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Institute for Jewish Life, records

Identifier: I-168

Scope and Content Note

Collection contains the minutes of the Board of Directors (Trustees) meetings, 1972-1975; staff meetings, 1972-1973; background materials and reports pertaining to projects proposed and acted upon; annual reports; financial reports; and miscellaneous publications.

Types of material in the collection include: articles, correspondence, meeting minutes, pamphlets, photographs, press releases, proposals, publications, and reports.

This collection is valuable to researchers working on such topics as: Israel, Jewish education, Jewish family life, Jewish identity, Jewish leadership, media, social work, and Zionism.


  • Creation: undated, 1967, 1969-1976


Language of Materials

The collection is in English and Yiddish.

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

Institute for Jewish Life (1972-1976)

The Institute for Jewish Life (IJL) was created to enhance the quality of Jewish life in North America. At a 1968 Council for Jewish Federations (CJF) General Assembly, Gordon Zacks called for a $100 million fund to be established "to experiment with ways and means for assuring the creative continuation of American Jewish life.

In November 1969, 300 concerned Jewish college students and faculty rallied for a radical change in the community's commitment to Jewish education and culture in front of the CJF General Assembly in Boston. At that Assembly, Gordon Zacks spoke about the creation of an independent National Foundation for Developing Jewish Identity.

The CJF Board of Directors took this proposal under consideration. A task force assessed whether such an endeavor could "effectively apply the substance of Judaism to create life styles that would satisfy and fulfill the needs of present and future generations.

The Task Force, headed by Irving Blum and Hillel Levine, grew out of years of concern by many people of all forms of Jewish life. It surveyed the diverse views and sent recommendations to local Jewish communities for review. Blum and his group proposed a new instrument, a Fund of Jewish Life, which could affect "the total fabric of Jewish life and the influences which shape its quality.

All 38 cities surveyed agreed on the great urgency of the formation of the IJL. The recommendations were presented at the 1970 General Assembly, and the IJL was created and approved at the November 1971 General Assembly in Pittsburgh, a major major achievement of both the Board of Directors and the 1969 General Assembly.

The IJL was officially founded in 1972, its mission: to seek and develop innovative programs that would "strengthen and enhance the quality of Jewish life. It operated under the supervision of the CJF, guided by the Board of Trustees selected by the CJF, responsible to and reporting regularly to the CJF Board, and was composed of persons reflecting a broad spectrum of Jewish life.

The organization's trustees chose which projects that would be funded, and how those funds were to be used. Its stated objective was "the development of a productive and fulfilling Jewish life for our people, enriching the nations of which we are a part, and helping to enrich Jewish life everywhere."

The IJL assisted in setting up a new framework to account for a variety of influences and ideas across a number of fields and overcome fragmentation. The IJL was open to a wide range of approaches. It operated in educational and cultural fields and in other areas with the most potential for enhancing Jewish life, improving existing agencies with innovative projects, experiments and demonstrations. The IJL did not duplicate or compete with existing organizations, but rather, used them as fully as possible.

Future IJL Chairman Irving Blum urged the Federations not to look for quick results to complex problems. Max Fisher, the CJF president, emphasized that the IJL would be dealing with some of the most difficult problems and needs in Jewish life, to which there would be no quick panacea.

Irving Blum and Philip Bernstein of the CJF appointed Prof. Leon A. Jick as the IJL's first director in 1972. Jick was succeeded by Kenneth D. Roseman of Hebrew Union College in 1974, while Jerold C. Hoffberger replaced Blum as chairman. The IJL was endorsed by more than 230 Jewish community organizations throughout the U.S. and Canada.

The IJL targeted five major areas of concern: education; family life; leadership development and community organization; Israel as an education resource for American Jewry; and the arts, culture, and media.

The Federations contributed close to $1 million to the IJL, and the IJL allocated $2 million for 44 projects regarded as being most promising and having the greatest chance for success. It granted fellowships to students interested in furthering their studies and obtaining positions of Jewish leadership; created a Media Project that served as a demonstration of how a centralized, national Jewish media center may serve the entire North American Jewish community; and funded and promoted projects designed to involve adults and children in more intensive forms of Jewish living.

After four years of operation, the IJL underwent a performance assessment. The findings were thus: the IJL created a number of innovative projects of superior quality, served as a catalyst for new efforts both nationally and locally, and helped change the life of American Jewish communities. However, questions were raised regarding the necessity of an organization dedicated to research and development; and how to bolster creativity within the Jewish communities.

After the assessment, the Federations advised the IJL to merge with the primary national organizations to ensure programmtic continuity, and the IJL closed on June 1976. Programs were taken over and continued by by the American Association for Jewish Education (AAJE); the Jewish Media Service was managed by the Jewish Welfare Board, with the CJF and United Jewish Appeal as its sponsors; and the CJF continued to help communities by replicating the IJL's most successful projects.


5.5 Linear Feet (11 manuscript boxes)


Collection sontains the minutes of the Board of Directors (Trustees) meetings, 1972-1975; staff meetings, 1972-1973; background materials and reports pertaining to projects proposed and acted upon; annual reports; financial reports; and miscellaneous publications.


The collection is arranged into five Series:

  1. Series I: Meetings, undated, 1972-1975
  2. Subseries A: Board Meetings, 1972-1975
  3. Subseries B: Planning Committee Meetings, 1973-1974
  4. Subseries C: Staff Meetings, 1972-1973
  5. Subseries D: Other Meetings, undated, 1972-1974
  6. Series II: Project Proposals - Background Material and Reports, undated, 1969-1976
  7. Series III: Reports and Surveys, undated, 1971-1976
  8. Subseries A: Annual Reports, 1972-1976
  9. Subseries B: Financial Reports, 1972-1975
  10. Subseries C: Progress Reports, 1972-1975
  11. Subseries D: Surveys, undated, 1971, 1974-1976
  12. Series IV: Publications, 1967, 1974-1975
  13. Series V: General Files, undated, 1971-1976
Guide to the Records of Institute for Jewish Life (1972-1976), undated, 1967, 1969-1976   *I-168
Reprocessed by Marvin Rusinek
© 2011
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English.

Revision Statements

  • April 2021: EHyman: post-ASpace migration cleanup

Repository Details

Part of the American Jewish Historical Society Repository

15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States