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Educational Alliance Records

Identifier: RG 312

Scope and Content Note

While the collection’s dates range from 1879 to 1968, the bulk of materials were generated in a 22-year timeframe (1945-1967), documenting the Educational Alliance’s post-WWII, 1950s and 1960s activities in minutes, correspondence, individual records, newsletters and financial records. The majority of the documentation picks up with the start of Mordecai Kessler’s tenure as Executive Director in 1945, and continues through 1967, during the early part of Louis Berkowitz’s tenure as Executive Director. Early records (1879-1944), generally in the form of meeting minutes, are for the most part available only on microfilm, with the exception of papers related to legal matters.

The collection has been arranged in six series. Series I: Leadership includes Board of Trustees minutes, correspondence and reports, board-level committee minutes and correspondence, as well as the correspondence files of individual leaders. Series II: General Administration contains membership and alumni materials, surveys, requests for organizational information, staff documents, announcements, legal and financial documents, newsletters, academic papers, reports, correspondence and minutes of staff meetings, and job applications. Some of the earliest documents in the collection can be found in this series, including wills, land deeds, maps, and contracts relating to the organization’s founding. Series III: Programs, Clubs and Services is comprised of records from the Alliance’s educational, social, mental health and relief programs and services, such as the Legal Aid Bureau, Neighborhood Service, the Art School, the Religious School, and all youth and adult clubs. Series IV: Camps contains items related to Camp Edalia (later Cummings Village), Camp Salomon (later Camp Cummings) and Surprise Lake Camp. Series V: Stuyvesant Neighborhood House mostly consists of records generated by the Stuyvesant Neighborhood House before its merger with the Alliance. Series VI: Photographs richly documents the environs and activities of the Educational Alliance and the Stuyvesant Neighborhood House.

Because the records are primarily the files of upper and middle management (Mordecai Kessler, Louis Berkowitz, Harold Murray, Rose Amster Kramer, Simon Slavin, Dorothy Forman Unger, Emanuel Fisher, Julius Weissman, Lloyd Delaney, Jack Kamaiko and Benjamin Tuska), they do not evenly represent every initiative and branch of the Alliance. For example, the Educational Alliance’s outreach to people with disabilities is not well-documented. The Children’s Educational Theater and the Breadwinners’ College are also not noticeably represented, though they possibly appear in meeting minutes of the Board of Directors and other relevant committees. There is no centralized cluster of membership records. However, agency-wide and divisional membership statistics can be found in Series II, Subseries 4: Membership and Alumni, and membership records with detailed information on individuals are spread throughout Series III. The collection does not carry full runs of Alliance newsletters, but a selection can be found in Series II, Subseries 6.


  • Creation: 1879-1968
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1945-1967

Language of Materials

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

Access Restrictions

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

Use Restrictions

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

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


Historical Note

The Educational Alliance (EA), originally called the Hebrew Institute, was established June 14, 1889 when the Hebrew Free School Association, the Aguilar Free Library Society and the Young Men's Hebrew Association agreed to raise money in order to purchase land and erect a building which all three would occupy. The Hebrew Institute was incorporated on December 16, 1889. The Aguilar Free Library Society bought the land at 197 East Broadway, the Hebrew Free School Association bought the adjoining plot, and both leased their plots to the Educational Alliance. The flagship building opened in September 1891 and remains the central location, although the EA now offers programs at over 25 sites.

In 1893, the YMHA withdrew and the two remaining organizations reorganized the Hebrew Institute, renaming it the Educational Alliance, on May 4, 1893. The objectives of the reorganized EA were to be “of an Americanizing, educational, social and humanizing character” (1970 finding aid) for newly arriving Eastern European immigrants. The Baron de Hirsch Fund sponsored English language classes for new immigrant adults and children at the Hebrew Institute starting in 1892 until 1910, when the Fund withdrew its financial support of the English classes in order to focus on other pursuits. Additional Americanization efforts focused on naturalization and citizenship preparation, classes in civics, American history, English literature, hygiene, homemaking, modern cooking, sewing, and in music, patriotic and religious lectures and clubs, and athletic activities, including flag-waving exercises on American national holidays.

The Alliance was also engaged in religious activities through its People's Synagogue, Young People's Synagogue, Religious School, Zvi Hirsch Masliansky’s Friday evening Yiddish sermons, and the Oneg Shabbat program. It maintained a well-known Art School, founded in 1917 by Abbo Ostrowsky, a library, academic scholarship programs, pre-school and kindergarten classes, overnight camps, day camps, social clubs for children, mothers and the elderly, and a roof garden.

Starting in 1924, with the end of mass immigration, the EA began operating as a community center rather than as a settlement house. While still maintaining some immigrant-oriented programs, including the Legal Aid Bureau, the focus moved more towards aid and social service, as with the Neighborhood Service, opened in 1937, which provided advice and help with jobs and housing. Beginning under the leadership of David Blaustein, who was the superintendent from 1898-1907, and more fully developing under Henry Fleischman, the administrator of the EA from 1907-1938, the Alliance moved towards the social work programming that would dominate its activities in the post-war years. While volunteers continued to play a role, most of the programs and services, including the clubs, began to be run by social work students, and many of the supervisors were professionals.

As the demographics of the Lower East Side began to change in the 1930s and 1940s, the Alliance leadership faced the question of how to reconcile their Jewish heritage with their function as a community organization in an increasingly diversifying community. In the 1940s and 1950s, several organization-wide surveys were conducted in order that the leadership of the Alliance could better understand who they were serving and what those members needs were. Two of the most far-reaching surveys were the Nathan Cohen survey of 1948 and the New York University survey, "Between Two Bridges: A Study of Human Relations in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, the Area Served by the Educational Alliance”, conducted by Rhetta Arter and Daniel Dodson in 1953-1954. Gertrude Wilson, a social work professor from the University of Pittsburgh, held a year-long residency at the Alliance following the Cohen survey. Her work, including several professional papers, focused mainly on organizational questions and group work evaluation methods.

The Alliance leadership was also especially concerned with the problems of juvenile delinquency, substance abuse and mental health issues, and in the 1950s and 1960s developed programs aimed at helping to combat them. These programs included Operation Street Corner, started in 1956, which aimed at reducing teen crime, the Consultation Service, founded in 1951, and a joint program with Hillside Hospital to aid discharged psychiatric patients in reentering society, starting in 1962. The Educational Alliance was also one of the first organizations to offer a Head Start program, founded in 1965, helping young children to prepare for entering school, a program that the Alliance still offers today.

In 1950, the Stuyvesant Neighborhood House merged programs with the Educational Alliance, a process completed by 1952 and one which greatly increased the geographic scope of the Alliance’s operations. The Stuyvesant Neighborhood House became the Stuyvesant Jewish Community Center in 1952.

Although the records of this collection end in 1968, the Educational Alliance still exists today as a vibrant organization dedicated to helping its community through education, art classes, summer camps, and social services.

For short descriptions see: Official Souvenir Book of the Fair In Aid of the Education Alliance and the Hebrew Technical Institute, 1895, 144 pgs., Twenty-fifth Anniversary of the Educational Alliance, 1915, 115 pgs., S. P. Rudens, "A Half Century of Community Service: The Story of the New York Educational Alliance," American Jewish Year Book, vol. 46, 1944, pgs. 73-99.


Bellow, Adam. The Educational Alliance: A Centennial Celebration. New York: Educational Alliance, 1990.


136 Linear Feet

241 Manuscript Boxes (+ 3 half manuscript boxes, 5 oversized boxes, 13 rolls of microfilm, and 3 linear feet photography collection)


The Educational Alliance functioned as a settlement house on New York’s Lower East Side beginning in 1889, eventually evolving into a community center in the 1920s. The Educational Alliance Records most comprehensively document the aims and activities of the Educational Alliance following WWII and into the 1960s, beginning with Mordecai Kessler’s tenure as Executive Director in 1945. However, meeting minutes and legal documents date back to 1879. Materials include minutes, correspondence, individual records, newsletters, photographs, announcements, deeds, clippings, reports, and financial records.


  1. Series I: Leadership, 1879-1967
  2. Subseries 1: Board of Trustees, 1879-1967
  3. Subseries 2: Executive Directors, Presidents and Board Members, 1897-1967
  4. Subseries 3: Committees, 1898-1967
  5. Series II: General Administration, 1890-1968
  6. Subseries 1: Organizational Information, 1912, 1935-1967
  7. Subseries 2: Staff, 1905-1967
  8. Subsubseries A: Executive Staff, 1945-1951
  9. Subsubseries B: General Staff, 1905-1967
  10. Subsubseries C: Group Work Staff, 1945-1967
  11. Subsubseries D: Secretary to the Executive Director, 1932-1967
  12. Subseries 3: Affiliated Organizations, 1918-1919, 1936-1967
  13. Subseries 4: Membership and Alumni, 1893-1903, 1915-1967
  14. Subseries 5: Events and Publicity, 1895-1968
  15. Subsubseries A: Events, 1895-1918, 1939-1967
  16. Subsubseries B: Publicity, 1899-1968
  17. Subsubseries C: Printed Materials, 1899-1968
  18. Subsubseries D: Scrapbooks and Memorabilia, 1908-1964
  19. Subseries 6: Newsletters, 1911-1965
  20. Subseries 7: Finance, 1904-1968
  21. Subseries 8: Legal, 1890-1967
  22. Subseries 9: Building, 1940-1967
  23. Series III: Programs, Clubs and Services, 1909-1910, 1921-1967
  24. Subseries 1: General, 1909-1910, 1945-1967
  25. Subseries 2: Group Work Divisions, 1944-1967
  26. Subsubseries A: General, 1945-1967
  27. Subsubseries B: Clubs, 1944-1967
  28. Subsubseries C: Junior Division, 1946-1966
  29. Subsubseries D: Youth Division, 1945-1967
  30. Subsubseries E: Young Adult Division, 1949-1960
  31. Subsubseries F: Adult Division Adult Division, 1946-1967
  32. Subsubseries G: Older Adult Division, 1949-1966
  33. Subseries 3: Art School, 1921, 1936-1967
  34. Subseries 4: Religious School, 1942-1967
  35. Subseries 5: Consultation Service, 1951-1959
  36. Subseries 6: Legal Aid Bureau, 1922-1939
  37. Subseries 7: Neighborhood Service, 1938-1949
  38. Subseries 8: Nursery School and Day Care Center, 1945-1968
  39. Subseries 9: Summer Day Camping Program, 1936-1967
  40. Subseries 10: Physical Education and Gymnasium, 1945-1966
  41. Series IV: Camps, 1910-1927, 1938-1967
  42. Subseries 1: General, 1945-1963
  43. Subseries 2: Camp Edalia/Cummings Village, 1950-1967
  44. Subseries 3: Camp Salomon/Camp Cummings, 1938-1967
  45. Subseries 4: Surprise Lake, 1910-1927, 1941-1963
  46. Series V: Stuyvesant Neighborhood House, 1919-1959
  47. Subseries 1: General, 1919-1951
  48. Subseries 2: Clubs, 1927-1950
  49. Subseries 3: Camp Edalia, 1926-1955
  50. Subseries 4: Newsletters, 1919-1945
  51. Subseries 5: Stuyvesant Jewish Community Center, 1952-1959
  52. Series VI: Photographs, 1895-1964
  53. Subseries 1: Educational Alliance, 1895-1964
  54. Subseries 2: Stuyvesant Neighborhood House, 1919-1948

Other Finding Aids

Z. Szajkowski's 1970 finding aid, which includes the EA office filing code key, is located in the Reading Room.

Acquisition Information

Executive Director A. Harold Murray and the Secretary to the Executive Director Rose Amster Kramer donated the Educational Alliance’s records to the YIVO Archives in 1954. A second donation was made in 1967. The donations included a small portion of papers generated by the Hebrew Free School Association and a sizeable portion by the Stuyvesant Neighborhood House (folders 3301-3452). Sam Engler donated folders 3746-3747 in March 1978, which were integrated into the collection in 1987. Microfilms of Educational-Alliance-related materials in the Louis Marshall, Felix Warburg and Jacob Schiff Papers at American Jewish Archives were added to the collection.

Microfilmed Material

13 reels of microfilm, under folders 1-10 (MK 266, Reel 1-10) and folders 3743-3745 (MK 342, Reel 1-3).

Related Material

Abbo Ostrowsky Papers; RG 681; YIVO Institute for Jewish Research.

Educational Alliance Collection; I-359; American Jewish Historical Society, Newton Centre, MA and New York, NY. The bulk of materials in this 2-box collection fall between 1895-1916 and 1984-1993.

Free Circulating Libraries Records (Series I. Aguilar Free Library, 1886-1903), The New York Public Library Archives, The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations.

Louis Marshall Collection, MS-359, American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati, Ohio. Relevant material has been microfilmed and can be found in this collection in folder 3745, MK 342, reel 3.

Minutes of the meetings of the Board of Directors of the Educational Alliance, 1879-1980 [microform]. New York, N.Y.: Clearwater Publishing Company, 1987.

Jacob Schiff Collection, MS-456, American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati, Ohio. Relevant material has been microfilmed and can be found in this collection in folder 3743, MK 342, Reel 1.

Surprise Lake Camp Records. 92nd Street Y Archives New York, NY.

Felix M. Warburg Collection, MS- 457, American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati, Ohio. Relevant material has been microfilmed and can be found in this collection in folder 3743 and 3744, MK 342, Reels 1 and 2.

Gertrude Wilson Group Work Papers, Social Welfare History Archives.University of Minnesota Libraries.

Processing Information

First processed in 1969-1970 by Z. Szajkowski.

Processed again by Rachel Harrison and Rachel Miller, December 2008-April 2009. Intellectually organized, but not physically rearranged. Every effort was made to preserve the original contents of folders, but in some cases, contents were shifted, and folders numbers were split into A, B, C and/or D when the materials in a given folder cut too widely across series or subseries. The EA had a filing code, which it assigned to some documents (written in pencil atop documents), but not others. The available key (see 1970 finding aid below) to the codes does not always match the given codes, and some assigned codes are not in the key.

Guide to the Educational Alliance Records, 1879-1968 (bulk 1945-1967) RG-312
Processed by Z. Szajkowski. Additional processing by Rachel Harrison and Rachel Miller 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.
Edition statement
This version was derived from EducationalAlliance.xml

Revision Statements

  • June 2013: Rachel Miller updated two outdated links in Related Materials.

Repository Details

Part of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research Repository

15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States