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I.L. Peretz Yiddish Writers' Union Records

Identifier: RG 701

Scope and Content Note

This collection contains meeting minutes, financial reports 1929-1972, dues ledgers and other bookkeeping books, correspondence with individuals, organizations and publishers, salary lists, financial statements, newspaper clippings, press releases, scrapbooks, photographs of members, account statements from companies, banks and brokers, and manuscripts and questionnaires from various countries for a YWU yearbook.

Some of the topics in this collection include the Fund for Jewish Refugee Writers, various Works Progress Administration projects, fundraising campaigns, requests for aid for individual refugees in Europe, Cuba, Japan, Shanghai, England, and Palestine, complaints and charges of members, contract and labor disputes, strikes, and Union reports.

Among the organizations represented are the National Refugee Service, Jewish Welfare Federations, Newspaper Guild, United Jewish Appeal, Jewish Telegraphic Agency, World Federation of Journalists, New York State Department of Labor, Conference of Jewish Journalists, Jewish Labor Bund, Central Yiddish Culture Organization, Tog, Jewish Daily Forward, Freie Arbeiter Stimme, HIAS, Keneder Odler, Jewish Labor Committee, Morgn Zhurnal, Jewish National Workers’ Alliance, Yidishe Velt (Philadelphia), Fund for Jewish Refugee Writers, Kinder Zhurnal, Morgn Freiheit, ORT, Workmen’s Circle, and YIVO. Correspondents include: Baal Makhshoves (Isidor Eliashev), Shlomo Bickel, Menahem Boraisha, Reuben Brainin, Abraham Cahan, Simon Dubnow, Ossip Dymow, Alexander Harkavy, David Ignatoff, H. Leivick, Kalman Marmor, Alexander Mukdoni, Shmuel Niger, David Pinski, Melech Ravitch, Abraham Reisen, Zalman Reisen, Zalman Shneur, Lamed Shapiro, Jacob Shatzky, Baruch Vladeck, Max Weinreich, and Chaim Zhitlowsky. These papers constitute the complete archive of the Yiddish Writers Union from its founding until 1973, including a 1903 minute book of the Jewish Press Club, a predecessor organization.


  • 1903-1973

Language of Materials

The bulk of the collection is in English and Yiddish. A few items are in Russian, German, Hebrew, Polish, and Spanish.

Access Restrictions

The collection is open to researchers. Permission to publish part or parts of the collection must be obtained from the YIVO Archives.

Use Restrictions

There may be some restrictions on the use of the collection. For more information, contact:

YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY 10011


Historical Note

The I.L. Peretz Yiddish Writers’ Union (YWU), also sometimes called the Jewish Writers’ Union, was founded in New York in 1915 as a labor and mutual aid organization for Yiddish journalists. Its first president was Hillel Rogoff, of the Forverts, and its first secretary was Joseph Margoshes, of the Tog. The Union represented all Yiddish writers and journalists at the three major New York City Yiddish papers, the Tog, Morgn Zhurnal and the Forverts.

The Yiddish Writers’ Union was a member of the United Hebrew Trades, an association of Jewish labor unions in New York City. The Union participated in strikes and labor disputes and fought for job security, severance pay benefits and a minimum wage for Yiddish journalists. In November 1939, together with the Jewish Labor Committee, the Union decided to found a Fund for Jewish Refugee Writers, a relief fund for Yiddish writers in Europe as well as for American members in financial need. The Fund was ultimately established in January 1940. This Fund conducted a one-time emergency appeal among Yiddish writers in America and their supporters and readers. Through the efforts of this Fund, the Union was able to sponsor the immigration of several thousand writers and political and cultural activists and also to send money to those writers whom they were unable to bring over. In 1929 the Union had 200 members. Although the Union continued to be active in labor disputes after World War II, its membership declined steadily. While still in existence in the 1980s, the Yiddish Writers’ Union had relinquished much of its role as a labor union and functioned primarily as a literary association.


20 Linear Feet


This collection contains the minutes, correspondence and financial records of the I.L. Peretz Yiddish Writers’ Union from its founding in 1915 until 1973. Among the correspondence is a fair amount concerning the Fund for Jewish Refugee Writers, unions and union grievances, requests for aid from Jewish writers and activists in New York and abroad, and labor disputes and strikes.


The collection is arranged in 8 series. In general, the collection was left as it was when it came in from the Yiddish Writers’ Union. Some reorganization of the early correspondence files appears to have taken place during the original processing and routine financial documents, such as paid bills and check stubs, were discarded. The minutes and financial files are arranged chronologically, while the correspondence is arranged alphabetically by correspondent, topic or format. This order has been standardized in the finding aid, although the folders themselves have not been moved. The names of the miscellaneous correspondents in Series VIII have been transliterated and intellectually rearranged in Latin alphabetical order. Yiddish names have been transliterated according to YIVO standards except when the individual is known in English by another spelling. Additionally, if the name appeared in Latin letters anywhere within the folder, that spelling was used rather than a standard transliteration. Organizations and periodicals have been translated and, when not generally known by its English name, the Yiddish name follows in parentheses. The materials were originally divided into eight series and a four-part addendum, consisting of folders 721-748. The materials from that addendum have been intellectually integrated into the original series. The addendum materials integrated into Series I and Series II have been incorporated chronologically, while those in Series VIII have been incorporated alphabetically.

  1. Series I: Minutes, 1903, 1919-1972
  2. Series II: Finances, 1917-1972
  3. Subseries 1: Financial Reports, 1929-1972
  4. Subseries 2: Ledgers, 1917-1945
  5. Series III: Correspondence, 1911-1941
  6. Series IV: Fund for Jewish Refugee Writers – Correspondence, 1939-1943
  7. Series V: Correspondence (yellow series), 1935-1946
  8. Series VI: Correspondence (blue series), 1941-1958
  9. Series VII: Correspondence, 1946-1973
  10. Series VIII: Financial Correspondence, Current Matters and Miscellaneous, 1909-1973

Acquisition Information

Given to YIVO by the Yiddish Writer’s Union in a series of installments in 1974.

Related Material

The YIVO Archives has the collections of many of the members of the Yiddish Writers’ Union, including the Papers of Leon Feinberg, RG 601; the Papers of Shmuel Niger, RG 360; The Papers of Mendel Osherowitch, RG 725; and the Papers of Alexander Seldin, RG 433. The American Jewish Historical Society Archives has the Papers of Boris Smolar, P-588 (AJHS). The YIVO library also has several books published by the Yiddish Writers’ Union, including Jewish Families and Family Circles of New York, The Communist Conspiracy Against the Jewish Press: The Case of the Jewish Writers’ Union Against the New York Newspaper Guild, and Seventy-Five Years Yiddish Press in the United States of America, edited by Jacob Glatstein, Shmuel Niger and Hillel Rogoff.

Separated Material

Photographs have been removed to the YIVO Photo Archive.

Processing Information

The collection was originally processed by Marek Web circa 1975. Additional processing was completed in June 2009 by Rachel Harrison as part of the Leon Levy Archvial Processing Initiative, made possible by the Leon Levy Foundation.

I.L. Peretz Yiddish Writers' Union Records, 1903-1973 RG 701
Processed by Marek Web. Additional processing by Rachel Harrison as part of the Leon Levy Archival Processing Initiative, made possible by the Leon Levy Foundation.
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English.

Repository Details

Part of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research Repository

15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States