The American Jewish Archives
By 1947, United States Jewry had become the largest, most prosperous,
and influential Jewish community in the world. Jacob Marcus believed
that the time had come to make provision for collecting the records
that would help document the history of this substantial and vibrant
Marcus founded the American Jewish Archives (AJA) in 1947 on both
a philosophical principal and out of practical necessity. As a
historian Marcus argued that "a people that is not conscious of
its past has no assurance of a future."
He located the new institution on the Cincinnati campus of the
Hebrew Union College Jewish Institute of Religion where he was
a long-time faculty member. The American Jewish Archives, however,
was founded as a semi-autonomous institution in order to insure
that it would become national repository of American Jewish records.
In 1948, Marcus followed the founding of the AJA with the establishment
of the semi-annual scholarly journal, The American Jewish Archives
(now The American Jewish Archives Journal). In 1956,
he founded the American Jewish Periodical Center as an ancillary
agency to the work of the AJA to collect and microfilm Jewish
periodicals published in the United States.
Beginning in late 1940's, Marcus initiated a diligent program
to collect congregational records, rabbinical papers, letters,
diaries, Jewish newspapers, and the records of Jewish institutions,
societies, and individuals. In addition to his copious scholarly
activities and teaching duties, Marcus traveled widely and maintained
a voluminous correspondence to support these collecting efforts.
By the turn of the twentieth century, what began as a few file
cabinets of synagogue minute books in a room of the Hebrew Union
College library, has grown into approximately twelve thousand
linear feet of catalogued records housed in it's own state-of-the-art
archival facility. It is one of the largest collections of documents
about the American Jewish community in the world.
After Marcus' death in 1995, the name of the institution was changed
to The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives
in honor of its founding Director.