Skip to Content

Jewish Community Center of Greater Buffalo and Summer Camps records

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MS-0204

Scope and Contents

The collection of Jewish Community Center of Greater Buffalo records contains a wide range of material, dominated by photographs across all age groups and program-related materials including brochures, programs, and advertising for adults and children. Also present are correspondence, reports, publications, newsletters, and handwritten documents. Some of the photographs in this collection 's three series are featured in the Jewish Buffalo Image Collection.

The Jewish Community Center offers social, cultural, educational, wellness, and recreational programs and services across a diverse age range. Many of the papers of the Jewish Community Center illuminate this mission through newsletters, reports and correspondence. The numerous photographs illustrate pre-school and after school care from the 1940s to the present day, as well as Jewish holidays and youth activities from the 1950s to the 2000s. Health and fitness form the theme of many photographs from the 1920s to the 2000s. Boxing, wrestling and fencing photos and team photos of boys basketball in the mid 1950s are particularly well represented in the record. Arts and cultural activities, in all forms, for all ages are other significant subthemes.

The JCC also organizes community wide programming and events often connected o fundraising events as well as participating in commemorative events such Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Memorial Day) with the Holocaust Resource Center, the Jewish Federation and the Bureau of Jewish Education. The Buffalo International Jewish Film Festival, originally founded in 1984 as the Jewish Film Festival, is represented with programming and publicity, and the Annual Jewish Community Book Fair, founded in 1966 (which celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2006) is also documented through program and publicity literature over the years. Theater is represented in a number of ways. Youth theatre is a strong force in the 1960s to the 1990s and is tracked in photographs. Theatre by adults has a longer history, with materials from the 1950s. Plays are arranged by name and range from Jewish themed to general drama. This theatre material is complemented by a relatively new institution - Jewish Repertory Theatre - originally independent and as of 2011 with theater space in the Getzville JCC. Programs and publicity form the nucleus of this sub-collection.


  • 1915-2009


Language of Materials

Collection material in English.

Terms of Access

The Jewish Community Center of Greater Buffalo and Summer Camps records, 1915-2009 are open for research. Digital files may only be accessed onsite within the library at this time.


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.

Historical Note

Jewish Community Center of Greater Buffalo

The Jewish Community Center in Buffalo began as an outgrowth of a movement started in 1891 by the Sisterhood of Zion. A rented dwelling on Walnut Street served as a “place where Jews of all ages could come together for various cultural, recreational and educational pursuits”. A move to Spring Street followed, until in 1896 a new building on Jefferson Avenue was purchased and called “Zion House”. Within a decade the need to expand led to the erection of the Jewish Community Building (JCB), also on Jefferson, where an active program thrived for many years. A small number of the larger photographs - the earliest in the collection - date from the JCB period. The JCB was forced to vacate these premises in 1943 as part of the Willert Park Government Housing Project, and the building became a community building for the Project’s residents. The JCB had a series of temporary quarters in the Talmud Torah building on Hickory Street, followed by a more permanent home in a converted factory on Monroe Street where it relocated in 1944.

Another organization, the Jewish Young Men’s Association used the JCC building as its’ meeting place for several years. In 1924, the JYMA changed its’ name to the Young Men’s Hebrew Association (YMHA). This explains the inclusion of a small number of this organization's materials in the JCC collection. After a period of inactivity and reorganization, the “Y” eventually moved to its own home on Linwood Avenue in 1937. In 1945, their building was demolished by fire on New Year’s Day. This event and the increasingly cramped JCB facilities in the Monroe Building led to the formation of a special committee. In 1945, the Board of Directors of the JCB and the “Y” merged under a single corporation, as the Jewish Center of Buffalo (JCC). In March of 1947, the Jewish Center administrative offices joined the Jewish Federation and the Jewish Community Service Society in the Root Building on W. Chippewa. Still without a dedicated home, the JCC ran extension programs in area temples, public schools and other institutions.

In August 1946, a lot on the corner of Delaware Avenue and Summer Street was purchased by the New Building Committee for future construction. Funding for the building, known as the ‘Delaware Avenue JCC’ came from the proceeds from the sale of the Monroe Street building and $500,000 in pledges by 1,500 families. The remainder of the funds came from a net capital fund grant from the United Jewish Federation of Buffalo during the 1948-1951 campaigns of the local United Jewish Fund. The “Center” in Buffalo opened in 1949. Within less than a decade and as a direct result of the population movement to the suburbs, a site for the construction of a suburban branch of the Jewish Center was purchased on North Bailey in the late 1950s. A comprehensive evaluation, completed in 1965, suggested plans for the next decade. One recommendation was to change the name of the JCC to the Jewish Community Center of Greater Buffalo, Inc., to denote the broader service area covering the Niagara Frontier. At this time the North Bailey suburban property was sold, and in its place, fourteen acres on North Forest Road followed. Ground-breaking ceremonies were held in October of 1972 and in 1974 the suburban building opened in Getzville. In the fall of 1983, the Center was the recipient of a gift of $1 million from Nathan Benderson and Family and in May 1984, the suburban building was named the Benderson Family Building in a dedication ceremony. Just five years later, in 1989, the JCC held a mortgage burning ceremony. In May of 1994, Ann Holland Cohn gifted the JCC with $1 million from the estate of her father, Henry Holland, for the upgrade and renovation of the Delaware Avenue JCC building. The Delaware Avenue site, since known as the Holland building, underwent another range of renovation improvements beginning in 2008 and completed in 2010. From 2011, agency relocations from Buffalo into the JCC Getzville building accelerated resulting in a consolidation of several entities under “one roof”. By June 2012, the Jewish Federation of Greater Buffalo, the Bureau of Jewish Education and the Foundation for Jewish Philanthropies had all relocated from downtown Buffalo to the JCC Benderson Building in Getzville.

Camp Centerland and Camp Lakeland

Camp Centerland was founded as a day camp in Elma, NY to provide young children with a Jewish day camp experience that included outdoor activities, sports, field trips, visitors, crafts, and theater and music programs. Photographs illustrate the wide array of activities over time with early photos from the 1950s and 1960s as well as many from the 1980s to the present day.

Centerland began in the period following World War II, when an intermittent program of day camps in local parks such as Beaver Island and other communal facilities including synagogues began. In 1954, Centerland expanded into its own facility, when the Jewish Community Center purchased a 78-acre tract of land in rural Elma, New York. Camp Centerland. It opened the following summer in 1955. The camp has grown and developed dramatically with new facilities added over the years. In the 1960's a second swimming pool was added to accommodate the growing camp population and to provide a better teaching facility for small children. In the 1970's a large dining hall with a full commercial kitchen was added to replace an older complex of facilities attached to the property's main house. In the 1990s and 2000s, extensive renovations and more facilities were added. Children were organized into separate “units” and the extensive photographic collection provides unit pictures of many of these groups over the years.

Camp Lakeland opened as the Jewish Fresh Air Camp in 1910 run under the auspices of the Young Women’s Jewish Benevolent Society. In the earliest days of the camp, the volunteer Society took ten to fifteen children needy children to a “Fresh Air Camp” in Fort Erie on the Canadian lakeshore. A formal Fresh Air Camp was established in Angola, New York in 1914 with the gift of thirteen acres of land by the Eli David Hofeller family. Inspired by social welfare, the philosophy of the Jewish Fresh Air Camp was to “get poor children off the hot city streets and into the country for two weeks.” The Camp was free and was run by volunteer members of the Benevolent Society. Children and their mothers came to camp for fresh air, clean clothes and wholesome meals. By the 1920s, over 140 mothers and babies stayed at the camp in the two weeks running up to Labor Day and about three hundred children attended the camp split over two separate sessions: one for boys and another for girls. Children initially registered at the Jewish Community Building for their place and were given medical exams that determined their length of stay from two weeks to a month dependent of health status. Concentrating less on Jewish practice or Judaism, the Camp sought to instill “sound morals as well as sound bodies” and achieved this through scheduled physical activity, drills and skills development (handicrafts for the girls and scouting for the boys).

In 1937 as part of a community wide effort begun in the 1920s to absorb independent entities into the Jewish Federation, the Jewish Fresh Air Camp became part of the Federation. In 1945, with the help of Jewish Federation, an additional 120 acres were purchased, and the camp at Angola was fully developed. In 1947 the name of the Jewish Fresh Air Camp was changed to Camp Lakeland, and in the early 1950’s it became a co-ed camp. The postwar period brought other changes. Greater emphasis was placed on developing the total child and as economic conditions for Jewish families improved and as the costs of operating camp rose, fees were established. Those who could do so paid a top fee; those who could not were given an adjusted fee upon request. By the mid-1950’s, Lakeland outgrew its Angola home and with the aid of the United Jewish Federation and the National Jewish Welfare Board, research began on a search for a new camp site with a new camp program more in keeping with changing concepts in the field of camping.

In the meanwhile the volunteer Camp Lakeland Association Board of 27 Jewish women and a Volunteer Advisory Board of 37 men that owned and operated the camp continued to set camp policy, provide funds for its scholarship campers, solicit contributions, and donate money for buildings, program supplies and camp equipment. It did this by establishing its “Joy Fund,” later renamed “Gift Fund.” At its acme, the Lakeland Association had over 700 members who paid annual dues.

In 1961, a 733-acre site was located and purchased at Franklinville, Cattaraugus County, New York. Plans for the move from the now urban Angola site to the rural Franklinville began in earnest. In the summer of 1970, Camp Lakeland began its sixtieth season of continuous operation and its first full season on the new site at Franklinville. The camp at Angola was sold to the New York State Department of Mental Hygiene. In 1974, Camp Lakeland became part of the Jewish Center of Greater Buffalo and the total operation of the Camp moved under the auspices of the Jewish Community Center and its Camp Committee. The Camp Lakeland Association remained active despite this merger, continuing as a fundraising arm. Outdoor activities, swimming, drama, arts and crafts, Jewish study and Sabbath services, as well as weekend camping trips, nature lessons and general socializing represented an overview of the many activities and experiences offered at the camp. Changing demographics in the Jewish community in Greater Buffalo, rising costs, and general changes in the way in which children and youth spent the summer months forced the closing of Camp Lakeland in 2009 just short of the Camp’s 100th year. The Camp Lakeland Association continues its fundraising function, however, providing scholarships for Jewish campers from the Buffalo area to stay at the Rochester Jewish Community Camp funded Camp Seneca Lake, outside of Rochester, NY. Most of the materials in the Camp Lakeland series focus on publications and photographs across the years from the early 1930s to the early 2000s.


24.1 Linear Feet (11 cartons, 2 manuscript boxes, 5 photo boxes, 2 flat boxes, 1 flat oversize box)

3 Gigabytes (approximately 15,000 files)


The collection of Jewish Community Center (JCC) of Greater Buffalo and Summer Camps Records contains a wide range of material, dominated by photographs and program-related materials for the JCC, Camp Lakeland and Camp Centerland. Also, contains correspondence, reports, publications, newsletters, and handwritten documents. An additional three other collections are included: annual Jewish community book fair records; Jewish Film Festival and Jewish Repertory Theatre records.


This collection is arranged in three series: I. Jewish Community Centers, II. Jewish Fresh Air Camp/Camp Lakeland, and III. Camp Centerland.

Acquisition Information

Collection was received from the Jewish Community Center of Greater Buffalo in March 2009. This collection is part of the Jewish Buffalo Archives Project, a collaboration between the Bureau of Jewish Education of Greater Buffalo and the University Archives in the University Libraries, State University of New York at Buffalo. 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 Jewish Philanthropies. The Archives Project collects mainly twentieth 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. The collection is housed in the University Archives.

Accruals and Additions

No further accruals are expected to this collection.

Related Resources

Processing Information

Processed by Chana Revell Kotzin, June 2012. Digital material processed by Grace Trimper, October 2022.
Finding aid encoded by Gabriella Carlo and Danielle White, March 2015.

Digital files created by the Jewish Community Center of Greater Buffalo were transferred to University Archives on storage media including compact disks. Where possible, digital content saved on storage media was migrated from the storage media, normalized to standard preservation and access formats, and transferred to a stable preservation environment following the University Libraries' Digital Preservation guidelines. Some folder titles were altered and file arrangement reorganized to assist researchers in locating and identifying digital content. File names were altered to include the collection name at the beginning of the original file name.


Finding Aid for the Jewish Community Center of Greater Buffalo and Summer Camps records
Finding aid prepared by Chana Revell Kotzin.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
The Records of the Jewish Community Center of Greater Buffalo and Summer Camps were surveyed in 2009 with funding from the Documentary Heritage Program of the New York State Archives, a program of the State Education Department. The arrangement and description of the collection was made possible, in part, by a second grant from the Documentary Heritage Program of the New York State Archives in 2011/2012.

Repository Details

Part of the University Archives Repository

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