Guide to the Papers of Nate Shapiro (1936- ), undated, 1980-2000 (bulk 1987-1993)
 
*P-893

Processed by Daniel S. Michelson

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 Daniel S. Michelson as MS Word document, May 2010. Finding aid was encoded by Marvin Rusinek on May 11, 2010. Description is in English.

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Nate Shapiro (1936- )
Title: Nate Shapiro, papers
Dates:undated, 1980-2000 (bulk 1987-1993)
Abstract: This collection is primarily made up of correspondence and other records of the American Association for Ethiopian Jews (AAEJ) that remained in the possession of its president (from 1982-1993), Nate Shapiro, after the organization dissolved in 1993. The AAEJ worked from 1974-1993 to assist Ethiopian Jews immigrate to Israel. The collection also includes Shapiro's personal papers. The Shapiro Papers fall under the broader AAEJ collection.
Languages: The collection is in English, with a few items in Hebrew.
Quantity: 5.5 linear feet (11 manuscript boxes)
Identification: P-893
Repository: American Jewish Historical Society
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Biographical Note

Nate Shapiro (1936- )

Nate Shapiro was born June 1, 1936 in Chicago, Illinois. His parents were Lester and Edna (Rabushka) Shapiro. In 1958, he received a B.A. in Economics from Northwestern University, where he graduated first in his class and joined the Phi Beta Kappa honor society. At the end of 1962, he married Randy Lee Luster, with whom he has had two sons and a daughter.

In 1972, Shapiro founded SF Investments, which remained his primary business venture. However, he has also held senior positions at the Chicago Bank of Commerce (now part of Associated Bank), Amli Real Estate Company, National Superior Company, New Horizons, D.V.I., Baldwin & Lyons, Alleghany Funds, SLD Corp, and Pekin Singer. During his successful business career, Shapiro would make millions of dollars, allowing him to concentrate on what he considered more important matters.

Shapiro has been involved in a range of activities, mostly relating to human rights; primarily, but by no means exclusively, on behalf of Jews (other groups include Burmese and Cambodian refugees). Among the organizations he has been active in are the Chicago Zionist Federation, Chicago Action for Soviet Jewry, B'nai B'rith, the Jewish Council of Urban Affairs, and B'nai Torah Temple in Highland Park, IL.

However, his primary cause has consistently been that of the Ethiopian Jewish community. This ancient community, whose origins remain controversial, is also known as the Falashas (literally "landless ones") or Beta Israel. From a combination of repression, famine, warfare, and religious longing for Jerusalem; the Ethiopian Jewish community became increasing determined to immigrate to the state of Israel.

In the late 1970s, Shapiro was inspired by a speech given by American Association for Ethiopian Jews (AAEJ) founder Graenum Berger. In 1978, Shapiro joined the AAEJ and immediately became deeply involved. At this point, the AAEJ was only four years old and Berger had resigned as president in favor of Howard Lenhoff. Shapiro soon became the AAEJ's largest contributor. His deep involvement made him a clear choice when Lenhoff resigned in 1982.

In 1982, Shapiro became the third president of the AAEJ. Prior to this point, the AAEJ had gained a reputation among mainstream Jewish organizations as irresponsible, due to what they considered its exaggerated rhetoric and claims of Israeli racism. Particularly controversial was the AAEJ's comparison of the plight of Ethiopian Jews with the Holocaust. Partly as a result of this, a rival organization, the North American Conference on Ethiopian Jewry (NACOEJ), was formed in 1981. While this perception of the AAEJ would be slow to change, Shapiro's presidency saw a less combative tone and more effective lobbying of American officials. Will Recant's appointment as executive director in 1986 helped the AAEJ continue on that path. Internal drafts of AAEJ publications and press releases show that Shapiro attempted to restrain some of the more extreme positions of AAEJ members. His overall success is particularly impressive considering that he had to deal with the strong personalities of his predecessors Graenum Berger and Howard Lenhoff. This restraint did not mean that Shapiro was reducing the organization's role. On the contrary, it was during his tenure that the AAEJ first sent volunteers into Sudan and Ethiopia to try and rescue Ethiopian Jews, primarily in order to prod Israel into action.

The intense disputes between the Israeli government and the AAEJ make it difficult to tell what effect AAEJ actions had. In any case, from November 1984 to January 1985, the Israeli government ran Operation Moses, which airlifted 6,500 Ethiopian Jews out of Sudan, where they had fled as refugees. In March, the United States airlifted out an additional 600 in Operation Sheba (also called Operation Joshua). The AAEJ was involved in these efforts, but the greatest triumph of Israel and the AAEJ (among other groups) was Operation Solomon in 1991.

Ethiopia, led since 1974 by the repressive dictator President Mengistu, was engaged in a long-running civil war with numerous different rebel groups. The war had escalated by the end of the 1980s. Meanwhile, Susan Pollack, resident director for the AAEJ in Ethiopia, spearheaded the controversial decision to bring what turned out to be tens of thousands of Ethiopian Jews from their villages to the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, in mid-1990.

In the beginning of 1991, united rebel forces were advancing on the capital of Addis Ababa. Mengistu attempted to use the Ethiopian Jews as a bargaining chip in a desperate bid to remain in power, but fled the country on May 20th. After a number of near disasters and scenes of complete chaos as tens of thousands of people tried to enter the Israeli embassy compound, Operation Solomon began on May 24, 1991. In twenty-five hours of dramatic activity, forty-one aircraft flew 14,310 Ethiopian Jews from Addis Ababa to Israel. Three days after the airlift ended, the Ethiopian rebels entered the capital.

After the airlift, the AAEJ became increasingly concerned with the condition of Ethiopian immigrants living in Israel. However, over the next two years, the AAEJ began to wind down its operations. In 1993, the organization officially disbanded and gave its remaining asset, its mailing list, to the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC). At the same time, the Israeli office of the AAEJ became the independent Israel Association for Ethiopian Jews (IAEJ). Nate Shapiro, along with Will Recant and Susan Pollack, then formed the group Friends of Ethiopian Jews (FEJ), which helps support groups such as the IAEJ.

Former AAEJ executive director Will Recant, now at the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), has enormous admiration for Shapiro's skillful leadership and dedication to the cause of Ethiopian Jews. Recant recounts that Shapiro, who was a long distance runner, built a running track around his house, in order to always remain available to the AAEJ. The work done by the AAEJ is all the more impressive because of the organization's small size. Paid staff varied year to year, but never exceeded about half a dozen people. The backbone of the AAEJ was its corps of dedicated volunteers, including its president, Nate Shapiro.

Sources:

Mitchell G. Bard, From Tragedy to Triumph: The Politics behind the Rescue of Ethiopian Jewry, Westport, CT: Praeger, 2002.

Howard M. Lenhoff, Black Jews, Jews, and Other Heroes: How Grassroots Activism Led to the Rescue of the Ethiopian Jews. Jerusalem: Gefen, 2007.

Stephen Spector, Operation Solomon: The Daring Rescue of the Ethiopian Jews. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.

Who's Who in World Jewry: A Biographical Dictionary of Outstanding Jews. Baltimore: Who's Who in World Jewry, 1987.

Who's Who in Israel and Jewish Personalities from All Over the World, 1990-91. Tel Aviv: Who's Who in Israel, 1991.

http://people.forbes.com/profile/nathan-shapiro/9514

http://www.zoominfo.com/Search/ReferencesView.aspx?PersonID=18962896

http://www.friendsofethiopianjews.org/about.html

Phone interview with Will Recant, May 5, 2010.

Nate Shapiro Collection

Graenum Berger Collection

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Scope and Content Note

This collection is primarily made up of correspondence and other records of the American Association for Ethiopian Jews (AAEJ), that remained in the possession of Nate Shapiro after the organization dissolved in 1993. Although the dates of the material range from 1980-2000, coverage is very spotty. Even in the best documented period, 1987-1993, there are large gaps in the records. However, the material that does exist is often valuable. The many draft versions of publications and correspondence may not be present in the wider AAEJ collection of which the Nate Shapiro Papers are part. Also unique to this collection are Shapiro's personal papers, which shed light on his character.

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Arrangement

The collection is arranged into five series as follows:

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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

Graenum Berger Papers
Howard Lenhoff Papers
LaDena Schnapper Papers
AAEJ Institutional Records

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Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form:
Identification of item, date (if known); Nate Shapiro, papers; P-893; box number; folder number; American Jewish Historical Society, New York, NY, and Boston, MA.

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Acquisition Information

Donated by Nate Shapiro, 2001.

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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.

 

Series I: Correspondence, undated, 1980-1995 (bulk 1987-1993)

English.
Boxes 1-4.
Scope and Content:

This series contains correspondence generated in the course of the activities of the AAEJ. When feasible, internal drafts are arranged with the final draft. Except where noted, the material in the subseries is arranged chronologically.

Subseries A: Internal Correspondence, undated, 1984-1995 (bulk 1987-1993)

English.
Boxes 1-2.
Scope and Content:

This subseries contains letters, faxes, and (printouts of) e-mails between staff members and volunteers of the AAEJ. Correspondence relating to Steve Brownstein's mission to Ethiopia from 1987-1989 (Box 1, folders 2-3), Glenn Stein in Ethiopia from 1990-1991 (Box 2, Folder 2), and Susan Pollack in Israel (Box 2, Folders 4-5) has been consolidated. Particularly valuable are the multiple drafts of Brownstein's report on conditions in Ethiopia and his proposal for an orphanage that was based on his report.

See also: Series I, Subseries B-D and Series II, Subseries A-C.

BoxFolderTitleDate
1 1 Internal Correspondence 1984-1987
1 2 Internal Correspondence with Steve Brownstein undated [1987]-1988
1 3 Internal Correspondence with Steve Brownstein 1988-1989
1 4 Internal Correspondence 1987-1989
1 5 Internal Correspondence 1989
BoxFolderTitleDate
2 1 Internal Correspondence 1990
2 2 Internal Correspondence with Glenn Stein in Ethiopia 1990-1991
2 3 Internal Correspondence 1990-1991
2 4 Internal Correspondence with Susan Pollack in Israel 1991-1992
2 5 Internal Correspondence with Susan Pollack in Israel 1992
2 6 Internal Correspondence undated, 1992-1995

Subseries B: External Correspondence, undated, 1980-1995 (bulk 1987-1991)

English.
Box 3.
Scope and Content:

This subseries contains letters and faxes between staff members or volunteers of the AAEJ and people outside the organization. Correspondence with Cardinal Bernadin of Chicago from 1987-1988 (Box 3, Folder 2) has been consolidated.

See also: Series I, Subseries C-D and Series II, Subseries A.

BoxFolderTitleDate
3 1 External Correspondence 1980-1987
3 2 External Correspondence with Cardinal Bernadin 1987-1988
3 3 External Correspondence 1987-1988
3 4 External Correspondence 1988-1990
3 5 External Correspondence 1990-1991
3 6 External Correspondence undated, 1991-1995

Subseries C: Jewish Agency, 1988-1992 (bulk 1988-1989)

English.
Box 4, Folders 1-3.
Scope and Content:

This subseries contains letters, faxes, and (printouts of) e-mails relating to an intense financial dispute between the AAEJ and the Jewish Agency. It includes both internal and external correspondence. Reports on the budgets and expenditures of various AAEJ missions in Ethiopia can be found in this subseries, as they are used as evidence for AAEJ's position in the dispute.

BoxFolderTitleDate
4 1 Jewish Agency 1988-1989
4 2 Jewish Agency 1989
4 3 Jewish Agency 1989-1992

Subseries D: Thank You Letters and Letters of Contribution, undated, 1984-1993 (bulk 1987-1991)

English.
Box 4, Folders 4-6.
Scope and Content:

This subseries primarily contains letters from Nate Shapiro to AAEJ contributors thanking them for their donations. Although they are mostly form letters, many of them are personalized. Also in this subseries are some letters of contribution to the AAEJ.

BoxFolderTitleDate
4 4 Letters of Contribution and Thank You Letters 1984-1989
4 5 Letters of Contribution and Thank You Letters 1989-1990
4 6 Letters of Contribution and Thank You Letters undated, 1991-1993
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Series II: Other AAEJ Materials, undated, 1983-1994 (bulk 1984-1993)

English.
Box 5 -- Box 7, Folder 7.
Scope and Content:

This series contains a range of materials created by the AAEJ in the course of its activities. When feasible, internal drafts are arranged with the final draft. Except where noted, the material in the subseries is arranged chronologically.

Subseries A: Board Materials, 1987-1993 (bulk 1988-1993)

English.
Box 5, Folders 1-6.
Scope and Content:

This subseries consists of assorted materials prepared by Nate Shapiro for his use during meetings of the AAEJ board of directors. Only the 1988, 1992, and 1993 board meetings have significant material, although there are small amounts for the 1987, 1989, and 1991 meetings. No material exists for the 1990 meeting. The 1993 meeting is particularly useful for the discussion concerning the disbanding of the organization. Each folder is arranged in original order.

BoxFolderTitleDate
5 1 Material Prepared for Board Meeting(s) in 1987 1987
5 2 Material Prepared for Board Meeting(s) in 1988 1988
5 3 Material Prepared for Board Meeting(s) in 1989 1989
5 4 Material Prepared for Board Meeting(s) in 1991 1991
5 5 Material Prepared for Board Meeting(s) in 1992 1992
5 6 Material Prepared for Board Meeting(s) in 1993 1993

Subseries B: Financial Materials, undated, 1984-1994 (bulk 1984-1991)

English.
Box 5, Folder 7 -- Box 6, Folder 1.
Scope and Content:

This subseries contains various reports and letters relating to financial material.

See also: Series II, Subseries A.

BoxFolderTitleDate
5 7 Financial Records 1985-1991
5 8 Donor Lists 1984
5 9 Donor Lists 1984-1991
BoxFolderTitleDate
6 1 Grants and Proposals undated, 1987-1994

Subseries C: Publications and Press Releases, undated, 1984-1994 (bulk 1987-1993)

English.
Box 6, Folders 2-5.
Scope and Content:

This subseries contains publications, press releases, and fundraising letters produced by the AAEJ (Folders 2-4) and other organizations working to aid Ethiopian Jews (Folder 5).

See also: Series II, Subseries A.

BoxFolderTitleDate
6 2 AAEJ Publications 1984-1988
6 3 AAEJ Publications 1989-1992
6 4 AAEJ Publications undated, 1992-1993
6 5 Other Organizations' Publications undated, 1986-1994

Subseries D: Press Clippings, undated, 1983-1994 (bulk 1988-1992)

English.
Box 6, Folder 6 -- Box 7, Folder 3.
Scope and Content:

This subseries contains photocopies and originals of newspaper and magazine articles related to Ethiopia and Ethiopian Jews. Many of the articles are from small Jewish publications. This series does not include clippings that are attached to correspondence. Newspaper issues of unknown relevance (Box 7, Folder 3), are not arranged.

See also: Series I, Subseries A-B and Series II, Subseries A and C.

BoxFolderTitleDate
6 6 Press Clippings 1983-1990
BoxFolderTitleDate
7 1 Press Clippings 1990-1991
7 2 Press Clippings undated, 1992-1994
7 3 Press Clippings of Unknown Purpose

Subseries E: Miscellaneous, 1987-1993

English and Hebrew.
Box 7, Folders 4-7.
Scope and Content:

This subseries contains photographs, letters, and notes that do not fit into any categories. There are also several items in Hebrew. The material is not arranged within folders.

BoxFolderTitleDate
7 4 Photographs, Friends of the Israel Defense Forces undated [1991]
7 5 Photographs, Washington 1992
7 6 Trip to Ethiopia 1992
7 7 Miscellaneous AAEJ undated, 1987-1993
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Series III: Personal Papers, undated, 1987-1994 (bulk 1988-1993)

English.
Box 7, Folder 8 -- Box 8, Folder 4.
Scope and Content:

This series contains letters, press clippings, faxes, and (printouts of) e-mails that are related to Nate Shapiro's activities outside of the AAEJ. The material in the subseries is arranged chronologically.

Subseries A: Activism, undated, 1987-1994 (bulk 1988-1993)

English.
Box 7, Folder 8 -- Box 8, Folder 1.
Scope and Content:

This subseries contains letters, press clippings, faxes, and (printouts of) e-mails relating to Nate Shapiro's charity and activism work outside of the AAEJ. The biggest topics include the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Soviet Jewry, the Khmer Rouge, Burmese refugees, and the Israel Sport Center for the Disabled.

BoxFolderTitleDate
7 8 Activism 1987-1990
7 9 Activism 1990-1991
BoxFolderTitleDate
8 1 Activism undated, 1991-1994

Subseries B: Business, undated, 1988-1993 (bulk 1989-1992)

English.
Box 8, Folder 2.
Scope and Content:

This subseries contains letters, press clippings, and faxes relating to Nate Shapiro's various positions in the business world.

BoxFolderTitleDate
8 2 Business undated, 1988-1993

Subseries C: Other Personal Papers, undated, 1987-1991 (bulk 1988-1989)

English.
Box 8, Folders 3-4.
Scope and Content:

This subseries contains letters, press clippings, and faxes that are neither activism nor business related. Much of the material relates to Nate Shapiro's family and friends.

BoxFolderTitleDate
8 3 Other Personal Papers 1987-1989
8 4 Other Personal Papers undated, 1989-1991
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Series IV: Sensitive Financial Material

English.
Box 8, Folder 5 -- Box 9.
Scope and Content:

This series contains photocopies of checks and stocks, as well as other sensitive financial information such as credit card and passport numbers. It is not arranged and not available for research.

BoxFolderTitleDate
8 5 Sensitive Financial Information [RESTRICTED]
8 6 Sensitive Financial Information [RESTRICTED]
8 7 Sensitive Financial Information [RESTRICTED]
BoxFolderTitleDate
9 1 Sensitive Financial Information [RESTRICTED]
9 2 Sensitive Financial Information [RESTRICTED]
9 3 Sensitive Financial Information [RESTRICTED]
9 4 Sensitive Financial Information [RESTRICTED]
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Series V: Video, 1981-2000

Boxes 10-11.
Scope and Content:

This series consists of videotapes mostly produced by or relating to the activities of the AAEJ.

BoxFolderTitleDate
1013 VHS tapes
BoxFolderTitleDate
114 VHS tapes
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