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Ethel Roblin Melzer papers

 Collection — Box: 1
Identifier: MS-0200-0016

Scope and Contents

Series I contains clippings relating to Ethel’s war-time community service as a youth as well as an entry from a local 1920’s publication giving information about the Robin family in Buffalo. In addition an oversized, genealogical tree of the Melzer family is included. Series II highlights some of the community involvement that Ethel has participated in, or lead, over the last fifty years (excluding her work at the Jewish Centers and children’s summer camps). Much of this material consists of invitations, programs, clippings, and photographs, as well as written speeches delivered at particular events. Several highlights include the Israel Expo, NCJW award and AJC materials.

Series III forms the largest series and includes materials relating to Ethel Melzer’s involvement in a number of capacities with the Jewish Community Center and Camp Lakeland. This also includes materials from her involvement in the national JCC body known as the Jewish Welfare Board ( JWB). Other materials include questionnaires, reading materials, clippings, and articles about Ethel Melzer, as well as her speeches including a tribute to Camile Plant. The merger of Camp Lakeland and the JCC is recorded through an article announcement. A file with curriculum vitae drafts and service learning materials for college credit at Empire State College is also included. A number of lists of goals for her presidency provide insight into various programs and initiatives that were enacted or initiated under her presidency.

Series IV has materials on the Bureau of Jewish Education, including flyers, and general correspondence relating to the Florence Melton Adult Mini-School and Adult Education. The last series (Series V) is a mixture of loose materials, including obituary clippings of notable Buffalonians, as well as a photograph taken at the retirement of Bill Grossman, a JCC executive director.

Researchers should be aware that these materials are extended by other papers within the Jewish Community Archives. Ethel Melzer’s activities within Jewish Federation can be found in MS 150.1. More information and documentation about her activities can also be found in papers with the Jewish Community Center and Summer Camp papers in MS 204. Draft notes relating to an oral history conducted by Selig Adler are found in MS 150.4.


  • 1932-2012
  • Majority of material found within ( 1974-2012)


Language of Materials

Collection material in English.

Terms of Access

The Ethel Roblin Melzer Papers, 1932-2012 (bulk 1974-2012) are open for research.


Copyright of papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns. Researchers must obtain the written permission of the holder(s) of copyright and the University Archives before publishing quotations from materials in th collection. Most papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures unless otherwise specified.

Biographical Note

Ethel Roblin Melzer was born Ethel Joan Roblin in Buffalo in 1932 and has been active in the Jewish community in numerous capacities over the last fifty years as both volunteer and paid professional. While still raising two young children, Ethel Melzer began as a volunteer for the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW), Buffalo Section as their Publication and Bulletin Chairman producing copies of the section’s newsletter from her basement in the 1950s. Eventually she served as Tribute Fund Chairman and then moved onto the NCJW Board of Directors through the early 1960s. At around the same time Ethel Melzer became involved in Camp Centerland, the Jewish day camp run by the Jewish Community Center (JCC). She began working on the Program committee and then moved onto the Children’s and Junior Committee. In 1964, Ethel joined the JCC Board of Directors and served as a member until 1969. From this position, she was invited onto the Camp Lakeland Association Board – the constituent resident camp agency of the Buffalo Jewish community. Ethel was elected to serve as Vice President of the Camp Lakeland Association Board in 1970, and continued in that role until she became President of the Camp Lakeland Association Board, serving from 1972 until 1974. Ethel Melzer also served on the Jewish Welfare Board (a national body, now known as Jewish Community Centers of North America ( JCCA)).

Reelected to the JCC board, Ethel was appointed Vice-President of Camping Services at the JCC in 1974, serving in this capacity until 1978. During her Vice-Presidency, in 1974, she negotiated the merger of Camp Lakeland and the JCC. From then on, the day-to-day operations of the local overnight Camp came under the auspices of the Jewish Community Center. Elected as the first female President of the Jewish Community Center in 1978, Ethel also founded the Israel Information Desk at the JCC. In addition she oversaw the Actor In Residence Program with Mike Kellin, the premiere of Chaverim Chamber Orchestra and a Yiddish Film series, as well as laying the groundwork for a Family Group Services Department, part of a JCC Study Commission III recommendation. A specially equipped bus for transporting elderly and handicapped was also acquired under Ethel Melzer’s presidency, and renovation for frail, elderly and disabled at the Delaware building was completed by 1980.

On finishing her term as President of the JCC, she continued her association with the JCC by chairing a highly successful Travel Auction in 1980. By 1990 the Travel Auction had raised over $650,000 in scholarship funds for free or reduced community memberships. From the mid 1970s she also became active in the Jewish Federation, later serving as a Vice-Chairman and then Chairman of the Women’s Division United Jewish Fund Campaign. Ethel Melzer was also a member of the steering committee, that prepared for over a year, for Israel Expo’76– a week-long festival celebrating all aspects of Israeli culture- at the Jewish Center on Delaware Avenue and within Temple Beth Zion, also on Delaware Avenue in Buffalo. This festival brought over 4000 visitors to experience Israeli science, technology and culture, and provided a model for other ethnic group festivals in Buffalo. Israel Expo required over 1000 volunteers and the aid of the architectural department at a local college to build replica elements of the Kotel (the Western Wall -the closest point to the holiest room of the temple, the holy of holies in Jerusalem). The multi-day festival is recalled in the memory of many Jewish Buffalonians with enjoyment and pride.

As well as positions of leadership within the Jewish community, Ethel Melzer has contributed to other organizations including the United Way. As an ex-President, Ethel remains on the JCC Board as a lifetime Board member. She has been on two Israel Missions with the Jewish Federation. She has also served on the board of the American Jewish Committee and in 1993 chaired a major fundraiser dinner. At Temple Beth Zion, at various time, she served as a board member, a member of the North East Community Relations Committee and a Temple Beth Zion Long Range Planning Committee, Rabbinic search committees as well as a member of the regional board of the UAHC now known as the Union of Reform Judaism.

Ethel is a graduate of the Florence Melton Adult Mini-School and was hired by the Bureau of Jewish Education to run the Florence Melton Adult Mini-School (FMAMS) in Buffalo from September 2004. She worked as the Director of FMAMS until 2011 at which point adult education was reorganized at the Bureau of Jewish Education, and she became the Adult Education Director.

Ethel Melzer has been awarded numerous community service awards, from the United Way, the Jewish Federation, the National Council of Jewish Women, the Jewish Community Center and the Camp Lakeland Association among others.


.5 Linear Feet (1 manuscript box, 2 envelopes)


Personal papers documenting the personal and career life of local communal leader, Ethel Roblin Melzer. Materials include photographs, speeches, newspaper clippings, media, and other material relating to her volunteer service and professional careers in the Jewish community.


The collection is arranged in five series:

  1. Personal Materials relating to childhood and family
  2. Community Involvement and Leadership
  3. Jewish Community Center (JCC), Camp Lakeland, Jewish Welfare Board (JWB)
  4. Bureau of Jewish Education
  5. Other Materials

Acquisition Information

Ethel Roblin Melzer donated materials in January 2009. The papers were initially arranged and described in July 2009, but several accruals followed including August 2009, June 2010 and November 2012. The collection was arranged again in December 2012 and it was deposited at the University Archives, Special Collections by the Jewish Buffalo Archives Project in December 2012.

The Jewish Buffalo Archives Project was founded in late 2007 under the auspices of the Bureau of Jewish Education of Greater Buffalo with a seed grant from the Foundation for Jewish Philanthropies. The Archives Project collects mainly 20th century documentation relating to the diverse histories, religious traditions and cultures of Jewish communities within the Greater Buffalo area of Western New York, encompassing the geographic areas of Erie and Niagara Counties and partners with the University Archives at the University at Buffalo to make these records accessible.

Accruals and Additions

No accruals are expected to this collection.

Related Materials

Processing Information

Processed by Chana Revell Kotzin, November 2012.


Finding Aid for the Ethel Roblin Melzer papers
Finding aid prepared by Chana Revell Kotzin.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
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Language of description note
The arrangement and description of the Ethel Roblin Melzer Papers was made possible by funding obtained through the Foundation for Jewish Philanthropies and the Bureau of Jewish Education.

Repository Details

Part of the University Archives Repository

420 Capen Hall
Buffalo New York 14260-1674 US
716-645-3714 (Fax)