Howard Lenhoff Papers
Scope and Content Note
The Howard Lenhoff Papers were generated and accumulated by Howard Lenhoff starting with his involvement with AAEJ in 1974 and running up until his final preparations in 2006 for his book, Black Jews, Jews and Other Heroes: How Grassroots Activism Led to the Rescue of the Ethiopian Jews (2007). The largest volume of documentation in the collection falls during the period of his presidency between 1978 and 1982, but the next five years are also rich in documentation while Lenhoff focused on publicity, editing and research for AAEJ. The materials include correspondence, clippings, notes, drafts, photographs, audiocassettes and posters.
The collection chronicles Lenhoff’s participation in AAEJ; his relationships with other activists and organizations; Israeli government officials’ responses to AAEJ pressure; requests for help and stories of trauma from the Ethiopian Jews; the range of publicity AAEJ authored and disseminated; and American Jewish press coverage of the struggles of Ethiopian Jewry. The three individuals aside from Lenhoff most represented in the collection are Graenum Berger (Series I-II, IV, VI), Rahamim Elazar (Series II-IV, VI, VIII) and Nate Shapiro (Series I-II, IV-VI).
Little in the collection pertains substantially to Lenhoff’s personal life or many other endeavors outside of AAEJ, excepting in Series I one folder of correspondence between him, his wife Sylvia and daughter Gloria, and in Series II the “University of California Irvine” folder and biographical materials under his and his wife’s name.
Lenhoff used his papers during the writing of his 2007 book, and throughout the collection, the notes he took in the early to mid-2000s are likely related to preparation of the book. Dates of photocopies in the collection correspond to the known or estimated date of the creation of the photocopy, not to the date of the original item that was photocopied. The original dates of the material he photocopied go as far back as 1851. Many of the Hebrew and Amharic items in the collection are accompanied by English translations.
- Creation: 1947-2007
- Creation: Majority of material found within 1974 - 2006
- Lenhoff, Howard M. (Person)
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Howard Maer Lenhoff was born in 1929 in North Adams, Massachusetts to Charles and Goldie Rubin Lenhoff. He received his undergraduate degree from Coe College in 1950 and his PhD from Johns Hopkins University in 1955. By 1970 Lenhoff was a professor of biology at University of California Irvine (UCI), where he would remain for the next three decades, residing in Costa Mesa, California. Between 1968 and 1974, Lenhoff spent time in Israel as a visiting fellow and professor at the Weizmann Institute, Hebrew University and Technion Israel Institute of Technology. In the early 1970s he co-founded the UCI Judaic studies program, and he was involved in the Hillel Advisory Council of Orange County, the Jewish Federation Council of Orange County, State of Israel Bonds, American Professors for Peace in the Middle East and United Jewish Appeal.
Howard Lenhoff’s interest in Ethiopian Jews began in Israel in the spring of 1974, when he met Rahamim Elazar, an Ethiopian Jewish student who had recently immigrated to Israel. Following that meeting, Lenhoff became active in the American Association for American Jews, which was also incorporated that same year as a non-profit merger of the former American Pro-Falasha Committee and the Friends of Beta-Israel (Falasha) Community in Ethiopia. Lenhoff served as western regional director and national vice president while Graenum Berger was president. Lenhoff was then elected president in September 1978 and held the position until his resignation in July 1982.
During his four-year tenure as president, AAEJ’s membership and reach grew, and its budget and operations were professionalized and streamlined. It was also during this time when AAEJ began executing missions to bring Ethiopian Jews to Israel, and by July 1982, the organization had carried out three such missions. AAEJ also placed great pressure on Israel and on American Jewish organizations to act on behalf of the Jews in Ethiopia and the Ethiopian Jewish refugees in Sudan. Lenhoff generated extensive publicity around his cause and brought American Jewish attention to the Ethiopian Jews. Also during his tenure, AAEJ started up a program in Israel to assist Ethiopian Jewish refugees with housing, educational and medical needs.
Following his presidency and the entrance of Nate Shapiro as president, Lenhoff continued on in leadership roles in AAEJ for a few years, heavily engaged in publicity and writing up until about 1987. By the early 2000s he was working in earnest on his book, Black Jews, Jews and Other Heroes: How Grassroots Activism Led to the Rescue of the Ethiopian Jews (2007), an autobiographical account of his activities with AAEJ. Lenhoff died on July 12, 2011.
41.6 Linear Feet (82 manuscript boxes, 1 card file box, 1 MAP-1 folder)
Language of Materials
The Howard Lenhoff Papers were generated and accumulated by Howard Lenhoff starting with his involvement with the American Association for Ethiopian Jews (AAEJ) in 1974 and running up until his final preparations for his book, Black Jews, Jews and Other Heroes: How Grassroots Activism Led to the Rescue of the Ethiopian Jews (2007). In addition to chronicling Lenhoff’s participation in AAEJ, the collection documents AAEJ’s relationships with other activists and organizations; Israeli government officials’ responses to AAEJ pressure; requests for help and stories of trauma from the Ethiopian Jews; AAEJ’s extensive publicity efforts; and American Jewish press coverage of the struggles of Ethiopian Jewry. The materials include correspondence, clippings, notes, drafts, photographs, audiocassettes and posters.
Prior to its donation to AJHS, portions of this collection were reorganized by researchers (badly, according to Lenhoff) and then again possibly reorganized by Lenhoff while preparing for his book, Black Jews, Jews and Other Heroes: How Grassroots Activism Led to the Rescue of the Ethiopian Jews. With the exception of Series II: Subjects, the current arrangement is not necessarily reflective of the order the collection was in when Lenhoff created the majority of these records. The order of the series is based on what materials were judged to be most unique to Lenhoff’s activities as an AAEJ leader, beginning with Correspondence and Subjects. These series are followed by Writings, Notes, Board and Administrative and Clippings series. As per AJHS practice, the photographs and audio materials have been separated into their own respective series.
- Series I: Correspondence, 1966-2006
- Subseries 1: General Correspondence, 1973-2006
- Subseries 2: Correspondence from Ethiopian Jews, 1966-2001
- Series II: Subjects, 1947-2006
- Series III: Writings, 1970-2007
- Series IV: Notes, 1972-2005
- Series V: Board and Administrative, 1969-2002
- Series VI: Clippings, 1958-2006
- Series VII: Audio, 1973-1987
- Series VIII: Photographs, 1973-1987
Located in AJHS New York, NY
Howard Lenhoff donated the bulk of his collection to the AJHS in 2008. 31 linear feet of boxes of chronological and subject files were received on April 30, 2008 as accession # 2008.22. Additional material must have been received before or after this time as well.
An initial round of items within folders were selected and digitized in 2012, primarily from Series I: Correspondence and Series II: Subjects.
In 2017-2018, archival material from the Howard Lenhoff Papers was selected by the Friends of Ethiopian Jews and folder-level digitization has been made possible through a generous grant from Howard and Sylvia Lenhoff.
One linear foot of Howard Lenhoff’s un-annotated research photocopies of the American Pro-Falasha Committee Records housed at the American Jewish Archives were deaccessioned. Only photocopies of these records were kept which he had filed in Series II: Subjects under “Faitlovitch, Jacques.”
The following Amharic language learning materials were removed from the collection and placed in the AJHS Library: Amharic Basic Course Units 1-50, Foreign Service Institute, Department of State, Washington, D.C., 1964; Amharic Basic Course Units 51-60, Foreign Service Institute, Department of State, Washington, D.C., 1964; An Amharic Conversation Book by Wolf Leslau [photocopy], 1965; An Amharic Dictionary, Amharic-English, English-Amharic, compiled by Wolf Leslau for the Peace Corps Training Program for Ethiopia [photocopy - 2 copies], 1965; Hebrew-Amharic – Amharic-Hebrew Dictionary, compiled by Itzhak Bodinger [photocopy], 1967; Hebrew Cognates in Amharic by Wolf Leslau [photocopy], 1969.
In 2010, the collection was arranged by Marvin Rusinek, with assistance from Josh Warhit. Brittle older newspaper clippings were photocopied onto acid-free paper by Marvin Rusinek and Josh Warhit. In November 2010-April 2011, description and further arrangement were completed by Rachel Miller.
Genre / Form
- clippings (information artifacts)
- Drafts (documents)
- Notes (documents)
- speeches (documents)
- Ethiopia -- Ethnic relations
- Israel -- Emigration and immigration
- Israel -- Ethnic relations
- Guide to the Howard Lenhoff (1929-2011) Papers, 1947-2007 P-902
- Arranged by Marvin Rusinek, with assistance from Josh Warhit. Description and further arrangement by Rachel Miller.
- © 2010
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Language of description note
- Description is in English.
- Processed with the financial contributions of Howard Lenhoff and as part of the Leon Levy Archival Processing Initiative, made possible by the Leon Levy Foundation.
- 2012: Added dao links by Eric Fritzler.
- 2015-11-25: Updated with AVC box number for audiovisual materials by Kevin Schlottmann.
- January 2016: Corrected dao links and errors by Eric Fritzler.
- November 2020: RJohnstone: post-ASpace migration cleanup.