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New York Board of Rabbis Records

 Collection
Identifier: I-506

Scope and Content Note

The records documenting the New York Board of Rabbis included in this collection were created in the course of business. The collection has been organized around the purpose for which the documents were created.

The records pertaining to the management and executive decisions of the Board’s officers and staff are documented in Series I: Governance. This series has been divided into six subseries based on the nature of the record. Sub-Series 1: Administrative Records, contains records that provide evidence of actions taken in the course of administration and include such documents as meeting minutes, correspondence, and reports. The financial records of the Board are found in Sub-Series 2: Financial Records, and includes such documents as annual budgets, financial statements and reports, ledgers and grant application material. Sub-Series 3: Legal Records, is organized around the legal records of the Board and includes such documents as the constitution and by-laws of the Board, tax certificates, certificate of incorporation, and other vital records. The correspondence of the Board is found in Sub-Series 4: Correspondence. Due to the bulk of these records, and to facilitate access, the subseries have been divided into two sections. Section A: General Correspondence, documents the communication between the officers of the Board and the various organizations, individuals, and entities that occurred in the regular course of business. Section B: Subject Correspondence has been organized around various topics that might be of special interest to the researcher. Sub-Series 5: Awards, contains citations received by the New York Board of Rabbis from the State of New York and a citation given by the Board honoring Rabbi Harold H. Gordon. Sub-Series 6: Press Clippings, documents the activities of the New York Board of Rabbis as a whole and in various local and national newspapers. The bulk of the material is from the 1950s.

The events and activities of the New York Board of Rabbis are documented in Series II: Activities. The series has been divided into six subseries according to the description of the aspect of ministry. One of the focuses of the Board has been training and certification of mohels. Although originally an independent organization, the Brit Milah Board of New York was eventually incorporated into the New York Board of Rabbis. Sub-Series 1: Brith Milah Board, documents the activities and management of the Brit Milah Board and includes correspondence, records documenting installation ceremonies, meeting minutes, press clippings and releases, publications, and reports. It also documents the establishment of the Brith Milah School and the selection of candidates for training as mohelim. The Board’s effort at using radio and television programming can be found in Sub-Series 2: Broadcast Commission. The documentation here includes correspondence, scripts, invoices and other records. The bulk of the material pertains to the WOR-TV program Point of View. Some related material can be found in Series IV: Audio Visual Material. From its inception, the Board has sought to provide chaplains for men, women, and children in numerous hospitals, mental health facilities, correctional facilities, youth shelters, homes for the aged and long-term care facilities throughout the New York State. Sub-Series 3: Chaplaincy Services, documents their chaplain activities their efforts and includes such records as human resources information, correspondence, budgets, meeting minutes, forms, press clippings, contracts, chaplain files, facilities site visit reports, and more. The various publications of the Board are found in Sub-Series 4: Publications and includes a draft of a work about the history of the Board, copies of their newsletter The Bulletin and various mimeographed material, pamphlets, and news briefs. An additional activity of the Board has been the continuing education of rabbis and other clergy. Sub-Series 5: Seminars and Ceremonies, documents this continuing education aspect of the Board and includes material related to these events as well as material documenting the various celebrations and ceremonies held by the Board. Some related material can be found in Series IV: Audio Visual Material. Finally, Sub-Series 6: Kehillah, documents the relationship between the Board of Rabbis and the larger Jewish community known as the Kehillah with press clippings, a communal register, and correspondence.

Series III: Photographs, provides visual evidence of the activities and people that shape the history of the New York Board of Rabbis. The subjects of the photos include various celebrations, such as Sukkah in the Sky, various conferences with interfaith clergy such as Billy Graham, Jesse Jackson, John Cardinal O’Connor, and others. It also includes photographs of meetings with domestic and foreign political leaders such as Mario Cuomo, Yitzhak Shamir and others.

Audio-visual material related to the activities and governance of the Board can be found in Series IV: Audio-Visual Material. This subseries includes the recordings of the meetings of the Advisory Council, rabbinical conferences, radio and television programming, and sermons. The material exists on a variety of media such as audiocassettes, reel-to-reel audio tape, film, and numerous videocassette formats.

Dates

  • undated, 1881-2000
  • Majority of material found within 1948-2000

Creator

Language of Materials

The collection is in English and Hebrew.

Access Restrictions

The collection is open to all researchers by permission of the Director of Library and Archives of the American Jewish Historical Society, except items that are restricted due to their fragility.

Use Restrictions

The collection is open to all researchers by permission of the Executive Director of the American Jewish Historical Society, except items that are restricted due to their fragility. For more information, contact:



American Jewish Historical Society

Center for Jewish History

15 West 16th Street

New York, NY, 10011

email: reference@ajhs.org

Historical Note

The New York Board of Rabbis (NYBR) is a cross-denominational Jewish organization for rabbis seeking to foster fellowship, provide educational enrichment, and rise above theological differences to strengthen and defend the Jewish community while advancing educational, religious, and social values. Originally created in 1881 as the New York Board of Jewish Ministers under the guidance of founding members, Rabbi Gustav Gottheil, Adolph Huebsch, Henry S. Jacobs, Kaufman Kohler, F. de Sola Mendes and H. Pereira Mendes, the Board's mission was to improve Jewish education at a time of a rapidly changing and growing Jewish population in New York. From the beginning, the Board’s efforts included the provision of chaplains to those Jews that for whatever reason had been placed outside of the Jewish community due to either incarceration or illness. By 1946, the organization was retitled as the New York Board of Rabbis and in 1954 moved into its first official location at 10 East 73rd Street, the former home of Dr. Albert Berg.

Throughout its history many of the Board's officers and members also represented other Jewish defense organizations and as a result there was increased coordination of efforts between these groups on issues important to the Jewish community. To assist the clergy in these efforts the Advisory Council of the New York Board of Rabbis was created. The council is comprised of prominent laity that helps the Board meet its financial obligations, develop advice on policy, and aid the Board in promoting events and services. The Council members come from positions of prominence in the Jewish community and exercise civic leadership in problems affecting community health and welfare. In addition to the Advisory Council, Ad Hoc committees are created to collectively respond to social and urban crises. The mission of the Board has been facilitated through the efforts of the Brit Milah Board, the Broadcast Commission, the Jack D Weiler Chaplaincy Service, various publications and pastoral seminars.

The Brith Milah Board of New York was created in 1914 as an independent organization by the Kehillah to train and certify mohels for the religious rite of circumcision. By the 1940s, the Brith Milah Board was subvented by the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies and managed by the New York Board of Rabbis. As advances in medicine were made, the training of mohels grew from not only knowing the law and tradition, but also the latest methods of asepsis and medical hygiene. Other duties include outreach to hospitals to educate hospital workers of the importance of the rite and work with them to provide accommodation. In 1968, the Brith Milah Board opened a school for the training of mohelim at Mt. Sinai Hospital, the first such institution in Jewish History.

The Broadcast Commission manages the Board’s effort at outreach using radio and television programming. In addition to programming focusing on Jewish holidays, regular programming featured current events and theological discussions. The Broadcast Commission's inter-religious program Point of View was for a time the NYBR's main telecast on WOR-TV. The show worked in conjunction with the Diocese of New York and the Episcopal Diocese of Newark to present a variety of current events from the perspective of the three faiths with each group working in rotation. Other efforts in television programming included shows for the CBS, NBC, and ABC television networks such as First Estate on NBC-TV, Look Up and Live on CBS-TV, and Accent On which aired on ABC-TV. In radio, the show Sunday Talk that aired on WHN featured Rabbi Irving Block as its host. There were many other programs on other stations such as Religious News on WOR and Jewish World This Week on WABC to name a few.

Chaplaincy has been a consistent effort of the Board since its founding and with the support of the UJA-Federation of New York the Board’s efforts have increased. Their chaplains serve as counselors and spiritual leaders to men, women, and children in numerous hospitals, mental health facilities, correctional facilities, youth shelters, homes for the aged and long-term care facilities and ensure that they receive kosher food and religious articles essential for living the Jewish life. The Chaplaincy Service has established criteria certifying rabbis as chaplains and assists them in carrying out their duties by sponsoring lectures, seminars and in-service courses. In 1948, the Board created the Chaplaincy Institute held in conjunction with Mt. Sinai Hospital’s own Institute of Pastoral Psychiatry and in 1974 the NYBR opened its own chaplaincy school. The work of the Chaplaincy Service has been the appointing body for all State and Municipal institutional chaplaincy positions in the State of New York since 1950.

The Board works closely with the clergy of other faiths to improve outreach to the society to further the cause of moral behavior, protection of human and religious rights, and the introduction of the spiritual and moral teachings of the great religions into government, schools, and the marketplace. The hope of this ecumenicalism is that by working with other faith groups broader bridges of understanding, respect, and love between the various communities that make up the region will be built. The Board serves as an advocate for Judaism to the government and intercedes when policy or legislation negatively affects the Jewish community and works with the leaders of other faith groups when such action affects them all. The NYBR also works with other faith communities to promote increased understanding of one another and to pursue avenues of common concern.

Sources:

Alvin Kass Watchman For The Community: A History of the New York Board of Rabbis, pages 9-22 in The American Rabbi: A Tribute On The Occasion Of The Bicentennial Of The United States And The Ninety-Fifth Birthday Of The New York Board Of Rabbis, edited by Gilbert S. Rosenthal. New York: KTAV Publishing House, Inc. 1977

The New York Board of Rabbis website available at http://nybr.org/ accessed on September 21, 2011.

Extent

47.2 Linear Feet (47 manuscript boxes, 1 OS 1 oversize box, 1 OS 4 oversize box and 21 record storage boxes plus 1 OS2F folder)

Abstract

The New York Board of Rabbis is a cross-denominational Jewish organization for rabbis that seeks to foster fellowship, provide educational enrichment, and rise above theological differences to strengthen and defend the Jewish community advancing its’ educational, religious, and social values. The collection documents the governance of the Board and its activities in serving the Jewish community of New York and at large.

Arrangement

The collection has been arranged into four series based on organizational purpose and record type. Series I: Governance focuses on the administrative operations and management of the board and is broken into subseries according to the various facets of the administrative process. Series II: Activities, documents the variety of efforts undertaken to carry out the mission of the Board. This series has been further arranged into subseries according to the specific activities being performed. Series III: Photographs visually documents the activities and members of the Board. Finally, Series IV: Audio-Visual Material provides further visual and aural evidence of the New York Board of Rabbis various events and television and radio programming.

Related Material

There are a few items in the holdings of the Center for Jewish History. The collection of essays titled The American Rabbi: A Tribute on the Occasion of the Bicentennial of the United States and the Ninety-Fifth Birthday of the New York Board of Rabbis and edited by former Board president Gilbert S. Rosenthal. In the archival holdings of the American Jewish Historical Society are the Irving J. Block (1923-2002) Papers. Rabbi Block, among many other things, was the host of the Board's radio program Sunday Talk which aired on the now defunct WHN-1050AM.
Title
Guide to the New York Board of Rabbis Records, undated, 1881-2000 (1948-2000) I-506
Status
In Progress
Author
Finding Aid by Michael D. Montalbano
Date
© 2011
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Language of description note
Description is in English.
Sponsor
as part of the Leon Levy Archival Processing Initiative, made possible by the Leon Levy Foundation
Edition statement
[This version was derived from NYBoR.xml]

Revision Statements

  • August 2018.: Removed oversized architect renderings to oversized folder from Box 6 Folder 13 to OS2F Folder 1 of 1. Updated file name. Tanya Elder.

Repository Details

Part of the American Jewish Historical Society Repository

Contact:
15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States