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AMIT, records

 Collection
Identifier: I-521

Scope and Content Note

The AMIT records contain correspondence, periodicals, program, project, and subject files, films, reports, convention and chapter material and photographs that document the organizational activities, educational and humanitarian achievements in Israel, and fundraising efforts of this American Jewish Zionist volunteer organization from 1933-2005.

The AMIT Records were donated to the American Jewish Historical Society in 2010. The donation, while incomplete, represents the most complete set of documents, to date, related to the projects and achievements of AMIT and its history as the American Mizrachi Women's Organization.

The American Jewish Historical Society welcomes comments from researchers that will provide more detailed information and insight into the contents of the collection; this information could be of value to the research community when added to the descriptive information in this finding aid. Please contact reference@ajhs.org with comments and information.

Dates

  • undated, 1933-2005

Creator

Language of Materials

The collection is in English, Yiddish, 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

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

AMIT (abbreviation אמי״ת of the Hebrew name ארגון מתנדבות למען ישראל ותורתה, Association of Volunteers for Israel and Torah) is a non-profit membership organization devoted to the support and maintenance of a network of on-going projects in Israel in the field of youth education and child care. Based in New York City, AMIT is an American organization with members and chapters throughout the United States, and also includes some international members in a few chapters outside the United States. The projects it funds include schools, youth villages, surrogate family residences and other programs, with 25,000 youngsters in 98 facilities throughout Israel in 2011. It is considered to be the most effective and representative organization of modern Orthodox Jewish women with a Zionist orientation. At its peak in the 1980s, it had about 425 regional chapters in the world, representing 80,000 member volunteers. As of 2010 there were about 229 chapters and 40,000 members, which makes AMIT the largest women's religious Zionist organization in the world. AMIT has Boards of Directors in New York and in Israel and a sister organization in Britain, AMIT UK. AMIT is a member of the World Zionist Organization and its national president belongs to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. In addition, AMIT offers public programming on matters of interest to the Jewish community at large and addresses issues confronting Jewish women in the twenty-first century. The organization also publishes the quarterly The AMIT Woman magazine, which covers Jewish and Israel-oriented topics.

The organization was founded in 1925 as a religious Zionist women's off-shoot of the Mizrachi Organization of America at the Mizrachi Convention in Cleveland. This group of religious women believed that they should support and administer their own projects. At that time scattered women's groups worked as auxiliaries for the Mizrachi Organization, but their financing depended on the men's Mizrachi chapters and their work was restricted in its scope. As a result of the initiative, regional women's groups formed their own national association which was called Mizrachi Women's Organization of America (MWOA), later American Mizrachi Women (AMW) and finally AMIT Women, Inc. It began to act independently, and was incorporated in 1933.

Among the co-founders of MWOA were Bessie (Batya) Gotsfeld (1888-1962) of the New York Mizrachi and businesswoman Adela Goldstein, who became, respectively, the national secretary and national president. In 1926, Bessie Gotsfeld left for Palestine to survey conditions on the ground and look for a possible project the organization could undertake. She was instrumental in laying out the main directions of the MWOA/ AMIT work in Israel, and later became an "honorary president" of the organization.

The activists organized local chapters and raised funds for the organization, which saw its mission in promoting youth vocational education and child care for the Jewish population of Palestine in the time of the British Mandate. By WWII it included the child restoration project, aimed at helping European Jewish children to immigrate to the land of Israel. The term "child restoration" was coined to describe the physical and spiritual rehabilitation of young refugees from Hitler's Europe.

MWOA established a threefold set of goals, which included assistance to Jewish youth and child immigration to Palestine, vocational training and education, and social services and adult welfare. The first project of MWOA was Beit Zeirot Mizrachi (BZM), a vocational school for girls in Jerusalem, which was opened in October 1933. It was soon followed by the second Beit Zeirot school in Tel Aviv (1938). The schools were provided with dormitory facilities and taught subjects like knitting, sewing, cooking, nursing and clerical work. Among the first students of the schools were Jewish refugee children from Germany, who came to Palestine as part of the Youth Aliyah (youth immigration) movement. MWOA/ AMIT was one of the movement's co-founders. As Nazism continued to engulf Europe, Youth Aliyah intensified its work, and Beit Zeirot dormitories were filled to capacity with refugee children. MWOA representatives attended the 21st Zionist Congress in Geneva in 1939 to discuss the ways to fight the British White Paper which severely curtailed immigration to Palestine, just when persecuted Jews most needed a safe haven. The Congress condemned the British policy and large number of delegates, including those from MWOA, expressed their support of illegal European Jewish immigration to Palestine. With the increasing influx of refugees, including Polish Jews who had left the Soviet Union during the war, and survivors from Europe after the war, MWOA established a number of child-care facilities. It created two youth villages, Mossad Aliyah in Petah Tikvah (1944) and Kfar Batya (named after Bessie Gotsfeld) in Ra'anana (1947).

With the creation of the State of Israel, MWOA intensified its work to mobilize the American Jewish community to support its projects in Israel. It had already established a number of schools, kindergartens, and orphanages. All MWOA institutions expanded their facilities to help newly arriving Jews from Eastern Europe, Yemen, Iraq, North Africa and Central Asia to receive basic financial assistance and housing, and in adapting to Israeli society. In the 1950s through 1970s, the organization, now called American Mizrachi Women (AMW), added schools for technology and three teachers' seminaries to their list of projects, accompanied by new libraries, dormitories, gyms, swimming pools, and cultural centers. The subjects offered were expanded to include electronics, computer science, fashion design, and graphic arts along with the more traditional vocational and religious topics. These institutions employed American educational techniques, ideas, and practices.

At the National Convention in 1983, the organization changed its name to "AMIT Women" in order to stress its non-political character and to avoid confusion with the Mizrachi political party in Israel. In the early 1980s, the schools funded by AMIT became part of the Israeli government's network of religious, technical educational institutions (Reshet) and, in the same decade, introduced a number of surrogate family units to provide care for youngsters from dysfunctional homes. Consequently, AMIT has a voice in all Israeli Ministry of Education decisions in educational matters related to religious secondary schools. Among other programs are the Beersheva Vocational School for Girls, Gush Dan Religious Technological High School, Beit Hayeled Child Haven (Jerusalem), Bakka Settlement House and Youth Center-Jerusalem, Haifa Community Center, Motza Children's Home (Jerusalem), Mosadot, Chugim, T'chiya, Meshek ha-Poelot, and more.

AMIT maintains educational projects from kindergarten through pre-army service religious studies programs and junior college. The major funding for the operation of the organization and its projects comes from the U.S. membership and fundraising, but the Israeli AMIT members determine the methods to assure that the projects are properly run.

Extent

74 Linear Feet (69 Bankers boxes (11" x 13" x 16"), 6 oversized boxes, 1 oversized folder)

Abstract

The AMIT records contain correspondence, periodicals, program, project, and subject files, films, reports, convention and chapter material and photographs that document the organizational activities, educational and humanitarian achievements in Israel, and fundraising efforts of this American Jewish Zionist volunteer organization from 1933-2005. The AMIT Records were donated to the American Jewish Historical Society in 2010. The donation, while incomplete, represents the most complete set of documents, to date, related to the projects and achievements of AMIT and its history as the American Mizrachi Women's Organization.

Acquisition Information

The AMIT records were donated to the American Jewish Historical Society by deed of gift in 2010.

Processing Information

The AMIT records have been processed according to the principles of MPLP, More Product Less Process. The goal was to create access to the collection and post a finding aid within a few weeks rather than a few months.

Minimally processed means that only some of the bindings (paper clips, rubber bands, etc.) were removed, most (not all) legal-sized and oversized material were unfolded and flattened and loose material was foldered. Where there was an original order to the files, it has been followed. Files are grouped into series, either by the department from which they originally came or by their format, and then arranged intellectually and physically within the series into a hierarchical structure of Subseries. Folders and folder titles were retained where applicable. Arrangement of documents that had no order or were found loose, were filed where logic dictated. Some oversized documents and all other oversized materials (including scrapbooks, ephemera, oversized film cans and the oversized periodicals) have been transferred to oversized storage boxes.

The project focused on the following: creating a logical arrangement for the files, improving accessibility, stabilizing fragile materials with better housing and writing a finding aid at the box level instead of the more detailed folder level. Therefore, some of the more detailed or specific processing activities were considered more appropriate for a second processing phase, should the funds be designated.

Because the collection is listed at the box level rather than at the folder level, more work may be required from the researcher to find appropriate materials. Folders that have not been replaced do not include complete titles - in most cases they carry just the title of the folder itself. In such cases, please refer to the box labels for complete information on the series or subseries. It may also be necessary to request an entire series or subseries in order to find folders on specific topics.

In addition, the Fundraising folders cannot be released at this time due to privacy issues. The boxes are labeled "Restricted" until more work can be done with these files.

Very little processing has been done with the photographs housed in 23 Bankers boxes. Some preliminary steps have been taken to better facilitate research, namely, large groups of non-photographic files were transferred from the photograph collection and integrated into appropriate series elsewhere in the collection. Many photograph folders in the photograph collection use a cataloging system of "L" numbers in the folder title. An attempt was made to transfer photograph folders with this same system found throughout the collection to the Photograph series. There is currently no discernible order to these numbers. Photographs without the "L" numbers found elsewhere in the collection, mostly in the Public Relations and Magazine series, were left in place in order to retain a sense of provenance.

The audio-visual materials for the most part are not currently accessible for viewing, as formats are varied and condition is unknown. Digitization from various film and video formats can be done when funding allows.

Creator

Title
Guide to the Records of AMIT, undated, 1933-2005   *I-521
Status
In Progress
Author
Processed by Eric Fritzler, Susan Woodland, and Vital Zajka
Date
© 2011
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Language of description note
Description is in English.

Repository Details

Part of the American Jewish Historical Society Repository

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