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Records of the American Jewish Committee Executive Offices (EXO-29), Morris Waldman Files

 Collection
Identifier: RG 347.1.29 (EXO-29)

Scope and Content Note

The materials comprise the documents of the AJC executive secretary and vice-president for two decades, the 1930s and 1940s. The bulk dates are 1933-1945, representing the correlation between the AJC activities and Nazi rise to power, European turmoil and the Holocaust. The materials reflect the activities of one of the oldest and most influential Jewish defense organizations in the U.S. on behalf of American and world Jewry. The two main avenues of these activities were the fight against anti-Semitism and anti-Jewish discrimination in the U.S., and combating anti-Semitism and persecutions against Jews in Europe. A considerable body of documents covers the debates related to the boycott of German goods in the 1930s, to the creation of the World Jewish Congress, to Zionism and support for a Jewish national home in Palestine. Many documents reflect the AJC’s effort to provide relief for the Jews of Europe during World War II, and show that often the information which reached the AJC was not complete or adequate, and that the understanding of the real situation, as well as the whole realization of the utter destruction of the European Jewry, did not come until after the war. There is an interesting file on the visit of S. Michoels and I. Fefer of the Jewish Antifascist Committee’s visit to the U.S. in 1943. The documents from the later period of WWII and the post-war period reflect AJC’s preoccupation with efforts to exert influence on the shaping of the post-war international situation through their contacts with American officials and through direct participation in the work of the San Francisco Conference and the Peace Conference in Paris.

Among the documents are correspondence, memoranda, minutes of meetings, statements, reports, pamphlets, publications, press clippings. Among letters are those from such significant world leaders and politicians as Chaim Weizmann, David Ben-Gurion, Eduard Benes, Joseph Wirth and prominent American personalities like Stephen S. Wise, Cordell Hull, Edward Stettinius, and Wendell Willkie.

Dates

  • 1905-1963
  • Majority of material found within 1930-1945

Language of Materials

The collection is in English, French, and German.

Access Restrictions

Permission to use the collection must be obtained from the YIVO Archivist.

Use Restrictions

Permission to publish part or parts of the collection must be obtained from the YIVO Archives. For more information, contact:

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

email: archives@yivo.cjh.org

Biographical Note

Morris David Waldman, a rabbi, social worker and Jewish communal leader, was born in Bártfa, Austria-Hungary (now Bardejov, Slovakia) in 1879 and brought as a child to the U.S. at the age of four. Waldman received education at New York University, Jewish Theological Seminary and Columbia University. He worked as a rabbi in New Jersey, and then in 1906-1908 headed the Galveston Project, aimed at directing East European immigrants to the less populous areas of the United States. At the same period Waldman was involved with the Industrial Removal Office, which had a mission similar to the Galveston project.

Prominent in the field of social work, Waldman was managing director of the United Hebrew Charities of New York from 1908 to 1917, and served as vice-president of the New York State Conference of Charities and Correction (1912), president of the New York City Conference of Charities (1915), and became a trustee of the Federation for the Support of Jewish Philanthropic Societies of New York City (1917), and a trustee of the Federation’s Board (1919).

In 1921-1922 Waldman held the post of European director of the Medico-Sanitary and War Orphans Departments of the American Joint Distribution Committee, when he organized relief for the European Jewry and introduced a number of social work and public health care innovations which substantially raised the level of Jewish health in Eastern Europe. Waldman advocated for advancements in social work, like the District Service Plan in Boston, Planned Parenthood in Detroit, and bureaus of Jewish education based on the principle of community control. Waldman was instrumental in aiding the creation of the Bureau of Philanthropic Research and the National Desertion Bureau.

In 1928 Waldman became executive secretary of the American Jewish Committee. At that time the only paid AJC executive was Harry Schneiderman, the assistant secretary from 1908 to 1949, aided by several low-salaried clerks. The post of executive secretary was vacant for 14 years before Waldman’s appointment. This vacancy reflected the position of the contemporary directors of the AJC who detested wasting funds on numerous expensive staff and preferred personal contact with prominent and influential members of the Jewish community and shtadlanut-style diplomacy to more systematic, wide-ranging and diverse work among the Jewish community to exert pressure on the powers that be, interceding on behalf of Jews within and without the U.S. Morris Waldman brought to the AJC his organizational and social work experience, fully employing it in his new position. With the Nazi rise to power in Germany and the growth of anti-Semitism in the United States, he organized in 1933 a comprehensive educational program aimed at familiarizing the American people with the general situation in Germany and the plight of the Jews. Under Waldman’s leadership, a public relations department, originally known as the survey committee, was established as one of the AJC divisions.

Morris Waldman, not sharing the optimistic views of the AJC president Louis Marshall on the outcome of events in Europe in the early 1930s, immediately recognized the day when Hitler was appointed a chancellor of Germany as a turning point in not only Jewish, but also European history, and he closely followed the situation in Germany. Nevertheless, like the other leaders of the AJC, Waldman considered mass emigration from Eastern Europe unnecessary, opposed the establishment of the World Jewish Congress and took a cautious position on the boycott of German goods in the U.S. Later Waldman changed his stance on Jewish emigration from Europe, and he traveled widely in Europe to assess the conditions of life of the Jews there and in Latin America to find solutions to the placement of large numbers of potential Jewish émigrés. Waldman was involved in the combined efforts of the ADL of B’nai B’rith, Jewish Labor Committee and the American Jewish Congress to combat anti-Semitism and provide relief for the Jewish communities in Europe. Along with the other AJC leaders Waldman interceded before the American government on behalf of the world Jewry, and advocated unity among the American Jewish organizations in the face of war and persecution of Jews.

On the international level Morris Waldman and AJC had close relations with representatives of the British Jews, the Board of Deputies and British Joint Foreign Committee, and especially Neville Laski, President of London Committee of Deputies of British Jews in 1933–1940. Waldman and the Committee were also in close contact with the Alliance Israelite of France and the main Jewish organizations of Germany: Zentralverein Deutscher Staatsbuerger Judischen Glaubens (The Central Association of German Citizens of the Jewish Faith) and Hilfsverein der Deutschen Juden (Relief Union of the German Jews). Waldman was especially preoccupied with the situation in Poland as the home of the Europe’s largest Jewish community. He visited Poland a number of times, meeting with local officials, intellectuals and representatives of the Jewish communities, advocating and intervening in order to improve the lot of Jews in Poland.

As a non-Zionist, like most of the AJC leaders, Morris Waldman was active in the work of the non-Zionist section of the Jewish Agency for Palestine, and he supported collaboration and understanding between Zionists and non-Zionists. The main objection to Zionism on the part of Morris Waldman and his colleagues at AJC was a presumed “self-segregation” of Jews in a separate entity, and alleged dual loyalty in case of the creation of a Jewish state, as well as a specific understanding of American patriotism. Though he was opposed to Jewish nationalism and Zionist ideas, Waldman favored the establishment of the State of Israel.

In October 1945 Waldman retired from what was then his official AJC position as vice-chairman of the executive committee, but he continued his association with AJC as a lay member of the executive committee. Upon retirement Waldman was lauded by Edward Stettinius, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. and former Secretary of State, for his advocacy of international legislation to safeguard minorities’ rights. Waldman’s efforts to fight anti-Semitism and strengthen the rights of minorities throughout the world resulted in the International Bill of Rights, a part of the United Nations Charter. Waldman was an author of several books and a large number of articles. He died at age 84 in 1963.

Extent

22 Linear Feet (53 boxes, 885 folders)

Overview

The collection represents the papers of Morris David Waldman (1879-1963), a rabbi, social worker and communal leader, who was appointed executive secretary of one of the main Jewish defense organizations, the American Jewish Committee (AJC), in 1928. The executive secretary had top executive function at the organization and was in charge of working out and implementing the organization’s projects and policies regarding monitoring the civil and human rights of the Jews, and intervening on behalf of the Jews both in the U.S. and abroad. In 1942, Waldman was promoted to executive vice-president, a position he held until his retirement in 1945. The Morris Waldman Files relate to all of Waldman's activities as acting executive secretary and vice-president of the AJC.

Arrangement

The collection is arranged alphabetically according to the names of the folders, derived from the names of persons, organizations or topics, with the consecutive numeration of folders throughout the boxes of the whole collection. The folder order reflects the original AJC arrangement and contains some minor discrepancies in the alphabetical and chronological order.

Other Finding Aids

A detailed card catalog with folder-level description exists in the YIVO archival card catalog section: drawer box YA-69, AJC EXO-29 Waldman. An additional earlier paper finding aid can be found in the Reading Room of the Center for Jewish History, YIVO paper finding aids section: AJC reference box #1, folder RG 347.1 EXO-29 Waldman.

Acquisition Information

Received from the American Jewish Historical Society in 1983.

Related Material

This collection forms part of the more extensive American Jewish Committee Records, RG 347, preserved at YIVO.

There is also related material at the American Jewish Archives: Morris David Waldman Papers; Manuscript Collection No. 23; American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati, Ohio.

Processing Information

The collection was originally processed in the first half of the 1980s, and additional processing was completed in 2012. Originally the folders in the collection were numbered box by box, but in 2012 the folders were consecutively renumbered. In the 1980s many boxes were overstuffed with folders, and due to shelf space concerns, new rehousing on the box level was deemed unadvisable in 2012.
Title
Guide to the Records of the American Jewish Committee Executive Offices (EXO-29), Morris Waldman (1879-1963) Files 1905-1963 (bulk 1930-1945) RG 347.1.29
Status
In Progress
Author
Processed by Dr. Cohen. Additional processing by Rivka Schiller, with the assistance of a grant from the Gruss Lipper Family Foundation. Additional processing by Vital Zajka
Date
©2013
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Language of description note
Description is in English.
Sponsor
as part of the Leon Levy Archival Processing Initiative, made possible by the Leon Levy Foundation.

Repository Details

Part of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research Repository

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