Guide to the Fort Ontario Emergency Refugee Shelter Collection,
1944-1947, 1960, 1975


P-317

Processed by Rachel Miller

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.
Electronic finding aid was encoded in EAD 2002 by Rachel Miller in 2012. Description is in English.

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Cohen, Jack
Creator: Tzechoval, Mosco
Title: Fort Ontario Emergency Refugee Shelter Collection
Dates:1944-1947, 1960, 1975
Abstract: The collection consists of Jack Cohen and Mosco Tzechoval’s papers relating to their involvement at the Fort Ontario Emergency Refugee Shelter in Oswego, New York, between 1944 and 1946. Materials include correspondence, sermons, minutes, reports, notes, clippings and photographs.
Languages: The collection is primarily in English, with a substantial amount of material in Yiddish and Hebrew, and a few items in German, Italian and Croatian.
Quantity: 0.5 linear feet (1 manuscript box)
Identification: P-317
Repository: American Jewish Historical Society
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Historical and Biographical Notes

Fort Ontario Emergency Refugee Shelter

In June 1944, the Fort Ontario Emergency Refugee Shelter was established in Oswego, New York by order of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and was operated by the War Relocation Authority, a government agency. In August 1944, the shelter received 982 refugees of predominantly Jewish descent and of various national backgrounds, especially Yugoslavian, Austrian, Polish, German and Czechoslovakian. Because of their immigration status as “guests,” the refugees could not work, and they could not travel beyond Oswego. Upon release many were granted permanent or temporary status. The shelter was closed in February 1946.

B’nai B’rith, Coordinating Committee of Fort Ontario, and Jack Cohen

The Department of the Interior requested that B’nai B’rith help provide recreational and religious facilities at the shelter. This was carried out by the War Service Activities Department of B’nai B’rith and the Upper New York State Council of B’nai B’rith and its local lodges. Jack Cohen, Secretary of B’nai B’rith Zerubbabel Lodge No. 53 in Rochester, was appointed as the local B’nai B’rith representative to the Coordinating Committee for Fort Ontario. The Coordinating Committee was established to coordinate efforts by different organizations to give aid and provide services for the shelter refugees, and the committee was composed of Jewish institutional representatives from Buffalo, Oswego, Rochester, Syracuse and Utica. Jack Cohen oversaw much of B’nai B’rith’s donations, as well as the dispersal of materials to U.S. Veterans hospitals once the shelter closed. Items donated included furnishings, arts and crafts materials, religious equipment for congregations and the chapel, and athletic equipment.

Mosco Tzechoval

Rabbi Mosco Tzechoval (also known as Moses Checkoval or Czechoval) was a spiritual leader at the shelter. Tzechoval had formerly been the director of Yeshivath Etz Chaim Talmudical Seminary in Heide-Antwerp, Belgium.

References

B'nai B'rith -- Accounts and Bills, 1944-1946; Box 1, Folder 2.

B'nai B'rith -- Distribution of Equipment from Fort Ontario, 1946-1947; Box 1, Folder 4.

"Token Shipment: The Story of America's War Refugee Shelter," [1946]; Box 1, Folder 19.

Tzechoval, Mosco -- Biographical Materials, 1944-1946, 1960; Box 1, Folder 20.

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Scope and Content Note

The collection is comprised of papers generated or received in the course of Jack Cohen’s role as the B’nai B’rith representative to the Coordinating Committee for Fort Ontario and Rabbi Mosco Tzechoval’s role as the spiritual leader at the Fort Ontario Emergency Refugee Shelter in Oswego, New York, between 1944 and 1946. The papers document the religious, educational, cultural and medical needs of the refugees, the working and living conditions of the shelter, and the contributions of B'nai B'rith and other organizations to the shelter.

Jack Cohen’s materials, representing two thirds of the collection, consist of correspondence with Joseph H. Smart, director of the shelter, with leaders and members of the Coordinating Committee for Fort Ontario, including Joseph Archibald Berger, Lotta Loeb, Monte Kandel and Alexander E. Holstein, and with Isaac Asofsky of Hebrew Sheltering and Immigrant Aid Society and Isaac Lewin of Agudas Israel; minutes and reports of the Coordinating Committee; clippings and reports regarding B’nai B’rith’s contributions; and a few photographs. Cohen is often cc-ed on the material, and the bulk of Cohen’s papers are not original documents, but photocopies.

It’s not clear how Mosco Tzechoval’s papers came to be mingled with Jack Cohen’s, but his correspondence and sermons, much of them in handwritten Hebrew and Yiddish, represent a third of the collection. There is substantial correspondence from Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneerson and Max Rosen. While Tzechoval’s papers are concentrated in folders bearing his name, additional material of his can be found in other folders in the collection as well.

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Arrangement

This collection has been arranged as one series.

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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

Information concerning the literary rights may be obtained from the Director of Library and Archives 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
email: reference@ajhs.org

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Related Material

The Leo Baeck Institute Archives has the Arthur Lehmann Correspondence (AR 25381), the Fort Ontario Refugee Center Collection (AR 5313), and the Henry Heinz Brecher Collection (AR 11701). The LBI Library holds the Ontario Chronicle (B318), a newspaper published by the Fort Ontario refugees.

The YIVO Institute for Jewish Research has the Joseph Perkins Chamberlain Papers (RG 278).

Other Archives

Records of the War Relocation Authority: Records of the Fort Ontario Emergency Refugee Shelter (210.3.5), National Archives, Washington, D.C.

Joseph H. Smart Collection, RG-10.056*01, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Archives, Washington, D.C.

Fort Ontario Records, MS#0444, Columbia University Rare Book and Manuscript Library, New York, NY.

State University of New York at Oswego, Penfield Library, Archives and Special Collections, has digitized oral histories of Fort Ontario refugees.

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Digitization Note

All materials in the collection were digitized with the exception of duplicates.

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Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form:
Identification of item, date (if known); Fort Ontario Emergency Refugee Shelter Collection; P-317; box number; folder number; American Jewish Historical Society, New York, NY, and Boston, MA.

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Acquisition Information

Jack Cohen donated this collection to AJHS in October 1977 (accession # 1977.019) and August 1978 (accession # 1978.028).

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Processing Information

Between 1977 and 1978, an AJHS archivist processed the collection and created a box list. In 2012, Rachel Miller enhanced the collection description, wrote a full finding aid, and outside of folder shifts made in order to maintain alphabetical order, largely kept to the physical and intellectual arrangement given to the collection by the previous archivist, including folder titles.

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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.

 

Fort Ontario Emergency Refugee Shelter Collection, 1944-1947, 1960, 1975

Box 1. 0.5 linear feet.
Arrangement:

Arranged in alphabetical order.

BoxFolderTitleDate
1 1 Art Projects at Fort Ontario 1944-1945
  View the item 
1 2 B'nai B'rith -- Accounts and Bills 1944-1946
  View the item 
1 3 B'nai B'rith -- Contributions to Fort Ontario 1944
  View the item 
1 4 B'nai B'rith -- Distribution of Equipment from Fort Ontario 1946-1947
  View the item 
1 5 B'nai B'rith -- Members at Fort Ontario (includes photograph) 1944-1945
  View the item 
1 6 B'nai B'rith -- Rajko Margulis Scholarship 1945
  View the item 
1 7 Buchler, Arpad -- Death 1944-1945
  View the item 
1 8 Clippings 1944-1946
  View the item 
1 9 Closing of Fort Ontario 1945-1946
  View the item 
1 10 Coordinating Committee for Fort Ontario -- Minutes 1944-1946
  View the item 
1 11 Coordinating Committee for Fort Ontario -- Reports 1944-1946
  View the item 
1 12 Friends of Fort Ontario Guest Refugees 1944-1945
  View the item 
1 13 Miscellaneous Organizations -- Agudas Israel, Hebrew Sheltering and Immigrant Aid Society, National Council of Jewish Women, Polish War Relief, Zionist Organization of America 1944-1945
  View the item 
1 14 Programs and Special Events 1944-1945
  View the item 
1 15 Refugee Lists and Correspondence 1944-1947
  View the item 
1 16 Religious, Educational and Medical Needs at Fort Ontario 1944-1945
  View the item 
1 17 Smart, Joseph H. 1944-1945
  View the item 
1 18 Start of Fort Ontario 1944
  View the item 
1 19 "Token Shipment: The Story of America's War Refugee Shelter" [1946]
  View the item 
1 20 Tzechoval, Mosco -- Biographical Materials 1944-1946, 1960
  View the item 
1 21 Tzechoval, Mosco -- General Correspondence 1944-1946
  View the item 
1 22 Tzechoval, Mosco -- General Correspondence 1944-1946
  View the item 
1 23 Tzechoval, Mosco -- Personal Correspondence 1944-1946
  View the item 
1 24 Tzechoval, Mosco -- Sermons undated
  View the item 
1 25 Wise, Stephen S. 1944-1945, 1975
  View the item 
1 26 Working Conditions for Residents of Fort Ontario 1944-1945
  View the item 
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