Guide to the Records of Greater Boston Committee of the Massachusetts Observance of the American Jewish Tercentenary, undated, 1952-1955 (bulk 1954-1955)

Reprocessed by Stephanie Call

Jewish Heritage Center at NEHGS

99-101 Newbury St.

Boston, MA 02116



© 2019  Jewish Heritage Center at NEHGS, Boston, MA. All Rights Reserved.
Machine-readable finding aid created by Stephanie Call as MS Word document, November 10, 2008. Finding aid was encoded by Marvin Rusinek on November 17, 2008. Description is in English.

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Greater Boston Committee of the Massachusetts Observance of the American Jewish Tercentenary
Title: Massachusetts Observance of the American Jewish Tercentenary
Dates:undated, 1952-1955 (bulk 1954-1955)
Abstract: The Massachusetts Observance of the American Jewish Tercentenary documents the correspondence, activities, photographs and publications of the Greater Boston Committee’s efforts to celebrate the 300th Anniversary of Jewish settlement in the United States. Many notable Boston Jewish community members were a part of the planning and implementation of activities, which included a celebration at Symphony Hall and a musical for children entitled, "A Happy Land."
Languages: The collection is in English and Yiddish.
Quantity: 1.5 linear feet (3 manuscript boxes)
Identification: I-63
Repository: American Jewish Historical Society
Location: Located at AJHS, Boston, MA.
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Historical Note1

The creation of the American Jewish Tercentenary Committee in 1951 to celebrate the 300th anniversary of Jewish settlement in the United States was received widely and enthusiastically in Jewish communities across the country. The theme of the observance, "Man's Opportunities and Responsibilities Under Freedom" was meant to "describe the significance of the present day for American Jews, and sum up the aspirations for the future for ourselves, for all Americans, and indeed for people everywhere who yearn for freedom," according to David Bernstein, who served as the executive director of the American Jewish Tercentenary Committee.2 Boston began preparations for their own celebrations in 1952 under the leadership of Herbert B. Ehrmann as chairman, Robert E. Segal as coordinator and Elaine F. Lipson as assistant coordinator of the Greater Boston Committee. Both Ehrmann and Segal were well known and respected community leaders who utilized their connections to identify people who could participate in sub-committees that were organized to accomplish the numerous tasks at hand. The Greater Boston Committee was designed similarly to the National Committee and had 300 members, some of whom were members in name only.

Working committees, members and goals included:

Steering Committee: Members of this committee were responsible for providing oversight of the Greater Boston Committee, and included Milton Kahn as chairman (who also served as vice chairman for the Greater Boston Committee), Mark Bortman, Harold S. Goldberg, Fanny Goldstein, Judges Jacob Kaplan, Jennie L. Barron, David A. Rose, Dr. Abram L. Sachar, Lewis H. Weinstein, Joseph Weisberg, and Jacob L. Wiseman, among others. Weinstein and Wiseman also represented Boston on the National American Jewish Tercentenary Committee.

Retail Stores Display: This committee worked with local retail stores to create and implement exhibits highlighting the important contributions of Boston Jews. Chairman William Ehrlich oversaw the committee.

History Project: This particular committee was responsible for working with The Jewish Advocate on the publication of a special Tercentenary issue of the newspaper, highlighting specific achievements and moments in American Jewish history. Joseph Weisberg, managing editor of The Jewish Advocate, worked with Fanny Goldstein, Oscar Handlin, and Rabbi Joseph Shubow to identify topics and writers.

Library Exhibits: Overseen by Fanny Goldstein of the West End Branch Library, this committee ensured that the Boston Public Library and its branch libraries had exhibits depicting American Jewish, and specifically Boston Jewish life.

Radio and TV Committee: This group worked with local radio and television stations to promote programming on Jewish history and notable Jewish people. Fanny Goldstein, Hannah London, Lewis Weinstein and several professors from local colleges and universities participated in this committee.

Subcommittee on Resources & Planning: This committee was formally known as the Program and Projects Committee, and was chaired by Mrs. Philip Segal and Mrs. Arnold Mork. The primary purpose of this committee was to work with organizations interested in holding Tercentenary events. To this end, they created a Speakers Bureau, vetted filmstrips and scripts for viewing, and publicized these offerings to organizations.

Youth Committee: Chaired by Mrs. Nehemiah Williams and Mrs. James Kahn, the Youth Committee was responsible for developing activities for the Youth and Children's Observance. A musical, "A Happy Land," was presented, which depicted 300 years of American Jewish life.

The main event was the December 26, 1954 Boston Observance, which was held at Symphony Hall. The Boston Jewish Festival Chorus performed, with speeches by Herbert Ehrmann, Lewis Weinstein of the Jewish Community Council of Metropolitan Boston, Mayor John B. Hynes, Lee M. Friedman of the American Jewish Historical Society, Dr. Nathan M. Pusey of Harvard University, and Dr. Abram L. Sachar of Brandeis University. There was also a dramatic presentation, "Faith and Freedom," written by Marc Siegel and presented by the School of Creative Arts at Brandeis University, as well as prayers and benedictions offered by Rabbi Israel Harburg of the Rabbinical Association of Greater Boston, and Rabbi Myer J. Strassfeld of the Orthodox Rabbinical Council of Greater Boston.


1954Boston committee of 300 is appointed.
September 12, 1954First celebration in Boston with Lee M. Friedman addressing delegates to the American Jewish Congress convention.
Major John Hynes of Boston issues a proclamation along with Governor Christian Herter, declaring September 14, 1954 to May 15, 1955 "American Jewish Tercentenary Months"
Program planning sub-committee is established.
October 14-November 14, 1954Exhibit at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts includes portraits of Jewish citizens from the colonial era, 18th and 19th centuries, gold and silver of Myer Myers, and silhouettes and miniatures relating to American Jewish culture.
October 20, 1954National Tercentenary Celebration at the Sheraton Astor in New York. Eddie Fisher, Irving Berlin and the Jewish Chapel Choir of the United State Military Academy at West Point perform. President Eisenhower delivers the address.
November 1954Exhibit at the Boston Public Library includes 30 units depicting the contributions of Jewish Americans in the arts, sciences, politics, economy and law; also exhibited is the development of Yiddish theatre, contemporary Jewish leaders, Jewish education, Jewish organizations, Zionism, early Jewish Bostonians and Jewish writers, among many other subjects.
December 26, 1954Symphony Hall celebration of the Tercentenary. Speakers include Dr. Nathan Pusey, Dr. Abraham Sachar, and Lee Friedman.
December 28-January 3, 1955Department store windows exhibit religious objects and art.
January 6, 1955Publication of the Jewish Advocate Tercentenary issue.
January 20, 1955Exhibit at the Boston Public Library includes ceremonial objects, photographs and mementos of early Boston Jews, and book collections of Boston authors.
January 27, 1955Boston Medical Library exhibit of Jewish medical leaders, including medieval manuscripts and awards presented to Jewish physicians.
March 24, 1955Display at the Children's Museum in Jamaica Plain.
March 6, 1955Jewish Labor Committee observance at John Hancock Hall, with a pageant and choral music program.
April 19-20, 1955Youth musical production of "A Happy Land" at John Hancock Hall.
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Scope and Content Note

This collection documents the activities of the Greater Boston Committee through correspondence, publicity, radio scripts, meeting minutes, membership lists, photographs, questionnaires, newspaper clippings and programs. The bulk of the collection's correspondence is from Herbert B. Ehrmann and Robert E. Segal, but committee lists and programs identify many names of prominent Jewish Boston community members who were involved in varying degrees with programming and planning.

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The collection is arranged in two series, as described below:

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Access and Use

Access Restrictions

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

Use Restrictions

Information concerning the literary rights may be obtained from the Executive Director of the American Jewish Historical Society. Users must apply in writing for permission to quote, reproduce or otherwise publish manuscript materials found in this collection. For more information contact:
American Jewish Historical Society, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY, 10011

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Related Material

Boston Jewish Community Relations Council, I-123
Papers of Lewis H. Weinstein, P-641
Mark Bortman Papers, P-856
Papers of Herbert Brutus Ehrmann, P-94
Papers of Jennie Loitman Barron, P-547
American Jewish Tercentenary Celebration Collection, I-11 (New York)

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Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form:
Identification of item, date (if known); Massachusetts Observance of the American Jewish Tercentenary; I-63; box number; folder number; Jewish Heritage Center at NEHGS.

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Acquisition Information

Gift of the Jewish Community Council of Metropolitan Boston, 1970.

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Access Points

Click on a subject to search that term in the Center's catalog. Return to the Top of Page

Container List

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

Click the box in the request column to learn more about viewing materials at the Jewish Heritage Center at NEHGS.


Series I: Committees, undated, 1952-1955

The Series is in English.
.75 linear feet. Boxes 1-2.

Alphabetical by sub-series and chronological.

Scope and Content:

This series contains correspondence, membership lists, photographs and minutes for the committees working on Tercentenary projects. The bulk of the series focuses on the Greater Boston Committee, including correspondence between Herbert B. Ehrmann, Robert E. Segal, David Bernstein and Lewis Weinstein. The beginnings of the national committee and how it intersected with the Boston committee are highlighted in correspondence and invitations to meetings. Letters of invitation and responses from Boston community members are also in this series, including a letter from Sidney Rabb of Stop and Shop stating that he would fulfill an honor position on the committee. Correspondence between parties not only depict the planning phases of Tercentenary activities, but also some of the frustrations of committee members when they were unable to raise enough funding for the Jewish Advocate project, or, in a particularly illuminating exchange between Ehrmann and Segal, hire appropriate people for specific positions. Of interest is the level of detail present in this series, which provides a clear picture of the committees’ activities from the beginning planning stages to the end products, which are documented in photographs.

1 1 Finance/Budgets 1954-1955 request_box
1 2 Finance/Correspondence 1953-1954 request_box
1 3 Greater Boston Committee/Committee Appointment Lists 1953-1954 request_box
1 4-7 Greater Boston Committee/Correspondence 1952-1955 request_box
1 8 Greater Boston Committee/Photographs 1954-1955 request_box
1 9 Greater Boston Committee/Minutes & Reports undated, 1953-1954 request_box
1 10 Jewish Advocate Project/Correspondence & Report 1954-1955 request_box
1 11 Jewish Advocate Project/Donations 1954-1955 request_box
1 12 Jewish Advocate Project/Questionnaires 1953 request_box
1 13 Library Exhibits Committee/Correspondence 1953-1955 request_box
1 14 Library Exhibits Committee/Publicity & Photographs 1954-1955 request_box
1 15 Radio & TV Committee/Correspondence & Publicity 1953-1954 request_box
1 16 Retail Stores Sub-Committee/Correspondence & Minutes 1954-1955 request_box
1 17 Retail Stores Sub-Committee/Filene’s Exhibit (Photographs) 1955 request_box
2 1 Steering Committee/Correspondence 1953-1955 request_box
2 2 Steering Committee/Minutes 1953-1955 request_box
2 3 Subcommittee on Resources & Programming/Correspondence 1953-1954 request_box
2 4 Subcommittee on Resources & Programming/Minutes 1954 request_box
2 5 Youth Committee/"A Happy Land" 1955 request_box
2 6 Youth Committee/Correspondence 1954-1955 request_box
2 7 Youth Committee/Event Photographs & Publicity 1955 request_box
2 8 Youth Committee/Minutes & Program Planning undated, 1953-1955 request_box
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Series II: Programs and Events, undated, 1953-1955

The Series is in English and Yiddish.
.75 linear feet. Boxes 2-3.

Alphabetical by sub-series and chronological.

Scope and Content:

This series contains correspondence, photographs, publicity, questionnaires and published materials relating to the activities of the Greater Boston Committee. The Boston Observance, which was held on December 26, 1954 at Symphony Hall, represents the bulk of the series. However, information on the various exhibits around Boston as well as the events sponsored at other organizations is also included. The Speaker’s Bureau was quite popular with local Jewish organizations, and numerous community members were involved in speaking engagements on a variety of topics, ranging from commentaries on filmstrips to religion. Correspondence detailing these requests and subsequent letters of appreciation are included in this series. In addition, various proclamations, as well as a sound recording of the Boston Observance, are included.

2 9 Boston Observance/Boston Jewish History undated, 1954 request_box
2 10 Boston Observance/Correspondence 1953-1955 request_box
2 11 Boston Observance/Minutes 1954 request_box
2 12 Boston Observance/Music for Tercentenary 1954 request_box
2 13 Boston Observance/Photographs & Publicity undated, 1954 request_box
2 14 Boston Observance/Program Drafts & Final 1954 request_box
2 15 Boston Observance/Published Materials 1954-1955 request_box
3 1 Boston Observance/Speeches 1954 request_box
3 2 Boston Observance/Sound Recording 1954 request_box
3 3 Exhibits/Judaica Americana Collection 1954 request_box
3 4 Exhibits/Medical Division at Boston Medical Library 1954 request_box
3 5 Exhibits/Museum of Fine Arts 1954 request_box
3 6 Filmstrip/Correspondence 1954 request_box
3 7 Publicity & Proclamations/News Clippings 1953-1955 request_box
3 8 Publicity & Proclamations/Official Proclamations 1954 request_box
3 9 Publicity & Proclamations/Press Releases & Correspondence 1953-1954 request_box
3 10 Organizations/Publicity 1954-1955 request_box
3 11 Organizations/Requests 1954-1955 request_box
3 12 Speaker’s Bureau/Correspondence & Requests 1954-1955 request_box
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