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 American Jewry.
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.