Guide to the Records of the Workmen's Circle,
undated, 1903-1993

I-304

Processed by AJHS staff

American Jewish Historical Society

Center for Jewish History

15 West 16th Street

New York, N.Y. 10011

Phone: (212) 294-6160

Fax: (212) 294-6161

Email: reference@ajhs.org

URL: http://www.ajhs.org

© 2014, American Jewish Historical Society, Boston, MA and New York, NY. All Rights Reserved.
Machine-readable finding aid created by Adina Wachmann as MS Word document, June 2001. Electronic finding aid converted to EAD 1.0 by Dianne Ritchey Oummia, November 2001. Description is in English.
April 2005. Converted to EAD 2002. Revised as WorkmensCircle02.xml by Tanya Elder. Removed deprecated elements and attributes, updated repository codes, added language codes, changed doctype declaration, etc.January 2006. Entities removed from EAD finding aid.

Descriptive summary

Creator: Workman's Circle
Title: Workmen's Circle Records
Dates: 1903-1993
Abstract: The records of the Workmen's Circle include administrative papers, publications concerning social services provided by the organization, publications from various branches worldwide, and a large amount of educational material pertaining to schools run by the Workmen's Circle. Much of the educational material is from schools in the New York City area.
Languages: The collection is in Yiddish, Hebrew, and English.
Quantity: 5 Linear Feet (10 manuscript boxes, 3 oversized folders)
Accession number: I-304
Repository: American Jewish Historical Society
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Historical Note

The Workmen’s Circle (Arbeiter Ring), founded in 1892, became a national order in 1900. It was established as a social and cultural Jewish labor fraternal order. Its purpose was to provide members with mutual aid and health and death benefits and to support the labor and socialist movements of the world. Historically, the Workmen’s Circle was closely tied to Jewish unions, the Yiddish labor press, and the Socialist Party. The Circle was highly dedicated to raising the education levels of members and bringing social change in America. Workmen’s Circle functions provided a place for Jewish radicals of different ideals to mingle.

In its early years, the Workmen’s Circle remained true to its radical origins by building radical ideals into membership requirements. Prospective members had to belong to a union and to vote only for working-class parties. One branch was dissolved because its members were thought to be too religious.

The Workmen’s Circle, dedicated to the promotion of progressive Yiddish culture, established a wide array of cultural activities including the publication of books, adult education and singing and drama clubs. It also promoted Jewish education for young people by opening afternoon schools for Jewish children in 1916. In addition, the Workmen’s Circle established homes for the aged, camps, Yiddish theater clubs, and several choirs.

The first convention of the Workmen’s Circle took place on March 29-30, 1901, in New York City. With increased Jewish immigration to the United States in the late 19th century and early 20th century, the Workmen’s Circle became ever increasingly popular. In 1905 membership was at 6,776. Just eight years later membership rose to 45,666. Peak membership was reached in 1925 with 87,000 members. Such a high increase is partially explained by the growing number of Jews on the political left and a lack of major competing organizations in the field. Membership began dropping after 1929 to approximately 55,000 in 1978. Despite beginning as a working-class organization, more and more of the Circle’s members were middle class. The average member age also rose dramatically from 28.7 in 1909 to 55.4 in 1970. Along with changes in membership, the focus of the Circle changed from dominating ideological concerns to Jewish cultural activities.

Two enduring activities of the Workmen’s Circle were education and the Folksbiene. The Folksbiene was a theater group organized in 1915 and still performs Yiddish theater in New York City. The educational system of the Workmen’s Circle was designed to “teach children to read, write, and speak Yiddish; to acquaint them with Yiddish literature; to acquaint them with the history of the Jewish people; to cultivate in them a feeling for social justice; and to develop their aesthetic abilities.”1 By 1950, the Arbeiter Ring taught approximately 38,000 students.

More recently, the Workmen’s Circle describes itself as a “progressive-liberal organization committed to advancing democratic frontiers, eliminating poverty, strengthening civil rights, promoting universal health care and opposing bigotry, tyranny and totalitarianism.” 2


Footnotes

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Scope and Content Note

The Workmen’s Circle Collection consists of material pertaining to the organization’s administration, services, separate branches, and schools. The majority of the collection is publications of the Workmen’s Circle relating to conventions and education. A large portion of the collection is in Yiddish.

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Arrangement

The collection is arranged into four series, and Series IV has two subseries. Series I, II, and IV are arranged alphabetically; Series III is arranged numerically by branch number.

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Access and Use

Access Restrictions

The collection is open to all researchers by permission of the Director of Library and Archives of the American Jewish Historical Society, except items that are restricted due to their fragility.

Use Restrictions

There may be some restrictions on the use of the collection. For more information, contact:
American Jewish Historical Society, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY 10011
email: reference@ajhs.org .

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Related Material

Related material can be found in the Photographs of the Joseph Family, the Recordbook of the Brockton, MA Labor Lyceum Workmen’s Circle, the Minute Book of the Radomer Culture Center, and the Workmen’s Circle Records located at the YIVO Institute.

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Provenance

The Workmen’s Circle Collection was accessioned in several accretions from the Workmen’s Circle and Brandeis University Goldfarb Library.

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Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form:
Identification of item, date (if known); Workmen's Circle Records; I-304; box number; folder number; American Jewish Historical Society, New York, NY, and Boston, MA.

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Bibliography

For additional references, please consult the American Jewish Historical Society’s catalog.

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Container List

The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.

 

Series I: Administration, undated 1903-1991

Languages in the series include: English and Yiddish
Boxes 1-3; 1.25 linear ft. and 2 oversized folders
Arrangement:

Material is arranged alphabetically by subject.

Scope and Content:

This series includes annual reports, anniversary year books, convention bulletins, and National Executive Committee meeting minutes.

Box Folder Title Date
1 1 Anniversary Year Books 1925-1967
1 2 Annual Bazaar Program 1933
1 3 Annual Reports 1905
1 4 Annual Reports 1906
1 5 Annual Reports 1905-1907
1 6 Annual Reports 1909
1 7 Annual Reports 1945, 1947
1 8 Banquets 1928-1941
1 9 Book Catalogs and Bibliography undated, 1935-1991
1 10 Choir bulletins and Programs undated, 1928-1939
Box Folder Title Date
OS 1 shared 112 The Circle 1940
Box Folder Title Date
1 11 Constitutions 1933-1959
1 12 Convention Bulletins May 2-7, 1921
1 13 Convention Bulletins May 8, 1921
1 14 Convention Bulletins May 10, 1922 - September 1929
Box Folder Title Date
2 15 Convention Bulletins May 7, 1931-1935
2 16 Convention Bulletins 1937
2 17 Convention Bulletins 1941, 1946
2 18 Conventions 1903
2 19 Conventions 1904
2 20 Conventions 1916
2 21 Conventions 1932-1961
Box Folder Title Date
OS 1 shared 113 The Inner Circle 1976-1977
Box Folder Title Date
2 22 National Executive Committee Meeting Minutes May 1937 - March 1938
Box Folder Title Date
3 23 National Executive Committee Meeting Minutes June 1938 - March 1939
3 24 New York State Insurance Department Report 1936
3 25 Performance Programs undated, 1939-1991
3 26 Promotional Material undated, 1906-1993
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Series II: Services, 1910-1954

Languages in the series include: English and Yiddish
Box 3; .25 linear ft.
Arrangement:

Material is arranged alphabetically by service.

Scope and Content:

Papers consist of publications and reports of four social services provided by the Workmen’s Circle for its members: Home for the Aged, the Medical Department, Sanatorium, and the Social Service Department.

Box Folder Title Date
3 27 Home for the Aged 1954
3 28 Medical Department 1920-1939
3 29 Sanatorium 1910, 1921
3 30 Social Service Department 1931-1951
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Series III: Branches, undated, 1912-1967

Languages in the series include: English and Yiddish
Boxes 4-6; 1.25 linear ft.
Arrangement:

The publications are arranged numerically by branch number.

Scope and Content:

This series contains publications of different branches of the Workmen’s Circle.

Box Folder Title Date
4 31 Branch 1 undated
4 32 Branch 26 1928
4 33 Branch 39, Orshe-Shklover 1922
4 34 Branch 43, Vilner [See also Branch 367] 1927
4 35 Branch 51, Kobriner 1925
4 36 Branch 52, Zhitomirer 1926
4 37 Branch 64, Mozizer Revolutionary Bagoon 1927
4 38 Branch 66, Rumanian 1924
4 39 Branch 75, Dvinsker Bundistisher 1929-1939
4 40 Branch 88, Bialystoker Rayoner [See also Branch 256] 1919-1940
4 41 Branch 99, Minsker Progressive 1931
4 42 Branch 108, Lakewood, NJ, undated 1944
4 43 Branch 151, Meyer London 1932-1957
4 44 Branch 194, Lider, ivier un bobrinitzer 1933
Box Folder Title Date
5 45 Branch 206, Bobroisker 1923-1958
5 46 Branch 207, Atlanta, GA 1933
5 47 Branch 210, Pinsker 1923-1928
5 48 Branch 210, Pinsker 1933-1958
5 49 Branch 224, Vitebsker 1945-1947
5 50 Branch 226, Bialer-Mezeritscher 1937
5 51 Branch 247, Gregori Gershuni 1938
5 52 Branch 256, Bialystoker [See also Branch 88] 1939
5 53 Branch 273, Radical Library undated
5 54 Branch 284 1934
5 55 Branch 315, Boro Park 1940
5 56 Branch 320/320b, Albany, NY 1934-1936
5 57 Branch 349 Artur Zigelboym 1967
5 58 Branch 364 1934
5 59 Branch 367, Vilner [See also Branch 43] 1929, 1939
5 60 Branch 370, Jacob Gordin 1939
Box Folder Title Date
6 61 Branch 386, Prager-Varshaver 1930-1935
Box Folder Title Date
5 62 Branch 389, Krinker 1920
Box Folder Title Date
6 63 Branch 443, Zey begrist, Los Angeles undated, 1912
6 64 Branch 587, Akron, OH 1930
6 65 Branch 590, Eugene V. Debs 1927-1928
6 66 Branch 655, Wladimir Medem 1931
6 67 Branch 677, Michal Klepfish 1963
6 68 Branch 983 1933
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Series IV: Education, undated, 1921-1993

Languages in the series include: English and Yiddish
Boxes 6-10; 2.25 linear ft. and 1 oversized folder
Arrangement:

This series is divided into two subseries: Subseries A: General and Subseries B: Schools.

Subseries A: General, undated, 1921-1995

Boxes 6-8
Arrangement:

Arranged alphabetically by subject.

Scope and Content:

The material in this subseries pertains to the Workmen’s Circle schools in general, and consists of various educational program materials, journals, year books, and bulletins, among other items.

Box Folder Title Date
6 69 Bulletins 1924-1974
6 70 Camp Year Books undated, 1926-1952
6 71 Concert Programs 1921-1993
6 72 Convention Journals 1937
6 73 Convention Journals 1938-1954
Box Folder Title Date
OS 1 shared 114 Educational Programs and Materials undated
Box Folder Title Date
6 74 Educational Programs and Materials undated, 1935-1945
Box Folder Title Date
7 75 Educational Programs and Materials 1939
7 76 Educational Programs and Materials 1954-1967
7 77 Educational Programs and Materials 1968-1975
7 78 Graduation Year Books 1955-1956
7 79 Progress undated, 1967
7 80 Promotional Material undated, 1933
7 81 School Almanacs 1926
7 82 School Almanacs 1935, 1937
Box Folder Title Date
8 83 School Journals undated, 1927-1935
8 84 School Journals 1939-1943
8 85 School Journals 1946-1955
8 86 Songbooks undated, 1933
8 87 Songbooks 1937-1968

Subseries B: Schools, undated, 1932-1992

Boxes 8-10
Arrangement:

This material is arranged alphabetically by school location.

Scope and Content:

This subseries contains school journals and publications of specific Workmen’s Circle schools.

Box Folder Title Date
8 88 Boston, MA, I.L. Peretz Workmen’s Circle School undated, 1963-1992
8 89 1936-1962
Box Folder Title Date
9 90 Bronx, NY, Workmen’s Circle School #4 1935-1938
9 91 Bronx, NY, Workmen’s Circle School #5 1954-1956
9 92 Bronx, NY, Workmen’s Circle School #7 1937, 1956
9 93 Bronx, NY, Workmen’s Circle School #8 1931-1943
9 94 Bronx, NY, Workmen’s Circle School #11 1936
9 95 Bronx, NY, Workmen’s Circle School #16 1936-1955
9 96 Bronx, NY, Workmen’s Circle School #18 1953
9 97 Bronx, NY, Workmen’s Circle School #19 1953
9 98 Brooklyn, NY, Workmen’s Circle School, Boro Park 1947-1959
9 99 Brooklyn, NY, Workmen’s Circle School, Brighton 1949-1953
9 100 Brooklyn, NY, Workmen’s Circle School, Brownville #1 1945
9 101 Brooklyn, NY, Workmen’s Circle School, Coney Island 1953-1956
9 102 Brooklyn, NY, Workmen’s Circle School, East Flatbush #1 1936
Box Folder Title Date
10 103 Brooklyn, NY, Workmen’s Circle School, East NY #1-3 1941-1953
10 104 Brooklyn, NY, Workmen’s Circle School, East NY #5 1947
10 105 Brooklyn, NY, Workmen’s Circle School, Fraternal Ctr. 1956
10 105 Brooklyn, NY, Workmen’s Circle School, Midwood 1953-1958
10 107 Brooklyn, NY, Workmen’s Circle School, Williamsburg #3 1951-1956
10 108 Brooklyn, NY, Workmen’s Circle School, East Broadway 1932-1936
10 109 Brooklyn, NY, Workmen’s Circle School, East Broadway 1938-1956
10 110 Brooklyn, NY, Workmen’s Circle School, West Side #1 1939, 1969
10 111 Queens, NY, Workmen’s Circle School, Jackson Heights 1956
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