Skip to main content

Louis Kraft Papers

 Collection
Identifier: P-673

Scope and Content Note

The Papers of Louis Kraft reflect his activities in the Jewish Community Center movement. Though the collection does not preserve the total volume of his papers, it is valuable to researchers studying the Jewish Community Center movement, in particular, the activities of the National Jewish Welfare Board during the 1940's, when Louis Kraft was Executive Director, as well as the reestablishment of Jewish community life in Europe after World War II.

The collection contains correspondence, memoranda, minutes, reports, financial and fund raising documents, telegrams, newspaper clippings, press releases, pamphlets and publications, opinion papers, agenda of meetings and conferences, resolutions, annual reports, and handwritten notes. Also included are personal items such as report cards, certificates, scrapbooks and other ephemera. The documents are primarily in English, with a few in Hebrew, one in French, and in German.

Dates

  • undated, 1914-1975

Language of Materials

The collection is in English, French, Hebrew, and German.

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

Biographical Note

A U.S. social worker, Louis Kraft was born on January 2, 1891 to Abraham and Etta (Gellis) Kraft in Moscow, Russia, and was taken to the United States as a small child. He was brought up and educated in New York City. He married Isabelle Jacobsohn on April 12, 1919. They had four children, one of whom died in infancy. Stephen, Arthur, and Barbara survived into adulthood. Kraft later married Pauline Roman on July 1, 1948.

From 1914 to 1917 he served as Executive Director of the Bronx YM & YMHA. His first association with the Jewish Welfare Board (JWB) was in 1917 as Director of Activities in military camps during World War I. In 1921, he was named Director of Jewish Community Center Activities of the JWB. From 1938 to 1947 he served as Executive Director of that organization. In 1947, Kraft helped establish the World Federation of YMHAs and Jewish Community Centers, and served as secretary of that body until the 1970s. During the 1940s and 1950s, he engaged in establishing Jewish Community Centers overseas. He established the Jerusalem YM & YWHA in 1948. In 1950-1951, he helped reorganize the School of Social Work in Jerusalem at the request of the State Department.

In 1953, Kraft was invited by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany and the Joint Distribution Committee to direct the planning of reconstruction and development of the Jewish communities in Europe and continued until 1961. In 1951, Kraft was the first recipient of the biennial Frank L. Well Award for notable contributions to the Jewish Community Center field. He was elected an Honorary Life member of the JWB Board of Directors. In 1964, he received the honorary degree Doctor of Humane Letters from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, Western Branch. He served at various times as President of the National Conference of Jewish Communal Service; President and Honorary President of the Association of Jewish Center Workers; President of the Social Group Work Section of the National Conference of Social Work; President of the International Conference of Jewish Social Work. He was one of the founders of the United Service Organization (USO) and a member of its Executive Committee during World War II. From 1961 until 1974, he served as voluntary Executive Secretary of the Association of Jewish Center Workers.

Kraft wrote Century of the Jewish Community Center Movement (1854-1954) (1953) and The Development of the Jewish Community Center (1968), and edited, with C.S. Bernheimer, Aspects of the Jewish Community Center (1954). He wrote many articles on subjects related to Jewish Community Centers, and was often referred to as "the architect of the Jewish community center movement."

Louis Kraft died on July 12, 1975 in his home on Central Park West, New York.

Chronology

January 2, 1891
Born Moscow, Russia
1912
B.S., CUNY
1914-1917
Executive Director, Bronx YM-YWHA
1917-1920
Director, Army, Navy Welfare Work, Jewish Welfare Board
April 12, 1919
Marries Isabelle Jacobsohn, they later divorce
1921-1937
Director, Jewish Community Center Activities, JWB
1938-1947
National Executive Director, JWB
1940-1946
Member, Executive Committee, USO
1943
President, National Conference of Jewish Communal Service
1947
General Secretary, World Federation of YMHA's and Jewish Community Centers; Honorary President, National Association of Jewish Center Workers
1948
Founder, Jerusalem Branch, YM-YWHA
July 1, 1948
Marries Pauline Roman
1948-1952
International Conference of Jewish Social Workers
1950
Reorganizes Jerusalem School of Social Work
1950-1951
Lecturer, Jerusalem School of Social Work
1953-1961
Community Reconstruction and Development, Europe, Joint Distribution Committee
1953
Author, A Century of the Jewish Community Center Movement
1954
Co-editor, Aspects of Jewish Center Work
1963
Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, Jewish Theological Seminary of America
1966
Co-author, Change and Challenge: A History of 50 Years of JWB
1967
Author, Social Agency Administration; Author, Development of the Jewish Community Center
1971
Honorary degree, Hebrew Union College Jewish Institute of Religion
1972
Townsend Harris Medal, City College Alumni Association
July 12, 1975
Died, New York City
References: The preceding Sketch and Chronology were compiled on the basis of archival documents in the Papers of Louis Kraft as well as from data presented in Encyclopaedia Judaica, Vol. 10, p. 1235; Who's Who in World Jewry 1972. Ed. I.J. Carmin Karpman, N.Y.: Pitman Publishing Corp., 1972; The New York Times, July 12, 1975; Biographical Dictionary of Social Welfare in America (William I. Trattner, editor) Westport: Greenwood Press, 1986; and an email from Barbara S. Kraft, December 6, 2004..

Extent

11.70 Linear Feet (20 manuscript boxes, 1 20 x 17 x 3)

Abstract

Papers of Louis Kraft: social worker, writer, and executive director of the Jewish Welfare Board, 1938-1947. The collection is valuable to researchers studying the Jewish Community Center movement, in particular the activities of the National Jewish Welfare Board during the 1940's, as well as the reestablishment of Jewish community life in Europe after World War II. The collection contains correspondence, minutes, financial and fund raising documents, newspaper clippings, publications, agenda of meetings and conferences, resolutions, annual reports, and handwritten notes. Also included are personal items such as certificates, scrapbooks, diaries, greeting cards, and photographs.

Arrangement

Subjects are arranged corresponding roughly to the original filing system of Louis Kraft. The arrangement of folders within is mixed: topical or by type of item and chronological for items within.

The collection is arranged in nine series as follows:
  1. Series I: Personal Affairs, undated, 1914-1975
  2. Series II: National Jewish Welfare Board, undated, 1923-1975
  3. Series III: Teaching, undated, 1946-1952
  4. Series IV: Jerusalem YM & YWHA, undated, 1929-1972
  5. Series V: World Federation of YMHAs and Jewish Community Centers, undated, 1944-1958
  6. Series VI: Joint Distribution Committee, undated, 1955-1974
  7. Series VII: National Association of Jewish Center Workers, undated, 1926-1974
  8. Series VIII: Writings, undated, 1922-1974
  9. Series IX: JPS Volume, undated, 1946-1966

Provenance

The Louis Kraft Papers were donated to the American Jewish Historical Society by Mr. Kraft's daughter, Barbara Kraft, in 1980.

Related Material

Additional material is available in the Records of the National Jewish Welfare Board and the Records of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.
Title
Guide to the Papers of Louis Kraft (1891-1975), 1914-1975 P-673
Status
Completed
Author
Processed by Leslie S. Lundberg
Date
© November 2001
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 LouisKraft02.xml

Revision Statements

  • April 2005:: Encoded archival description updated by Tanya Elder. Replaced boilerplate entities, attached new stylesheet, updated document type description, and inserted access points.
  • March 28, 2006:: Encoded archival description updated by Marvin Rusinek. Fixed biographical note, chronology, dates, and language material.
  • April 11, 2006:: Encoded archival description updated by Marvin Rusinek. Added links to Arrangement list, added punctuation to chronology events, created box-folder id's, added language codes, geographical name, date and num tags.
  • June 8, 2006:: Added links to the Series Arrangement by Marvin Rusinek.
  • October 2020: 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