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Archives of the Society for the History of Czechoslovak Jews

 Collection
Identifier: AR 25443

Scope and Content Note

This collection contains the records of the Society for the History of Czechoslovak Jews (SHCJ), an organization founded in 1961, in New York City, by members of the Joseph Popper unit of B’nai B’rith. The aim of the society was to foster and disseminate knowledge about the history and culture of Jews in the Czech and Slovak lands. The SHCJ also eventually assumed primary responsibility for organizing the annual memorial service in New York City to honor Czechoslovak Jews who perished in the Holocaust, an event that had been held regularly since 1946, and was co-sponsored by the Joseph Popper unit and, later, the Holocaust Survivors of Slovakia.

The major portion of the records reflects the participation of Rabbi Norman Patz in the society, especially his term as president, from 1994 to 2008. Rabbi Patz was the head of the congregation of Temple Sholom of West Essex, in Cedar Grove, New Jersey, and carried on business of the society from there. Approximately one quarter of the materials relate to the annual memorial service sponsored by the society (Series I), including program fliers and handouts; correspondence with invitees or participants; and yizkor, or memorial booklets, which include prayers, stories, songs, and historical information, as well as lists of names of individuals to be remembered, as submitted by participants.

Approximately half of the collection comprises general correspondence of the society (Series IV), which often reflects the society's participation in cultural events in the United States, as well as in contemporary events relating to the Jewish communities in the Czech Republic and, to a lesser extent, Slovakia. Examples of such activities are found in correspondence organized by topic (Subseries IV.1), as well as individual correspondence files (Subseries IV.2), including, for instance, the Czech consulate general in New York, and organizations in the Czech Republic (e.g. the Jewish Museum in Prague and the Terezín Ghetto Museum), or Slovakia (Central Union of Jewish Religious Communities, Bratislava).

Noteworthy materials include: documentation relating to the dedication of the Holocaust memorial in the Czech town Dvůr Králové nad Labem, in 2008, including 12 photographs (Folder 47); a file on relief aid to Jewish organizations in Prague following the floods of August 2002, including a report written by Rabbi Patz on conditions he observed during a visit there in February 2003 (Folder 48-49); correspondence concerning the controversy over the remnants of a Jewish cemetery discovered in Vladislavova Street in Prague in 2000 (Folder 52); a small amount of correspondence with Madeleine Albright, then the U.S. Secretary of State (Folder 54); and photographs of Václav Havel, evidently taken at a ceremony at the Beit Terezín Memorial in Israel (Folder 72).

Among the remaining records are writings, speeches, obituaries, and interviews (Series II); administrative records, such as minutes and supporting documents from board meetings, and letters to the membership (Series III); and a small amount of printed ephemera, from the SHCJ, as well as other organizations (Series V).

Dates

  • 1962-2010
  • Majority of material found within 1992-2010

Creator

Language of Materials

The collection is predominantly in English, with some Czech, Slovak, German, and Hebrew.

Access Restrictions

This collection is open to researchers.

Access Information

Readers may access the collection by visiting the Lillian Goldman Reading Room at the Center for Jewish History. We recommend reserving the collection in advance; please visit the LBI Online Catalog and click on the "Request" button.

Historical Note

The Society for the History of Czechoslovak Jews (SHCJ) was founded in 1961, in New York City, by members of the Joseph Popper Lodge and Chapter of B’nai B’rith, on the initiative of Kurt Wehle, an immigrant from Czechoslovakia and survivor of the Nazi concentration camps. Its mission at that time was to foster and disseminate knowledge about the history and culture of Jews in the Czech and Slovak lands. By the 1980s the SHCJ had also assumed a leadership role in organizing the annual memorial service held in New York City to honor Czechoslovak Jews who perished in the Holocaust, a tradition that began in 1946. The event was regularly co-sponsored by the Joseph Popper unit of B’nai B’rith and, later, the Holocaust Survivors of Slovakia.

The SHCJ was conceived as a successor organization to the Society for the History of the Jews in the Czechoslovak Republic (Gesellschaft für Geschichte der Juden in der Čzechoslovakischen Republik), which was founded in Prague, on 22 April 1928, by the Prague lodge of B’nai B’rith. The Prague society published a German-language journal (Jahrbuch der Gesellschaft für Geschichte der Juden in der Čzechoslovakischen Republik) from 1929 to 1938.

In its early decades the SHCJ promoted the history and culture of Czechoslovak Jews through its publications. The series The Jews of Czechoslovakia appeared in three volumes, in 1968, 1971, and 1984, respectively, and was followed by the journal Review of the Society for the History of Czechoslovak Jews (volumes 1 to 6, 1987-1994). The society also participated in cultural activities related to the history of Jews in the Czech and Slovak lands.

Kurt Wehle served as president of the society until 1967, when he was succeeded by Hugh Colman. By 1970 Ludovic Sturc had succeeded Colman as president, while Wehle continued with the title of chairman. Subsequent presidents were Lewis Weiner, from 1976 to 1994; and Rabbi Norman Patz, from late 1994 to early 2008. In the latter part of 2008 Thomas A. Reiner and Amira Kohn-Trattner served as co-presidents; and Kohn-Trattner subsequently served as president through at least 2010. The scholar Guido Kisch, who had been associated with the original Prague society, was an honorary president.

Others who held leadership roles in the society from the 1990s on were Fred Hahn and Alan A. Politzer, who both served as vice presidents; and Anita H. Grosz who was treasurer, or secretary-treasurer. Beginning around the year 2000, Lesly Cohn served as administrative assistant.

In a letter to the membership in April 2006, President Norman Patz noted that the society had a mailing list of 196 names but that only 37 members were up to date in paying annual membership dues; he also reported that attendance at the annual memorial services had grown in recent years, with over 120 participants in 2006.

As of 2015 the society continues to sponsor the annual memorial service in honor of the Czechoslovak victims of Nazism. Since 2011 it has also organized a lecture series related to the history and culture of Jews in the Czech and Slovak lands.

Extent

1.5 Linear Feet (3 boxes)

Abstract

This collection contains the records of the Society for the History of Czechoslovak Jews, an organization founded in 1961, in New York City, by members of the Joseph Popper unit of B’nai B’rith, to foster and disseminate knowledge about the history and culture of Jews in the Czech and Slovak lands. Along with the Joseph Popper unit and, later, the Holocaust Survivors of Slovakia, the society sponsored an annual memorial service held in New York City to honor Czechoslovak Jews who perished in the Holocaust. A majority of the records are from the tenure of Rabbi Norman Patz as president (1994-2008). The materials primarily comprise correspondence, and items related to the annual memorial service, including texts of addresses, and yizkor memorial booklets. Also included are meeting minutes, letters to the membership, financial reports, writings, speeches, obituaries, clippings, photographs, and printed ephemera. The society's correspondence reflects its participation in cultural events related to Czech and Slovak Jewish history, as well as its relationship to the Jewish communities in the Czech Republic and, to a lesser extent, Slovakia; some correspondence with members contains genealogical information.

Related Material

The Guido Kisch Collection (AR 787), held at the Leo Baeck Institute, contains materials related to the Society for the History of Czechoslovak Jews. The LBI Library also holds the three-volume SHCJ work, The Jews of Czechoslovakia (DS 135 C95 J45), as well as the following items related to the original Prague society on which the SHCJ was modeled, Gesellschaft für Geschichte der Juden in der Čzechoslovakischen Republik: the statutes of 1928 (DS 135 C95 G47 A2) and the journal, Jahrbuch der Gesellschaft für Geschichte der Juden in der Čechoslovakischen Republik, 1929-1938 (DS 135 C95 J45). The latter journal is also freely accessible online at www.compactmemory.de.

The YIVO Library, at the Center for Jewish History, holds the SHCJ journal: Review of the Society for the History of Czechoslovak Jews (015010128).

The LBI Library also holds the 2005 publication Thus We Remember (q 375), published by Temple Sholom of West Essex, concerning its relationship with Dvůr Králové (a topic addressed in the current collection); and newsletters of the Joseph Popper Lodge, Forest Hills, NY (Serials, C51).

Separated Material

A folder of miscellaneous clippings, dating from the 1990s to 2000s, was removed to the LBI Clippings Collection, where it can be found under the collection number AR 25443C. The following two publications were transferred to the LBI Library: The Treatment of Jewish Themes in Czech Schools, by Leo Pavlát (American Jewish Committee, October 1998); and Thus We Remember: A Memorial to the Jewish Community of Dvůr Králové and the Story of One of Its Torah Scrolls, by Naomi Patz and Rabbi Norman Patz (Temple Sholom of West Essex, Cedar Grove, NJ, May 2005).

Two 3.5" floppy disks and two CDs were removed to the LBI Audiovisual collection. The floppy disks contain texts in Word Perfect related to the memorial services in 2000 and 2001 (Folders 8-9), which have been printed out and integrated in the collection; one disk also contains a spread sheet file (related to Folder 8) that could not be opened. One CD contains 12 photographs (JPEG files) related to Folder 47 (Dvůr Králové Holocaust memorial dedication). The other CD, related to Folder 51 (Emil Orlik drawings donation to Jewish Museum in Prague), appeared to be corrupted and no files could be accessed.

Processing Information

During the present processing the collection was refoldered into new acid-free archival folders. Photographs was placed in archival photograph sleeves or envelopes. The arrangement incorporates many groupings reflected in original file folder titles (subseries I.2, IV.1 and, in part, IV.4); a few large files of unorganized correspondence were sorted according to correspondent name, or categories of inquiries (genealogical, research). The following materials were discarded: duplicate copies of letters and documents; a few images of checks received with orders for publications; printouts of catalog records of Society publications from Worldcat.org; printouts of bibliographies of Czech and Slovak Jewish history published on websites of the Library of Congress and the Center for Jewish History in 2007-2010.
Title
Guide to the Archives of the Society for the History of Czechoslovak Jews 1962-2010 (bulk 1992-2010) AR 25443
Author
Processed by LBI staff / Additional processing, and finding aid compiled and encoded by Violet Lutz.
Date
© 2015
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Language of description note
Description is in English.
Sponsor
Made possible by the Leon Levy Foundation.

Revision Statements

  • October 2016:: dao links added by Emily Andresini.

Repository Details

Part of the Leo Baeck Institute Repository

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