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Records of the Jewish Education Service of North America

Identifier: I-75

Scope and Content Note

The Records of the Jewish Education Service of North America (JESNA) document the early central and regional administrations, the activities of the National Study Commission, JESNA Publications, and records from the Jewish Media Service. The bulk of the collection is comprised of reports on Jewish education found in Series II: The National Study Commission. Documentation of the organization's other activities is limited to its earlier years (1940s-1960s). The majority of the JESNA records date from 1940-1969, but the Jewish Media Service records date later, from 1974-1987.

Prior to 1981 the Jewish Education Service of North America was named the American Association for Jewish Education (AAJE) and the administrative records of this collection mainly document that earlier organization. Series I, administrative records, includes correspondence of executive leaders, meeting minutes, constitution and mission statements, budget reports and various committee reports. The series also includes correspondence between JESNA and related organizations, as well as literature, notes, and correspondence from conferences JESNA attended or participated in.

Series II, the National Study Commission, describes that body's activities as part of the Department of Research. The department changed names throughout its existence, ie., the Department of Research and Information, but the National Study Commission remained the primary body responsible for the National Study. The records document the establishment of the Commission and its identification of purpose, goals, and guidelines. Included are administrative records of the Department of Research, made up of the correspondence of executives, meeting minutes, memoranda, budget reports, and press releases. The remaining documents of the series include the materials used for or produced by the numerous studies of Jewish education. These include early, minor studies, the Cleveland Pilot Study, and the many city-wide and state studies that comprise the National Study. The majority of the records from the National Study are surveys and data compiled into reports on specific locations. Topics that are covered vary greatly but include: attitudes of students and parents, school budgets, teacher salaries, surveys of curriculum etc.

The JESNA records do contain some publications, though not many. The series (Series III) on publications includes newsletters and monthly bulletins, annual reports, conference reports, addresses, and departmental publications. JESNA is the primary creator of these publications but some are written in collaboration with associated organizations and very few were written outside of JESNA.

Series IV of the collection contains documents collected by the Jewish Media Service and primarily contains information on films by Jewish filmmakers and about Jewish topics. The Media Service worked in collaboration with JESNA on Jewish educational tools as can be discovered in the correspondence between JMS and JESNA. Included are literature and notes from conferences and film festivals to which the Jewish Media Service contributed or participated in and literature, notes, and photographs on films and filmmakers. The series also contains the Jewish Media Service publication, "Medium," as well as correspondence between the Jewish Media Service and associated organizations. JESNA took over some of the responsibilities for "Medium" in the early 1990s after the Media Service disbanded in the late 1980s.


  • 1922-1999
  • Majority of material found within 1940 - 1987


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:

Historical Note

The Jewish Education Service of North America (JESNA) was founded in New York City, where it still resides today, on May 7, 1939 as the American Association for Jewish Education (AAJE). Its establishing mission was “to advance the cause of Jewish Education in the United States through cooperative efforts.” The collection of data on Jewish education began in 1945 with the establishment of the Department of Research. Under the tutelage of the new department, school censuses were carried out almost annually. The studies’ findings were published at least in part in the American Jewish Yearbook from 1945 to 1980. In 1959 AAJE released the results of its first major national study of Jewish education. Numerous community studies were continuously conducted, but the next national study was released not until 1964, this time focusing on adult Jewish education. This second study was prompted by the rise in adult Jewish education following World War II, and led AAJE to establish the first national conference on adult Jewish education in February of 1965.

Furthermore, the after-effects of WWII affected not only the focus of AAJE’s research but also its overall mission. In its initial years of existence AAJE’s membership was comprised of individuals and professionals. However, following the war the number of Jewish educational organizations grew considerably, and by the 1960s AAJE recognized a need to restructure its purpose and function. In 1965, AAJE became an umbrella organization for educational and congregational bodies, as well as denominational commissions. Prior to the reorganization, the American Jewish Yearbook described the function of AAJE in 1960 as: “...serves local communities with studies in educational trends, stimulation of student enrollment, recruitment and placement of teachers, and pedagogic materials.” By 1970, the American Jewish Yearbook described AAJE's activities as: “Coordinates, promotes, and services Jewish education nationally through 17 constituent national organizations and 44 affiliated Bureaus of Jewish Education; conducts and administers exchange program for Israeli teachers; sponsors and supports the National Curriculum Research Institute, the National Board of License, the National Testing Bureau, the National Council on Adult Jewish Education, the National Council on Jewish Audio-Visual Materials, the Commission on Teaching about Israel; engages in statistical and other educational resources." By 1970, AAJE was sponsoring numerous organizations and serving cities throughout the United States and Canada, and on July 1, 1981 AAJE became the Jewish Education Service of North America (JESNA).

The final series of the collection contains records from the Jewish Media Service though this organization was never part of JESNA. Originally founded in 1973 by the Institute for Jewish Life, the Jewish Media Service was created under a mandate from the Council of Jewish Federations. The Jewish Welfare Board, the Council of Jewish Federations, and the National United Jewish Appeal became primary sponsors of the Media Service in 1978. During its existence into the late 1980s, the Media Service distributed film equipment and videos, evaluated and offered consultation on media materials, and assisted communities in establishing media centers. They also organized workshops on the use of media in addition to developing supplementary materials such as discussion guides. Much of the records in this series represent the Jewish Media Service’s further objective to consult filmmakers and video producers for their publication "Medium," a Jewish media review. For much of its existence the Media Service resided within the New York offices of the Jewish Welfare Board. However, at some point in the late 1980s the Jewish Media Service disbanded, and in the early 1990s the Jewish Education Service of North America took over its role to some extent.


Bell, Roselyn, ed. The Hadassah Magazine Jewish Parenting Book. New York: Avon Books, 1991. Print.

American Jewish Committee, and Jewish Publication Society of America. American Jewish Year Book. 41-83 vols. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1939-1983. Print.

Norwood, Stephen H., and Eunice G. Pollack. "Jewish Education Service of North America." Encyclopedia of American Jewish History. 2007. Print.

The Jewish Media Service/JWB: Five Years of Service, 1983, I-337, NJWB, American Jewish Historical Society


33 Linear Feet

Language of Materials




The Jewish Education Service of North America (JESNA), formerly known as the American Association for Jewish Education, was founded in 1939. The Association promotes and supports Jewish education in communities throughout the United States and Canada by supplying studies of Jewish education, developing supplementary educational materials, and collaborating with Jewish organizations. This collection primarily contains the results of surveys and consequent reports, in addition to some correspondence, meeting minutes, and newsletters of the administration. Somewhat unrelated, the Jewish Media Services's files on films and filmmakers make up the last series of this collection, as JESNA took over some of the responsibilities of this organization in the early 1990s.

Acquisition Information

The JESNA records were received over a series of donations from the American Association for Jewish Education, later JESNA, beginning in 1971. The organization provided additional records in 1990, 1994, 1995, 1998, and the most recent donation in 2001.

Related Material

  1. Additional materials located at the American Jewish Historical Society (AJHS) on the American Association of Jewish Education (AAJE) or the Jewish Educational Service of North America (JESNA) may be found in the following collections:
  2. P-162 Philip Lown papers, located at the AJHS in New York City (AAJE)
  3. P-507 Isidore Breslau Papers, located at the AJHS in New York City (AAJE)
  4. P-716 Schoolman Family Papers, located at the AJHS in New York City (AAJE)
  5. P-841 Ruth Abusch-Madger papers, located at the AJHS in New York City (JESNA)
  6. I-365 Histadruth Ivrith of America Records, located at the AJHS in New York City (JESNA)
  7. Additional materials on the Jewish Media Service may be found in the following collections:
  8. I-337 National Jewish Welfare Board Records located at the AJHS in New York
  9. I-456 Jewish Media Service Wellesley, Massachusetts records, 1970-1987 located at the AJHS in Boston, MA.
  10. I-513 Jewish Media Service records located at the AJHS in New York
Guide to the Records of the Jewish Education Service of North America, 1922-1999
Processed by Kaitlyn Medley
© 2009
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 JESNA.xml

Revision Statements

  • January 2021: 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