Records of Central Sephardic Jewish Community of America
Scope and Content Note
The records of the Central Sephardic Jewish Community of America (CSJCA) and its Women’s Division are arranged in two separate subgroups: Records of the CSJCA and Records of the CSJCA’s Woman’s Division.
The records of the CSJCA subgroup, described here, document the creation, functioning, and activities of the Community. The materials of the collection span 1935-1993, with the bulk of the Community’s records being from the 1940s through the 1960s. The majority of records are in English, with some documents in French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Ladino, Polish, Portuguese, and Spanish.
Most records in this subgroup are correspondence, although there is also a significant amount of minutes of meetings, annual reports, and financial records as well as materials on the organizations the Community and Women’s Division assisted.
One theme that reoccurs throughout this subgroup is the assistance work provided by the Community, not only to its members but also to Sephardim in other communities. Series I: Assistance Services holds a large amount of material concerning social assistance provided by the Community, including such matters as aid with immigration, help in finding employment, location searches of individuals, and social service. The correspondence of Dr. Isaac Alcalay, located in Series IV: Correspondence, also contains information on aid given while Alcalay was Chief Rabbi of the Community. Details concerning financial assistance by the Community can be found in the Finance and Financial Committee folders in Series II: Committees as well as in Series V: Finances. Information pertaining specifically to the Community’s Scholarship Fund can also be found in these same two series.
Many events sponsored by the Community and the Women’s Division were planned to raise funds for the Community and for various projects. Material relating to Community events can be found in pertinent folders, such as the Dinner-Dance or Publicity Committee folders, in Series II as well as in Community Events folders in Series III. Information concerning events hosted by specific membership organizations belonging to the Community can be found in Series VII: Membership Organizations.
A large amount of materials in this subgroup pertains to the running and functioning of the Community. Series II: Committees includes the minutes of meetings of the Board of Directors and Executive Committees, as well as those of the Reorganization Committee. More information on the reorganization of the Community is also provided in Series III: Community. Correspondence with individual members of the Community can be found in Series VII: Membership Organizations as well as in Series III. Material concerning the activities of Sephardi youth within the Community is located in Series II in the Youth Activities Committee folder as well as in Series VIII: Sephardic Youth League.
Of special interest is the material concerning the Holocaust and World War II era. There are many papers from the 1940s and early 1950s that mention the plight of Sephardim abroad. A large amount of correspondence related to this subject is available in Series I: Assistance Services; material is located in all three subseries. More information can be found in folders of foreign correspondence in Series IV: Correspondence and in Series VI: General Subject Files. Series VI contains a list of survivors of the Holocaust in Europe, a list of the losses of the Jewish population in Greece after German persecution in 1943 and 1944, a photo album of the destroyed Jewish cemetery of Salonica, and a list of Spanish Jews arrested by the Nazis in 1944 in Greece.
The CSJCA subgroup does not contain any documents concerning the dissolution and liquidation of assets of the organization; these may be found in the Women’s Division records. There is only a small amount of records dating from the 1970s and later.
- undated, 1935-2000
- Central Sephardic Jewish Community of America (Organization)
Language of Materials
This collection is in English.
Open to researchers.
There may be some restrictions on the use of the collection. For more information, contact:
American Sephardi Federation, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY 10011
The Sephardi immigrants coming to the United States during the early part of the twentieth century developed a strong yearning for a central body along the lines of the communities they knew in their old hometowns. It took the arrival in 1941 of Dr. Nissim J. Ovadia, former Chief Rabbi of Paris, to unite all the societies under the sponsorship of a few businessmen who were impressed by Dr. Ovadia’s energy and dedication. On June 29, 1942, the first meeting of delegates of societies and members at large of the Central Sephardic Jewish Community of America was held.
Upon the death of Dr. Ovadia on August 30, 1942, Dr. David J. Cardozo filled the gap as the leader for a short interval until he was called to serve Congregation Mikveh Israel of Philadelphia. Dr. Isaac Alcalay, the former Chief Rabbi of Yugoslavia, who had escaped from the Nazis, was in New York at the time and accepted the position of Chief Rabbi and leader. In 1944 Mrs. Mazel Ovadia founded the Woman’s Division, which was the right arm of the Community for many years.
The Central Sephardic Jewish Community of America conducted a large number of social activities. In the field of philanthropy, the Community extended financial emergency help to many needy families. In the field of religion and Jewish education, the Community succeeded in uniting a number of Sephardi Talmud Torah in Brooklyn, and later in the Bronx, and subsidized education for a number of years. The Community helped in founding the Sephardic Jewish Center of the Bronx. In 1952, the Community engaged Dr. Moise Ventura as principal of schools and as a general director of Sephardi Jewish Education. The Community also organized rabbis in a central committee for the purpose of improving their religious services. The Community formed the Sephardic Youth League in the mid-1940s, consisting of over 1000 boys and girls distributed in several chapters covering the entire city, under the guidance of John J. Karpeles as director. The league carried on social and cultural activities and assisted young people in their higher studies with scholarships.
In matters of general Jewish interest the Community organized dinners and other functions for the benefit of the Federation of Jewish Charities and the United Jewish Appeal, and for the purchase of Israel bonds. The Community occasionally assisted Sephardi communities and institutions outside of the United States.
For many years the Community struggled with the problem of a home for the Sephardi aged, and as a result of a study requested by and paid for by the Community, the Board of Directors decided to build a home for the Sephardi aged. Money was raised with the substantial help of the Women’s Division, and the Sephardi Home for the Aged opened its doors on May 20, 1951 in the Bronx.
In the field of public relations the Community acted as the representative body at many national and international conventions and meetings. The Community also, by means of the publication of The Sephardi from 1943 to 1957, kept the Sephardim of the United States and particularly the youth apprised of events of Jewish and Sephardi interest.
Another important service rendered by the Community was its work in locating relatives who had lost contact with each other, as a result of World War II.
By 1987 the men who stayed with the Community were only a few, and the organization's funds were dormant. It was decided that the Woman’s Division of the CSJCA would take over the organization. A meeting was held in 1989 in the Library of the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue. It was suggested by Mrs. Emilie Levy to merge together with the men under the original name “Central Sephardic Jewish Community of America, Inc.” All assets were merged, and Mrs. Irma Cardozo was elected as President of the new organization.
20.4 Linear Feet
The records of the CSJCA document the creation, functioning, and activities of the Community in the fields of social service, religious education, philanthropy and many others. The materials include correspondence, minutes of meetings, annual reports, budgets, publications and clippings, membership lists, financial papers and ledgers, and a few photographs.
The CSJCA subgroup is organized in eight series:
- Series I: Assistance Services, 1944-1975
- Series II: Committees, undated, 1943-1987
- Series III: Community, 1942-1976
- Series IV: Correspondence, 1942-1976
- Series V: Finances, 1941-1986
- Series VI: General Subject Files, undated, 1935-1993
- Series VII: Membership Organizations, undated, 1941-1969
- Series VIII: Sephardic Youth League, undated, 1941-1953
The American Sephardi Federation acquired the records by gift from Congregation Shearith Israel.
Series I, Subseries 1 and 2 were digitized in their entirety.
- Guide to the Records of the Central Sephardic Jewish Community of America, undated, 1935-2000 ASF AR-1
- Processed by Inna Giter and Dianne Ritchey Oummia
- © 2002
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Language of description note
- Description is in English.
- Edition statement
- This version was derived from CSJCA02-03.xml
- 2004 August: Revised as CSJCA02.xml by Stanislav Pejša. Removed deprecated elements and attributes, updated repository codes, added language codes, changed doctype declaration, etc.
- January 2006.: Entities removed from EAD finding aid.
- May 2016: Folder numbers added to Series I Subseries 1 and 2 by Leanora Lange.
- June 2016: Added dao links by Eric Fritzler.