Guide to the Shad Polier Papers,
1916-1976
(bulk 1940-1970)

P-572

Processed by Rachel S. Harrison as part of the Leon Levy Archival Processing Initiative, made possible by the Leon Levy Foundation.

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 was created by Rachel S. Harrison as MS Word and Excel 2000 documents in May 2010. Electronic finding aid was converted to EAD 2002 by Rachel S. Harrison in May 2010. Description is in English.

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Shad Polier, 1906-1976
Title: Shad Polier Papers
Dates:1916-1976 (bulk 1940-1970)
Abstract: This collection contains the personal and professional papers of Shad Polier, including legal files from cases with which Polier was involved, particularly those concerning adoptions and civil liberties, articles and speeches by Polier, correspondence, and materials from several of the organizations with which Polier was affiliated, including the American Jewish Congress, the World Jewish Congress and the NAACP. These materials reflect his widespread participation with the civil liberties movement, equal rights and anti-discrimination law.
Languages: The collection is in English, with some Yiddish, Hebrew, and French.
Quantity: 15 manuscript boxes and 1 half-size manuscript box.
Quantity:7.75 linear feet
Accession number: P-572
Repository: American Jewish Historical Society
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Biographical and Historical Note

Shad Polier was born Isadore Polier in Aiken, South Carolina on March 18, 1906. He graduated with distinction from the University of South Carolina in 1926, and then attended Harvard Law School, where he received his law degree in 1929 and a Master of Law degree in 1931. He was admitted to the New York Bar in 1930. He devoted himself to the civil rights cause in response to his strong feelings about the lynchings that had taken place throughout the South, particularly in his hometown of Aiken, South Carolina. Polier prepared legal briefs on behalf of the defendants before the High Court in the 1931 Scottsboro case, in which nine black youths were charged with raping two white girls. Partially in response to the Scottsboro case, he became active in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), serving on the Executive Committee of its Legal and Educational Defense Fund for thirty years. He emphasized the strong parallels between the African-American and Jewish experiences and his belief that liberty and freedom can exist only when all citizens hold equal rights.

In 1946 Polier prosecuted Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, maintaining that the university’s admissions policies discriminated against Jewish and other minority students. In 1948 he brought a personal suit against the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, alleging that its Stuyvesant Town Development in New York was guilty of discriminatory housing practices by not admitting African Americans. Although Polier’s original case was dismissed, the American Jewish Congress, of which Polier was the vice president, continued to fight for fair housing laws and the case ultimately resulted in their establishment. Polier also led the fight for the first statewide Fair Education Practices Law that was directed at ending discrimination in the admission to colleges and universities on the basis of race or religion. This law was passed in 1947, in large part due to his actions. Polier was also involved in the landmark Brown vs. the Board of Education case. Along with several other members of the American Jewish Congress, Polier submitted briefs of amici curiae to the court supporting the students’ rights to obtain equal education.

In 1945 Polier became chairman of the newly-created Commission on Law and Social Action (CLSA) of the American Jewish Congress, which he had helped to found, and he held this position for ten years. The Commission on Law and Social Action was founded to conduct legal battles against antisemitism, segregation, racism, and other discriminatory laws. In this capacity he fought and won a six-year battle against antisemitic job practices by ARAMCO, the Arabian-American Oil Company. Polier occupied prominent positions in the World Jewish Congress, including as a member of its Executive and Governing Council, Chairman of its Budget and Finance Commission and Honorary Chairman of its National Governing Council, the organization’s policy-making body. He was also a member of the board of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany and of the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture.

Polier's wife Justine Wise Polier was the daughter of Rabbi Stephen Wise and Louise Waterman Wise. Rabbi Wise was a prominent rabbi, one of the founders of the American Jewish Congress and the NAACP, a leading advocate of a Jewish state, and a pro-labor activist. Louise Waterman Wise was a prominent artist and social worker who founded the Free Synagogue Child Adoption Committee in 1916 in New York. Justine Wise Polier was the first woman Justice in New York and a judge of the New York Family Court for 35 years, retiring in 1973, as well as an outspoken activist for the rights of the poor and disempowered. Like her husband, Justine Wise Polier was deeply involved in fighting against institutional racism, particularly in the New York school system. Both were involved with the Citizens' Committee for Children and the Free Synagogue Child Adoption Committee, which was renamed the "Louise Wise Services" by Justine Wise Polier, who served as President of its Board of Directors. Shad Polier died June 30, 1976 in New York City.

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Scope and Content Note

The Shad Polier Papers consist of correspondence, articles and speeches by and about Polier, legal files from cases in which Polier was involved, newspaper clippings, personal papers, photographs, minutes, and various official legal documents, such as birth, marriage, death, and adoption certificates.

The materials in this collection mainly relate to Polier’s legal work, although there is also some personal correspondence. The last six boxes of the collection, which contain adoption files, have been restricted. There is other information relating to New York state adoption legislation, which was monitored by Louise Wise Services, for which Polier was the attorney, including the impact of religion on adoption. This collection would be useful for researchers interested in civil liberties and anti-discrimination legislation, particularly the intersection of Jewish and African-American efforts within the Civil Rights movement, fair housing and employment discrimination. Researchers of welfare and labor might also be interested in the materials on the investigation of Mobilization for Youth (MFY) and a city youth organizer, Ezra Birnbaum, by a New York State anti-subversive investigatory committee and the loyalty investigations of Shad Polier, Justine Wise Polier, and James Waterman Wise as well as posthumous allegations directed against Rabbi Stephen Wise for their involvement with these issues. In addition, there is material on school prayer and the Constitution, federal funding of parochial schools, freedom of the press, and libel laws. Polier’s involvement with the American Jewish Congress’ Commission on Law and Social Action, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the World Jewish Congress is also represented.

Among the individual correspondents are Justine Wise Polier, James Waterman Wise, El Mehdi Ben Aboud (Ambassador of Morocco), Roy Wilkins, Thurgood Marshall, Felix Frankfurter, Hubert Humphrey, John Haynes Holmes, Martin Luther King, Jr., Eleanor Roosevelt, Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, and Adlai E. Stevenson.

The materials in this collection date from 1916-1976, with the bulk dating from 1940-1970. The majority of the collection is in English, with a few newspaper clippings in Yiddish. The collection consists of 15 manuscript and 1 half manuscript box comprising 7.75 linear feet. Adoption record files have been restricted.

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Arrangement

The collection has been divided by topic and format and is arranged alphabetically and, within this order, chronologically by earliest dated document. The folders have been labeled with typed white sticky labels and these folder titles have been maintained. The materials are arranged in six series, some of which have been divided into subseries and subsubseries.

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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

E-mail: reference@ajhs.org

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Related Material

The American Jewish Historical Society Archives has the Papers of Justine Wise Polier, P-527, and the Papers of Stephen S. Wise, P-134, are available on microfilm in the Center for Jewish History’s Reading Room. Brandeis University holds the copyright to the Stephen S. Wise papers and should be contacted for permission to publish from them. The AJHS holds the records of the American Jewish Congress, I-77, and various materials about the Jewish involvement in the Civil Rights movement, including books and other archival collections.

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Other Finding Aids

A list representing the previous arrangement can be found in the donor file and can be requested by permission of the archivist.

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Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form:
Identification of item, date (if known); Shad Polier Papers ; P-572; box number; folder number; American Jewish Historical Society, New York, NY, and Boston, MA.

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Acquisition Information

These papers were donated to the American Jewish Historical Society Archives by Justine Wise Polier in 1986.

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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

 

Series I: Organizational Affiliations, 1941-1966

40 folders
Scope and Content:

This series consists of correspondence, newspaper clippings and legal files from cases which Shad Polier took part in as part of his involvement with various organizations. The majority of the materials concern Polier’s close connection with the American Jewish Congress. There are also materials concerning the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the World Jewish Congress.

Subseries 1: General, 1941-1948

2 folders
BoxFolderTitleDate
1 1 Americans for Democratic Action 1945-1948
1 2 Council Against Intolerance in America 1941

Subseries 2: American Jewish Congress, 1954-1966

30 folders
Scope and Content:

This subseries is comprised of materials related to Polier’s work with the American Jewish Congress, including his position as chairman of the Commission on Law and Social Action, which he helped found in 1945, his cases fighting against segregation and racism, and the fight against antisemitism within ARAMCO, the Arabian-American Oil Company.

Subsubseries A: General, 1954-1965

15 folders
Scope and Content:

These materials concern a suit brought by the AJ Congress against the Domestic Relations Court System of New York for discriminating on the basis of religion in its appointing of probation officers, articles and correspondence about combating discrimination and Polier’s weekly newsletter about civil rights and civil liberties.

BoxFolderTitleDate
1 3 Anti-Semitism Abroad: Persecution of Czech Jews 1954
1 4 Correspondence with Israeli M.K. Mordechai Ben Tov re: Ben Tov's Mission to Asia 1958
1 5 Probation Officers in Children's Court - Discrimination - Correspondence 1955
1 6 Probation Officer Suit 1956
1 7 Probation Officer Suit - Court Documents 1956
1 8 Probation Officer Suit - Papers, Correspondence 1955
1 9 Probation Officer Suit - Press Clippings 1955-1956
1 10 Prosecution of Nazi War Criminals 1964-1965
1 11 Speeches and articles written by Shad Polier 1964, undated
1 12 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising Memorial 1965
1 13 Weekly Letter 1963
BoxFolderTitleDate
2 1 Weekly Letter 1963
2 2 Weekly Letter 1964
2 3 Weekly Letter 1964
2 4 Weekly Letter 1964-1965

Subsubseries B: Arabian-American Oil Company (ARAMCO), 1956-1966

9 folders
Scope and Content:

These materials relate to a six-year lawsuit brought by the AJ Congress against ARAMCO (Arabian-American Oil Company) for discriminatory hiring practices, for which Polier was the attorney. After three court rulings upholding the AJ Congress position, the State Commission for Human Rights found ARAMCO guilty of violating state fair employment law and ordered it to stop discriminating against Jewish job applicants. ARAMCO agreed to do so in December 1962.

BoxFolderTitleDate
2 5 Correspondence 1959-1962
2 6 Correspondence, Clippings 1959-1966
BoxFolderTitleDate
3 1 Correspondence, Motions 1962
3 2 Correspondence, Trial Proceedings 1956-1958
3 3 Miscellaneous 1961
3 4 NY State Court Proceedings 1962
3 5 Papers 1958-1959
3 6 Papers 1959-1960
3 7 Trial Proceedings 1956-1962

Subsubseries C: Commission on Law and Social Action (CLSA), 1955-1966

6 folders
Scope and Content:

This subsubseries contains Polier’s correspondence related to his work with the Commission on Law and Social Action, which he helped found in 1945. He served as the chairman of CLSA for ten years and continued his affiliation for many years after that.

BoxFolderTitleDate
3 8 Correspondence 1955
BoxFolderTitleDate
4 1 Correspondence 1955
4 2 Correspondence 1955-1966
4 3 Correspondence 1958
4 4 Correspondence 1959
4 5 Correspondence 1960-1961

Subseries 3: National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), 1956-1964

3 folders
Scope and Content:

This subseries is made up of correspondence and other documents connected to Polier’s close involvement with the NAACP, where he served on the Executive Committee of its Legal and Educational Defense Fund for thirty years.

BoxFolderTitleDate
4 6 Correspondence, Papers 1956-1961
4 7 Correspondence, Papers 1962-1963
4 8 Defense Fund 1964

Subseries 4: World Jewish Congress (WJC), 1947-1958

5 folders
Scope and Content:

The materials in this subseries concern Polier’s various positions and responsibilities in the World Jewish Congress, mainly correspondence about WJC activities.

BoxFolderTitleDate
5 1 Congressman Franklin Roosevelt's Attack on Dulles' Plan to Sell Arms to Arab States 1954
5 2 Correspondence - A.L. Easterman, Shad Polier, Israel Sieff, Gerhardt Riegner 1947-1958
5 3 Executive Correspondence 1955-1957
5 4 Expansion 1956-1957
5 5 Israel 1954-1957
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Series II: Legal Cases, 1937-1941, 1962-1966

18 folders
Scope and Content:

This series consists of correspondence, legal files, reports, and newspaper clippings relating to cases for which Polier was the attorney. These cases appear to have been separate from his work with the American Jewish Congress and the NAACP.

Subseries 1: Ezra Birnbaum Mobilization for Youth (MFY), 1962-1966

14 folders
Scope and Content:

The folders in this subseries are connected to the 1964 investigation by a New York State anti-subversive investigatory committee of Mobilization for Youth and Ezra Birnbaum, a city youth organizer who worked for MFY.

BoxFolderTitleDate
5 6 Birnbaum's Testimony at Haberman Hearing 1964
5 7 Correspondence 1964
5 8 Correspondence 1965-1966
5 9 Court Papers 1964-1965
BoxFolderTitleDate
6 1 Haberman Report Draft 1964
6 2 Hearing of Nov. 13, 1964 1964
6 3 Miscellaneous 1964
6 4 Miscellaneous 1964-1965
6 5 Preliminary Data Report of Senate Committee 1964
6 6 Press Clippings 1962-1965
6 7 Reports on Mobilization for Youth, Reviews of Screvane Report 1964
6 8 Screvane Report of Nov. 6, 1964 1964
6 9 Social Workers for Civil Rights Action - Response to Screvane Report 1964
6 10 Statement of Nov. 13, 1964 1964

Subseries 2: Weirton Steel Company, 1937-1941

4 folders
Scope and Content:

This subseries concerns the National Labor Relations Board's suit against the Weirton Steel Company for alleged anti-union practices. The files contain mainly correspondence from Polier to his wife, Justine, and to her father, Rabbi Stephen Wise, describing the case, as well as some clippings and some of the trial proceedings.

BoxFolderTitleDate
6 11 Correspondence: Shad Polier to Justine Wise Polier (Original) 1937
6 12 Shad Polier to Justine Wise Polier (Original) 1938
BoxFolderTitleDate
7 1 Shad Polier to Justine Wise Polier 1937-1938
7 2 Press Clippings, Correspondence, Proceedings 1938-1941
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Series III: Civil Liberties Materials, 1950-1969

16 folders
Scope and Content:

This series is made up of material that Polier appears to have collected as research files relating to the various causes and issues that he was personally and professionally concerned with. These include civil rights, race relations and the Jews, fair housing, antisemitism, American Nazism, the separation between church and state, school prayer and the Constitution, federal funding of parochial schools, and freedom of the press and libel laws, among others.

BoxFolderTitleDate
7 3 American Nazism 1960-1964
7 4 Black-Jewish Tensions 1961-1966
7 5 Christian Anti-Semitism undated
7 6 Controversy on Norman Podhoretz's Article, "My Negro Problem-And Ours" 1963
7 7 Fair Housing Act 1950-1958
7 8 Freedom of the Press and The New York Times Libel Case 1963
7 9 Jewish Struggle for Black Civil Rights 1957-1965
7 10 Judge Liebowitz's Attack on Puerto Ricans 1959
7 11 Miscegenation 1964
7 12 Miscellaneous Correspondence 1965
7 13 Miscellaneous Press Clippings 1957-1962
7 14 New York State Law Against Discrimination undated
7 15 Polier / American Jewish Congress 1956-1969
7 16 Religion in Public Education 1960-1965
7 17 School Prayer and the Constitution: Griswold vs. Shad Polier - Correspondence, Articles 1963
7 18 Separation of Church and State in the Funding of Education 1965
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Series IV: Personal Materials, 1923-1926, 1939-1976

17 folders
Scope and Content:

This series contains personal documents and photographs, including Polier's application to change his name, fiction Polier submitted to his college fiction and poetry magazine, newspaper clippings about him, and speeches and articles that he wrote. There are also materials relating to loyalty investigations of Polier, his wife, Justine, and her brother and father.

Subseries 1: General, 1923-1926, 1940-1976

10 folders
Scope and Content:

This subseries consists of documents and photographs related to Polier’s personal life, such as his college writings, his certificate of appointment to the American Arbitration Association, materials relating to Polier’s candidacy for City Council, and tributes written to Polier towards the end of his career.

BoxFolderTitleDate
8 1 Application of Isadore Polier to Change his Name to Shad Polier 1940-1942
8 2 Biographical Information on Shad Polier 1974-1976
8 3 "The Carolinian" Fiction and Poetry Magazine of the University of South Carolina 1923-1926
8 4 Certificate of Appointment to American Arbitration Association 1941
8 5 Fair Deal Democratic Candidate for City Council 1949
8 6 Miscelleaneous Press Clippings 1957-1968
8 7 Photographs 1963-1971, undated
8 8 Poliers' Trip to Hungary and the Soviet Union 1959
8 9 Tributes to Shad Polier 1970-1976
8 10 Writings, Speeches 1957-1959

Subseries 2: Loyalty Investigation, 1939-1956

7 folders
Scope and Content:

This subseries relates to the loyalty investigations directed against Shad Polier, Justine Wise Polier, her brother, James Waterman Wise, as well as material on allegations directed posthumously against Wise Polier’s father, Rabbi Stephen Wise.

BoxFolderTitleDate
8 11 Accusations Against Stephen Wise - Correspondence 1950-1954
8 12 Correspondence on Defense of James Waterman Wise 1951-1954
8 13 Investigation of Shad Polier and Justine Polier as Alleged Communists 1947-1954
8 14 Letter from Most Reverend J. Sheil to His Excellency Most Reverend John F. Noll on the Subject of Communists in the U.S. 1945
8 15 Press Clippings, Open Letters on Accusations Against Stephen Wise and Others 1953-1954
8 16 Robert St. John 1954-1956
8 17 Sworn Affadavits in Defense of James Waterman Wise 1939-1952
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Series V: Correspondence, 1927-1976

15 folders
Scope and Content:

This series consists of personal correspondence between Polier and various public figures, such as Felix Frankfurter, Hubert Humphrey, Ted Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., Thurgood Marshall, Eleanor Roosevelt, Adlai Stevenson, and Roy Wilkins, among others.

BoxFolderTitleDate
8 18 General Correspondence 1927-1971
8 19 El Mehdi Ben Aboud (Ambassador of Morocco) 1957
8 20 Felix Frankfurter 1929-1933
8 21 John Haynes Holmes 1957
8 22 Hubert Humphrey 1968
8 23 Letter to Senator Kennedy and a Speech by Justine Wise Polier Called "Who Are Our Neighbors?" 1976
8 24 Martin Luther King, Jr. 1958
8 25 Thurgood Marshall 1958-1961
8 26 Letters to Justine Wise Polier 1938
8 27 Eleanor Roosevelt 1957
8 28 Letter to Eleanor Roosevelt from Charles Nesselewitz, cover letter from Mrs. Roosevelt to Shad Polier 1959
8 29 Adlai E. Stevenson 1956
BoxFolderTitleDate
9 1 Roy Wilkins 1955-1959
9 2 James Waterman Wise re: Denial of Passport While Investigated as Alleged Communist 1939-1953
9 3 Stephen Wise undated
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Series VI: Adoption Cases, 1916-1923, 1941-1970

78 folders
Scope and Content:

This series contains materials concerning the adoption cases with which Shad Polier was involved, either through the Free Synagogue Child Adoption Committee, later Louise Wise Services, for which Polier was the attorney, or through his own law office. There is also material about New York state adoption legislation, which was monitored by Louise Wise Services, including the impact of religion on adoption, and correspondence about cases that Polier was connected with or interested in. Justine Wise Polier, Polier’s wife, was a judge in New York Family Court for 35 years and some of the materials appear to have originated from her office. The adoption case files have been restricted.

Subseries 1: Legislation and Correspondence, 1946-1970

20 folders
Scope and Content:

This subseries contains correspondence about and copies of New York state adoption legislation policies, mainly concerning the way in which religion affects adoption.

BoxFolderTitleDate
9 4 Adoption Legislation 1963
9 5 Adoption Legislation 1964
9 6 Adoption Legislation 1965
9 7 Adoption Legislation 1968
9 8 Adoption Legislation 1969
9 9 Attorney's Fees 1964
9 10 Concurrent Jurisdiction 1965
9 11 Concurrent Jurisdiction 1965
9 12 Concurrent Jurisdiction 1968
BoxFolderTitleDate
10 1 Correspondence 1946-1947
10 2 Correspondence 1947-1949
10 3 Family Court Act - Commitment 1964
10 4 Family Court Act - Forms 1964-1965
10 5 Family Court Act - Procedural 1964
10 6 Family Court Procedures 1964-1965
10 7 Gordon Bill (NY, 1961) 1961
10 8 "The Permanently Neglected Child," by Shad Polier 1959
10 9 Racial Discrimination in Placement of Children 1947-1951
10 10 Religion in Child Adoption and Other Placements - Correspondence 1969-1970
10 11 Religion in Child Adoption and Other Placements - Correspondence 1970

Subseries 2: Case Files RESTRICTED, 1916-1923, 1941-1962

58 folders
Scope and Content:

This subseries has been restricted.

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