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Records of the Queens Jewish Center (Queens Village, NY)

 Collection
Identifier: I-471

Scope and Content Note

The records of the Queens Jewish Center of Queens Village provide insight into a small, Conservative congregation in Queens, New York. Spanning from its inception and incorporation in 1925 to its culmination in 2002, the Queens Jewish Center collection highlights this congregation's wide-range of religiously oriented and secular educational activities, ceremonies, developments, events, and programs. The Queens Jewish Center materials are predominately comprised of clippings, correspondence, community, financial, legal, and property records, journals, and newsletters.

The majority of the collection consists of minutes of meetings for the following organizational groups: Board of Trustees and the Board of Directors (1932-1984, 1992-2000, 2002), Sisterhood which was originally known as Ladies Auxiliary (1940-1952, 1959-1984, 1992), and Men's Club which was originally known as Ray-Ouss (Friendship) (1945, 1953, 1973-1979). The Board of Directors and the Board of Trustees, Sisterhood, and Men's Club devotion to the Queens Jewish Center is amply documented throughout the materials. The minutes detail routine operational and functional matters, including religious and secular events, financial concerns, fundraising, and membership, amongst others.

Significant in this collection are the activities of the women belonging to the Sisterhood organization of the Queens Jewish Center. Primarily concerned with promoting the values of the congregation as well as fundraising efforts, the materials relating to Sisterhood portray their long-standing faithfulness dedication to their congregation and community.

A wealth of material relating to the Queens Jewish Center's chapters of Girl Scouts of the United States of America and Boy Scouts of America are contained in this collection. The items related to these organizations include enrollment rosters, operational materials, ephemera as well as activities, songs, and information on how the children could obtain merit badges.

Throughout its history, the Queens Jewish Center celebrated numerous events. Organized predominately by the Board of Directors, Board of Trustees, Sisterhood, and Men's Club, these events included anniversary dinners and dances, fundraisers, and weekend trips. Flyers, invitations, programs, budgets, and schedules detail these special occasions.

As the longest serving Rabbi of the Queens Jewish Center (1959-1991), the materials relating to Jacob Wendroff's tenure primarily consist of correspondence between congregants and organizations, pamphlets and invitations to celebrate his 18-year anniversary with the center, as well as his obituary in the New York Times. Of interest are the court documents and legal correspondence pertaining to the lawsuit between Wendroff's heirs and Queens Jewish Center.

The congregation's publications, The Journal and The Voice, represent an important aspect of this collection. As the monthly newsletter, The Voice (1932-2001) included substantial content about congregational events and news, messages from both the presiding Rabbi and President of the Board, as well as club, education, miscellaneous bulletins, and calendars of monthly and upcoming events.

The photographic images and negatives represent another strength of this collection. These items document the center's building, clergy, congregation, staff, and students. In addition, images of the following groups and organizations are also found within the collection: Queens Jewish Center basketball team, Brownies group, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, Library Staff, Sunday and Hebrew School faculty.

Of particular note are the religious books and materials, including a rare, decorative Passover Haggadah that was published in 1897 in Vienna. Oversized items of interest include the building's surveys and architectural plans, blueprints and designs for the center's building and sanctuary; the Sisterhood scrapbook spanning from 1940 through 1952; and the Men's Club revised charter from 1953.

Materials detailing the early history and development of the Queens Jewish Center are sparse and largely consist of oral testimonies, newspaper clippings, and journal entries.

While many of the records for the Queens Jewish community have been lost, destroyed by fire, or discarded, overall this collection is representative of the majority of historical items pertaining to this congregation. As such, the Queens Jewish Center collection serves as a valuable primary source for historians and scholars interested in the Jewish Conservative Movement of America, in particular, and American Jewry, in general.

Dates

  • undated, 1897, 1925-2002

Creator

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

The Queens Jewish Center was created in Queens, New York, on July 14, 1925. According to the original eight founders, the neighborhoods surrounding Queens Village were in dire need of a Conservative house of worship. The closest congregation was located in Jamaica, Queens, which was too far of a distance for walking on Shabbat and High Holy Days. Therefore, the Queens Jewish Center was developed by its founders to serve Jewish families of the following neighborhoods of Queens, New York: Hollis, Bellaire, Bellerose, and Queens Village. One month later, on August 24, 1925, the founders held a community-wide meeting informing Jewish individuals about the incorporation of the Queens Jewish Center along with future plans about the Shabbat and High Holy Day services.

The original organizers of the Queens Jewish Center ran a storefront synagogue but soon realized that there needed to be a congregation owned building with rooms for a sanctuary and classes. In the 1920s, land in Queens was inexpensive and available due to the Works Project Administration, one of the "Depression Era" projects developed by Franklin D. Roosevelt. Thus, the Queens Jewish Center was able to acquire land on the corner of Hollis Court Boulevard and Jamaica Avenue in 1925. Over the next five years, as the congregation struggled to raise funds for the construction of the building, the Queens Jewish Center moved between four separate locations throughout Queens Village and Jamaica. With donations from the Jewish Welfare Board and a loan from the Bank of Manhattan Company, on May 11, 1930, the cornerstone was laid for the synagogue building. One year later, on May 8, 1931, the Queens Jewish Center held a three-day event celebrating the opening of the building. The festivities were widely covered in area newspapers, including the Queens Review and the Long Island Daily Press. In 1946, the land next door to the congregation was purchased for the creation of a parish home for the presiding rabbi of the congregation. For over 70 years, the Queens Jewish Center remained at 94-34 Hollis Court Boulevard until the congregation's closing in 2002.

The Queens Jewish Center considered itself not only a religious institution, but also a "Kehilah"- a community. Seeking to fulfill all the needs of its members, the Queens Jewish Center sought to provide its members with three aims: Beth Hatefilah - A House of Prayer and Worship offering daily Minyon, Shabbat, Friday evening services, Shabbat, Saturday morning services, and Festival and High Holy Day services; Beth Hamidrash - A House of Study and Learning offering cultural and educational programs such as Child and Youth Education comprising Sunday and Hebrew School as well as Adult Educational classes; and, Beth Hakneses - A House of Assembly offering social organizations such as Sisterhood, Men's Club, Hadassah, and Youth Programs.1 As evidenced by its active membership and participation in Beth Hatefilah, Beth Hamidrash, and Beth Hakneses, the Queens Jewish Center "serve[d] every segment of the community…through its over-all programming to making Jewish life, meaningful, dignified and joyful."2

From its inception, the Queens Jewish Center provided Jewish education and cultural groups for its youth members. In the fall of 1925, a young rabbi, Mr. Weissfell, was engaged to teach the newly formed Hebrew School. In the 1930s, the congregation formed the Boy Scout Troop, Girl Scout Troop, "Jordan Club" for post Bar Mitzvah boys, "Alizos Club" for teenage girls, and Young Peoples League for members in their late teens. Concomitantly, adults were active members and participants in a variety of community groups and organizations. In the inaugural year, 1925, the Ladies Auxiliary was founded with an annual membership of $1.00. By 1940, the Ladies Auxiliary was renamed "Sisterhood" and became affiliated with the National Women's League of the United Synagogue of America (now known as the Women's League for Conservative Judaism). The original men's club, Ray-Ouss (friendship) began in 1935 although it was later reorganized and renamed "Men's Club" in 1953.

The congregation was affiliated with various Conservative organizations, including: B'nai B'rith, Hadassah, Jewish Theological Seminary, United Jewish Appeal and the United Synagogue of America. The Queens Jewish Center was also active in supporting the Zionist movement, including Israel Bond Drives. In 1948, the Queens Jewish Center along with other Conservative Synagogues in Queens celebrated the creation of the State of Israel.

Membership reached a height in the late 1950s. During this decade, the Jewish community in Queens Village consisted of doctors, dentists, shopkeepers, lawyers, accountants, builders and contractors. Unable to provide seating for members during Friday night Shabbat services, in 1958 the center underwent renovations to expand the sanctuary and construct a catering hall, an office for the rabbi, an office for the clergy, a bride's room, a board room, a library, and four classrooms.

Throughout its existence, the Queens Jewish Center suffered from a high turnover of rabbinical staff. During the Great Depression and during the war years, this was primarily due to lack of funds. However, overtime, the Board of Directors and Board of Trustees along with congregants were dissatisfied with their selections. Replacements were difficult to find and secure. However, in September 1959, Rabbi Jacob Wendroff joined the Queens Jewish Center and served as spiritual leader for 32 years. As the rabbi for this congregation, Wendroff oversaw the 1969 merger and consolidation of Beth Israel Jewish Center with the Queens Jewish Center. Wendroff was successful; he achieved fundraising goals, developed an Adult Hebrew Group, and conducted a course entitled "Ethics of the Fathers" which met at his home. In addition, Wendroff implemented the congregation's "Annual Weekend" getaways at various New York State resorts and campgrounds. After his death, in 1991, the center retained Dr. Chaim Etrog, who acted as the rabbi from 1991 through 1998. Following his departure, the center once again had difficulty finding suitable rabbinical replacements.

Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, the Queens Jewish Center suffered from dwindling membership. Rabbi Etrog, along with Board Members, Sisterhood, and Men's Club, actively solicited new members as well as pleaded for current members to attend services and programs. The Queens Jewish Center was affected by a change in the neighborhood demographics. Originally a predominately Jewish neighborhood, during this time, many Jewish family and businesses left the area.3In addition, many of the original members and families passed away. With limited finances and members, by 2000, the Queens Jewish Center began to transfer their records to the American Jewish Historical Society. And, after 77 years of existence, in 2002, the Queens Jewish Center closed.

References

  1. "Aims and Purposes" pamphlet, undated, Records of Queens Jewish Center, I-471, Box 4, Folder 12, Collection of the American Jewish Historical Society, Newtown Centre, MA, and New York, NY.
  2. Ibid
  3. Oral Testimony by Dr. Murray H. Roseman, 10 October 2004, Records of the Queens Jewish Center, I-471, Box 5, Folder 12, Collection of the American Jewish Historical Society, Newton Centre, MA, and New York, NY.

Extent

11.9 Linear Feet (13 manuscript boxes, 3 oversized boxes, 1 MAP folder)

Language of Materials

English

Hebrew

Russian

Yiddish

Abstract

Spanning from its inception and incorporation in 1925 to its culmination in 2002, the Queens Jewish Center collection highlights this congregation's wide-range of religiously oriented and secular educational activities, ceremonies, developments, events, and programs. Predominant in this collection are the reports, bulletins, financial, legal and property records, and meeting minutes. In addition, books, clippings, correspondence, pamphlets, programs, publications, negatives photographs are also contained with in this collections.

Provenance

The Queens Jewish Center donated their records in 2005.
Title
Guide to the Records of the Queens Jewish Center (Queens Village, NY), undated, 1897, 1925-2002   *I-471
Status
Completed
Author
Processed by Rebecca Gordon and Rachel Kranson (May 2006-May 2007)
Date
© 2007
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Language of description note
Description is in English.

Revision Statements

  • April 2021: RJohnstone: 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