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National Committee for Labor Israel Records

 Collection
Identifier: I-535

Scope and Content Note

The documents in this collection can generally be divided into two distinct categories. The first is composed of the NCLI administrative and operational files, most heavily representing a period of time from the 1980s through 2006. These records may be relevant to a study of nonprofit administration, philanthropy in Jewish communities, the history of philanthropic organizations, international labor issues, or the Histadrut. These documents are modern, mostly word-processed and printed correspondence, memos, faxes, and emails, and publications or articles of interest.

The Israeli project files comprise the second category (Series III). These are slightly older records, often in Yiddish or Hebrew, many of which are transactional and contain little information. Collectively, however, they document an ambitious state-building project and the substantial American involvement in the development of modern Israel. These files include architectural plans, correspondence, donor contracts, financial reports, photographs of projects during construction, and pictures of the commemorative plaques affixed to finished projects.

Dates

  • 1931-2007
  • Majority of material found within 1964-2006

Language of Materials

The collection is in English, with Arabic, Hebrew, and Yiddish.

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

Information concerning the literary rights may be obtained from the Director of Library and Archives of the American Jewish Historical Society. Users must apply in writing for permission to quote, reproduce or otherwise publish manuscript materials found in this collection. 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

NCLI was founded in 1923 as the National Labor Committee for the Organized Jewish Workers in Palestine. Following some minor name changes, the title of National Committee for Labor Israel was settled upon by 1949 (see Box 1, Folder 1 “Articles of Incorporation”). The primary function of the non-sectarian organization was to collect donations to aid the growing immigrant population and urban development in Palestine/Israel. As the only dedicated fundraising vehicle in the United States for the Histadrut (Israel’s labor federation), NCLI helped establish social institutions that provided an infrastructure for the newly founded nation. Aside from fundraising, the mission of the Committee included strengthening the bonds between U.S. and Israeli labor sectors and "building support for and educating the public about the achievements of Labor Israel." 1

NCLI was headquartered in New York City and oversaw regional fundraising offices in other cities such as Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami, and Philadelphia. The Committee’s administrative structure encompassed a National Council, a Board of Directors, an Executive Committee, a Trade Union Council, and the Histadrut Campaign department (among others), but it is unclear what hierarchy existed between these or how this reflected decision-making processes. This lack of clarity seems to have been a problem within NCLI itself, as evidenced by contentious correspondence found throughout Series I and II and repeated proposals for restructuring and reorganization. An additional source of confusion may have been the name of the organization itself; while the “Histadrut Campaign” was a major component of the Committee, donations and correspondence sometimes came to NCLI erroneously addressed to, simply, “the Histadrut.” Other related but distinct entities included the Histadrut Assistance Fund, the American Trade Union Council for Histadrut, and the Histadrut Development Foundation.

In spite of their close association, the relationship between NCLI and the Histadrut was complicated as well, at least as documented in the years covered here. The large bulk of NCLI records related to Histadrut projects in Israel indicates a large amount of coordination between the agencies was required. The labor involved in cataloging and assigning thousands of sponsorship opportunities, transmitting monies between countries, producing evidence of ongoing projects, and attaching the correct names and acknowledgments to finished projects was considerable—especially in light of the fact that the organizations operated in different languages in a mostly pre-computer workplace. The two periodically accused each other of mishandling funds and disagreed about which of them had the authority to resolve their disputes.

Between 1984 and 1990, NCLI was led by an Israeli-born Executive Vice President who combined the office of Histadrut Representative to North America with his position at NCLI. This did not improve relations between the organizations, and the years under his management turned out to be catastrophic for NCLI. Revenue decreased, expenses increased, financial reporting became irregular, and donor communities were alienated. 2

By the end of 1991, the regional campaign offices were closed and NCLI had to sell its property at 33 East 67th Street to remain solvent. In 1993, the Committee moved into new offices and began paying down its debts and liabilities, but these financial difficulties ultimately proved insurmountable. In spite of efforts to keep the organization afloat, operations were ceased in 2006.

Key individuals mentioned in (or creators of) NCLI records include:
  1. Yehuda Ebstein - Deputy/Executive Vice President, circa 1985-1992
  2. Jerry Goodman - Executive Vice President/Executive Director, 1992-2006
  3. Bernard Jacobson - Executive Vice President, mid-1970s
  4. Jay Mazur - NCLI president, 1990-2006
  5. Eliezer Rafaeli - Executive Vice President, 1984-1990
  6. Ann Stamler - Associate Executive Director, through 2006
  7. Israel Stolarsky - Associate Director and/or Projects Director, 1950s-1960s
  8. Bruce Vladeck - NCLI president, circa 1988-1990

Footnotes

  1. 1Quote from NCLI's website, www.laborisrael.org (no longer functioning); see Box 36, Folder 13.
  2. 2See “Financial Overview: 1984-1990” and “Notes on Management 1984-1990” prepared for Jay Mazur, Box 31, Folder 12 - Box 32, Folder 2.

Extent

47.45 Linear Feet

Abstract

The National Committee for Labor Israel (NCLI) was an American fundraising organization closely associated with Israel’s federation of labor and trade unions (Histadrut). NCLI provided financial support for the Histadrut’s educational, health, and social programs in Israel through national and regional solicitation campaigns. Major donors included Labor Zionist organizations, American labor unions, and other Jewish community associations. Financial problems eventually led to the dissolution of NCLI, and the bulk of this collection documents its final decades of operation. A large portion of the records pertain to development projects in Israel during the 1960s -1970s.

Arrangement

The Committee records were transferred to AJHS in boxes that were numbered and labeled one of three categories: Executive, General Files, and Projects. The processing archivist retained these divisions when creating the three main series; an additional series was composed of separated formats. The overall arrangement therefore closely follows the order provided by NCLI, even where this order complicates description and is difficult to understand. The administrative and general files were logically named and alphabetically grouped, but the project files follow an idiosyncratic, numeric classification system. Although NCLI provided two versions of an index to these files, both are incomplete, inaccurate, and unwieldy. While maintaining the original order of these files during the rehousing process, the archivist renamed the folders in order to provide better user access and recorded the complete file inventory in the attached index. (View or download the PDF file here.)

Acquisition Information

NCLI records were donated in two accessions, numbered 2006.19 and 2008.17, transferred to AJHS by Jerry Goodman and Ann Stamler. In November 2013, Jerry Goodman transferred one additional file to AJHS, containing materials related to the closing of NCLI.

Related Material

AJHS holds another small collection that may be relevant to researchers interested in NCLI's early history, I-364 (Histadrut Collection). This material includes campaign reports, convention journals, and promotional publications dating from the 1920s to the early 1960s.

Separated Material

Two corporate seal embossers have been removed from the collection due to their bulk and weight: one inscribed National Labor Committee for the Jewish Workers in Palestine, Inc., dated 1931; the other National Committee for Labor Israel, Inc., dated 1949.

Processing Information

Physical processing consisted primarily of rehousing material in archival folders and boxes. This task was straightforward throughout the executive and operational files, but Series III required a slightly different approach. Many of these files held a single sheet of paper, or nothing at all, or documents that did not match the information conveyed by the folder label. Because information outside the folders was often more complete than the information within, the archivist captured the folder label data in a complete file inventory. To avoid transferring individual documents into their own separate folders, slim project files were grouped together as they were rehoused. Sheets of blank acid-free paper indicate the divisions between “projects” in these files, but the archivist’s index should be consulted when navigating this series.

One oversized item, the guestbook in Box 89, has broken bindings and may require treatment for leather rot. At present, it is isolated from the rest of the collection and should remain stable while wrapped in acid-free tissue.

Additionally, several photo albums were disassembled, with individual photographs or scrapbook pages placed in folders and sleeves as appropriate.
Title
Guide to the National Committee for Labor Israel Records 1931-2007 (bulk 1964-2006) I-535
Author
Processed by Alyssa Carver
Date
© 2012
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

Revision Statements

  • November 2013.: Finding aid updated by Alyssa Carver to reflect the addition of materials inserted as Box 5, Folder 11.
  • March 2017.: Added NCLI Stamp Seal Embosser to Series IV: Audiovisual Material and Objects. Tanya Elder.

Repository Details

Part of the American Jewish Historical Society Repository

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