1996
  14. Series 2: National Conference of Synagogue Youth, undated, 1961-1997
  15. Series 3: Israel Center, undated, 1977-1991
  16. Series 4: Department of Synagogue Services, undated, 1948, 1957-1964, 1977-1994
  17. Series 5: Kashruth Division, undated, 1974-1990
  18. Series 6: Correspondence, 1976-1995
  19. Series 7: Subjects and Events, undated, 1959-1995
  20. Series 8: Publications, undated, 1974-1997
  21. Series 9: Financials, 1966-1991
  22. Series 10: Scrapbook and Photographs, 1976, 1991-1992.

Acquisition Information

The first subgroup may have been donated in installments in the late 1980s and early 1990s by UOJCA Administrator Saul Bernstein, and this subgroup was arranged by AJHS as a box and folder list between 1994 and 1997. Rabbi Pinchas Stolper donated the second subgroup, accretion # 2002.035, on June 4, 2002.
Title
Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America Records, I-66
Status
Completed
Author
Processed by Rachel Miller
Date
© 2009.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Language of description note
Description is in English.
Edition statement
This version was derived from UOJCA.xml

Revision Statements

  • January 2021: EHyman: post-ASpace migration cleanup.

Repository Details

Part of the American Jewish Historical Society Repository

Contact:
15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States