Fort Ontario Emergency Refugee Shelter Collection
Scope and Content Note
The collection is comprised of papers generated or received in the course of Jack Cohen’s role as the B’nai B’rith representative to the Coordinating Committee for Fort Ontario, and Rabbi Mosco Tzechoval’s role as the spiritual leader at the Fort Ontario Emergency Refugee Shelter in Oswego, NY, 1944-1946. The papers document the religious, educational, cultural, and medical needs of the refugees; the working and living conditions inside the shelter; and the contributions of B'nai B'rith and other organizations to the shelter.
Jack Cohen’s materials, representing two thirds of the collection, consist of correspondence with Joseph H. Smart, director of the shelter; leaders and members of the Coordinating Committee for Fort Ontario, including Joseph Archibald Berger, Lotta Loeb, Monte Kandel, Alexander E. Holstein, Isaac Asofsky of Hebrew Sheltering and Immigrant Aid Society, and Isaac Lewin of Agudas Israel; minutes and reports of the Coordinating Committee; clippings and reports regarding B’nai B’rith’s contributions; and a few photographs. Cohen is often cc-ed on the material, and the bulk of Cohen’s papers are not original documents, but photocopies.
It’s not clear how Mosco Tzechoval’s papers came to be mingled with Jack Cohen’s, but his correspondence and sermons, much of them in handwritten Hebrew and Yiddish, represent a third of the collection. There is substantial correspondence from Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneerson and Max Rosen. While Tzechoval’s papers are concentrated in folders bearing his name, more of his materials can be found in other folders in the collection. as well.
- 1944-1947, 1960, 1975
Language of Materials
The collection is primarily in English, with a substantial amount of material in Yiddish and Hebrew, and a few items in German, Italian, and Croatian.
The collection is open to all researchers, except items that may be restricted due to their fragility, or privacy.
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 email@example.com.
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Historical and Biographical Notes
Fort Ontario Emergency Refugee Shelter
In June 1944, the Fort Ontario Emergency Refugee Shelter was established in Oswego, NY by order of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. It was operated by the War Relocation Authority, a government agency. In August 1944, the shelter received 982 refugees of predominantly Jewish descent, and of Yugoslavian, Austrian, Polish, German, and Czechoslovakian nationalities. Because of their immigration status as “guests,” the refugees could not work, and they could not travel beyond Oswego. Upon release many were granted permanent or temporary status. The shelter was closed in February 1946.
B’nai B’rith, Coordinating Committee of Fort Ontario, and Jack Cohen
The Department of the Interior requested that B’nai B’rith help provide recreational and religious facilities at the shelter. This was carried out by the War Service Activities Department of B’nai B’rith, the Upper New York State Council of B’nai B’rith, and its local lodges. Jack Cohen, Secretary of B’nai B’rith Zerubbabel Lodge No. 53 in Rochester, NY was appointed as the local B’nai B’rith representative to the Coordinating Committee for Fort Ontario. The Coordinating Committee was established to coordinate efforts by different organizations to give aid and provide services for the shelter refugees. The committee was composed of Jewish institutional representatives from Buffalo, Oswego, Rochester, Syracuse, and Utica, New York. Jack Cohen oversaw much of B’nai B’rith’s donations, as well as the dispersal of materials to U.S. Veterans hospitals when the shelter closed. Items donated included furnishings, arts and crafts materials, religious equipment for congregations and the chapel, and athletic equipment.
Rabbi Mosco Tzechoval (also known as Moses Checkoval or Czechoval) was a spiritual leader at the shelter. Tzechoval had formerly been the director of Yeshivath Etz Chaim Talmudical Seminary in Heide-Antwerp, Belgium.
0.5 Linear Feet (1 manuscript box)
The collection consists of Jack Cohen and Mosco Tzechoval’s papers relating to their involvement at the Fort Ontario Emergency Refugee Shelter in Oswego, New York, 1944-1946. Materials include correspondence, sermons, minutes, reports, notes, clippings, and photographs.
This collection has been arranged as one series.
Jack Cohen donated this collection to AJHS in October 1977 (accession # 1977.019) and August 1978 (accession # 1978.028).
All materials in the collection were digitized with the exception of duplicates.
Between 1977 and 1978, an AJHS archivist processed the collection and created a box list. In 2012, Rachel Miller enhanced the collection description, wrote a full finding aid, and outside of folder shifts made in order to maintain alphabetical order, largely kept to the physical and intellectual arrangement given to the collection by the previous archivist, including folder titles.
- B'nai B'rith International
- Clippings (information artifacts)
- Cohen, Jack, 1919-2012
- Fort Ontario (N.Y.)
- Fort Ontario Emergency Refugee Shelter
- Jewish refugees
- Minutes (administrative records)
- Oswego (N.Y.)
- Rochester (N.Y.)
- Schneersohn, Joseph Isaac, 1880-1950
- Smart, Joseph H.
- Tzechoval, Mosco
- United States -- Emigration and immigration
- World War, 1939-1945 -- Refugees
- Guide to the Fort Ontario Emergency Refugee Shelter Collection, 1944-1947, 1960, 1975 P-317
- Processed by Rachel Miller
- © 2012
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Language of description note
- Description is in English.
- Processed and digitized as part of the CJH Holocaust Resources Initiative, made possible by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany.
- June, October 2020: EHyman: post-ASpace migration cleanup.