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Cahnman Foundation Collection

Identifier: AR 25836

Scope and Content Note

This collection consists of correspondence and reports relating to the many philanthropic activities of the Cahnman Foundation, meeting minutes from its Board of Directors, and legal documents from the Cahnman estate. Items in this collection reflect the overall planning, funding, and final reports of the multitude of projects taken on (either partially or wholly) by the Cahnman Foundation to physically and intellectually preserve the history of Jewish religion and culture, worldwide.

Most of the correspondence relating to philanthropic foundation activities are either to or from Gisella L. Cahnman (the foundation's creator) and Ira Jolles, who took on many executive roles at the foundation throughout the years. Several folders of correspondence in this collection are marked as 'General correspondence.' These letters arrived similarly organized and include various correspondents seen elsewhere in the collection. Among them are the Center for Jewish History (and its partner organizations), the CUNY Graduate Center, the American Jewish Distribution Committee, the World Monuments Fund, and the Tenement Museum.


  • undated, 1951-2018
  • Majority of material found within 2000-2017

Language of Materials

The collection is in English.

Access Restrictions

The collection remains suppressed from public view until 2038.

The files contained within Series I, subseries 3: Financial documents will remain restricted due to their contents.

Historical Note

Werner Jacob Cahnmann (later Cahnman) was born in Munich on September 30, 1902 to Sigwart and Hedwig Cahnmann. He studied at universities in Munich and Berlin before settling in Chicago, IL. There he became an established sociologist and lecturing academic. Gisella Levi was born in Torino (Turin), Italy in 1910. She earned a Ph.D. in mathematics and physics from the University of Torino in 1934. After her immigration to the United States, she held a variety of positions in the health research industry, most notably at the Sloan Kettering Institute. She died in 2003.

Ira Harvey Jolles was born on December 12, 1938 in New York City. He is the son of Harry and Hannah Ruth (Rapaport) Jolles. He served several roles in the executive affairs of the Cahnman Foundation, including president and vice president as well as director and secretary of the Board of Directors. He also served on the Board of Directors of the Rashi Foundation, an independent, private philanthropic foundation dedicated to assisting the underprivileged in Israel.

The Cahnman Foundation dedicated its efforts and funding to supporting organizations in their efforts to study and preserve various avenues of Jewish history, architecture, and literature, and to publish texts illuminating Jewish culture and tradition. The foundation supported many small and large organizations including the American Joint Distribution Committee, the World Monuments Fund, the Center for Jewish History, and its affiliate organizations, the American Sephardi Federation and the Leo Baeck Institute. The Foundation ceased its activities and dissolved in 2017.


4 Linear Feet


This collection contains the records of Ira H. Jolles’ activities with the Cahnman Foundation, a philanthropic organization which funded projects dedicated to the preservation and care of Jewish archives, architecture, and culture. It consists primarily of correspondence relating to funded projects, including their planning and scope. Also included are several years worth of Board of Director meeting minutes and select legal documents from the Estate of Gisella Levi Cahnman.

Related Material

LBI holds several collections relating to the Cahnmans themselves as well as their associates Zoltan Tarr and Judith Marcus, including AR 25210: Werner and Gisella Cahnman Collection, 1717-2004, 1940-1965 and AR 25653: Judith Marcus and Zoltán Tarr Collection.

Separated Material

Several promotional DVDs and images on CD were removed to the LBI A/V collection.

Processing Information

Collection material was well grouped and organized upon donation. Relevant folder titles were retained.

Guide to the Cahnman Foundation Collection undated, 1951-2018 (bulk 2000-2017) AR 25836
Processed by Janine Veazue
© 2019
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Leo Baeck Institute Repository

15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States