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American Jewish Committee, Buffalo/Niagara Chapter records

 Collection — Box: 1-15
Identifier: MS-0206

Scope and Contents

Records of the American Jewish Committee - Buffalo/Niagara Chapter primarily from its final 20 years of operation documenting interfaith and Jewish heritage programming and community awards.


  • 1977-2007
  • Majority of material found within 1985-2007


Language of Materials

Collection material in English.

Terms of Access

The American Jewish Committee, Buffalo/Niagara Chapter records, 1977-2008 (bulk 1985-2007) 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.

Historical Note

From the AJC website on May 10, 2012:

"American Jewish Committee (AJC), established in 1906 by a small group of American Jews deeply concerned about pogroms aimed at Russian Jews, determined that the best way to protect Jewish populations in danger would be to work towards a world in which all peoples were accorded respect and dignity.

Over 100 years later, AJC continues its efforts to promote pluralistic and democratic societies where all minorities are protected. AJC is an international think tank and advocacy organization that attempts to identify trends and problems early - and take action. The key areas of focus are:

Combating anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry;
Promoting pluralism and shared democratic values;
Supporting Israel's quest for peace and security;
Advocating for energy independence;
Strengthening Jewish life."

The Buffalo/Niagara Chapter

The Buffalo/Niagara Chapter was created in 1943 and disbanded in 2007. It was described in the brochure Shalom Buffalo in 1992 this way: The American Jewish Committee, the pioneer human relations agency in the United States, protects the rights and freedoms of Jews the world over and works for the security of Israel. The local chapter sponsors interfaith and intergroup activities, gives an annual high school Human Relations Award, a Community Relations Award and an Institute of Human Relations Award to outstanding citizens in the Buffalo area. It deals with Jewish communal affairs, public policy and legislative activities state-side and nationally and actively combats anti-Semitism and bigotry.

Excerpts from the 50th Anniversary (1993) bulletin essay "How We Began" follow:

The Buffalo Chapter was born out of a long-brewing conflict over Palestine - those who urged caution and those who, stirred by stories of Jewish massacres in Europe and British intransigence in Palestine, wanted immediate action. A meeting, held at the Hotel Statler, to select Buffalo delegates for an American Jewish Conference sent David Diamond and Emil Rubenstein to New York City. They along with other delegates, demanded by acclamation, the famous Biltmore Resolution. This resolution demanded commonwealth status for Palestine, the end of the 1939 White Paper, and a Jewish Army to defend the Yishuv from the Axis.

The process of organizing a Buffalo Chapter began with Eugene Warner in 1943 and 1944. Judge Samuel J. Harris chaired the organization from 1945-1948 when Sol. J. Levy took over as chair. Haskell Stovroff became treasurer in 1946 and vice-chair in 1948. Other officers in those early years between 1945 and 1958 were Arthur J. Goldberg, Mrs. Heffran J. Cohen, Nathan P. Himmel, Dr. Robert Warner, Mrs. Richard H. Barmon and Judge Philip Halpern. Chapter Chairmen who followed were Alfred M. Saperston, Stanley G. Falk, Paul P. Cohen, Richard H. Wile and Edward H. Kavinoky.

The chapter's operation was based primarily on the concept of support for the national organization. These chairmen had not considered the chapter as a vehicle for involvement in programming on a community level. Meetings were held sporadically, membership averaged around 150. Chapter leaders included Howard Saperston, Judge Philip Halpern, Rabbi Louis J. Kopald, Rabbi Joseph L. Fink, Dorothy Goldberg, Harry Fleischmann, Frances Proskauer Cohen, Joseph Markel, Maurice Tabor, Judge Louis W. Marcus, Herman Wile, Frederick Ullman, Arthur Ball, Arthur Victor, Jr., Lester Gross, Robert O. Swados, Harold Ehrlich and Joseph Desmond.

Early programs dealt with separatism, non-sectarian scout groups, self-segregation, prevention of a Passion Play in Buffalo, desecration of religious organizations with swastikas, hate mail, the Arab Boycott and the endorsement of the New York State Fair Housing Law. In addition, Dr. Morris N. Kertzer spoke on "Jews in Russia Today." A Civil Rights Symposium was held with guest speaker Dean Clyde Ferguson. There was also a panel discussion on "The Pursuit of Human Equality."

Buffalo Chapter's name was changed to the Buffalo-Niagara Frontier Chapter under the recommendation of Paul P. Cohen and the first newsletter was printed in 1956 under the chairmanship of Richard H. Wile.

The middle years of Buffalo Chapter, 1959-1980, saw many changes. The chapter held more programs. Under Mrs. Benjamin Obletz's chairmanship, the chapter's first woman chairperson, the Community Relations Award was born with Paul P. Cohn receiving the very first award. Chapter Chairmen were Robert O. Swados, Lauren D. Rachlin, Arnold B. Gardner, Mrs. Benjamin Obletz, Richard Lipsitz, Jay E. Brett, Wayne D. Wisbaum, Ralph L. Halpern, Edwin A. Wolf, and Stephen M. Newman.

Programming during these years included co-chairing the Jewish Book Fair with Norman Podhoretz as guest speaker. The Chapter worked closely with the Students for Israel Group at the University of Buffalo where we provided advice and financial cooperation. Some of the programs on campus included "The New Left and Israel" with guest speaker Jerry Rifkin, and "Jewish Youth on Campus: A Hemispheric View" with Dr. Abraham Monk.

"Where the Rainbow Ends", an Interfaith Rock Service held its world premier in 1972 in Buffalo. Cantor Raymond Smolover, the composer, was commissioned by Buffalo Chapter to create this Interfaith Service. The Department of Religious Studies at Canisius College and the Buffalo Council of Churches co-sponsored. The Chapter played a significant role with civic and other non-profit organizations in discouraging attention at the Western New York Nazi Rally that was planned for Buffalo in 1980.

The period from 1980 to 1993 was summarized at the 50th anniversary:

Shirley T. Joseph assumed the first paid staff position in 1980 for a brief period. Marlene Glickman became Area Director in 1981 and was still in that position at the 50th anniversary. Presidents from 1981 to 1994 were: Joanne Biltekoff, Joan Ellis Shatkin, Fred Holender, Sylvia R. Ginsberg, Richard J. Lippes, David M. Dunkelman, Judith H. Katz, Dr. Allan L. Korn, and Laurence B. Oppenheimer.

Programs of major significance include an Interfaith Teacher Training Program sponsored by the AJC, the Council of Churches and the National Conference for Community and Justice. A Community Interfaith Dialogue Program co-sponsored by the Community Relations Council of the Buffalo Jewish Federation created a pilot project which brought together the Jewish community with representatives of Buffalo Area Metropolitan Ministries (BAMM) to explore political and social topics of importance. Twelve Jewish and non-Jewish congregations met on a continual basis for several years. A summer picnic on the Nichols School grounds and a mission to Israel were part of this Dialogue.

Arnold and Sue Gardner joined a national eight member delegation for an audience with Pope John Paul II that commemorated the 20th anniversary of Vatican Council II and its adoption of the historic declaration - "Nostra Acetate." A conference on Catholic-Jewish Relations, The Unfinished Agenda, co-sponsored by the Buffalo Board of Rabbis and the CRC brought Rabbi A. James Rudin and Dr. Eugene Fisher to Buffalo as keynote speakers.

The annual High School Human Relations Award was created in 1986. Workshops were conducted for teachers on creating intergroup relations programs, for Black and Jewish students on the SUNY campus that addressed discrimination and racism and a dialogue "Addressing Diversity in the 1990's" that brought together Blacks, Hindus, Moslems and Christians. Ongoing programs were established with the Polish community through the Polish-Jewish Task Force, and the Black community through the African American - Jewish American Task Force. Co-sponsored with BAMM was the 1991 conference "Harmony Amidst Diversity" which continued to have annual seminars. Other major seminars included "The Media and Its Impact, the Annual Racial Justice Meeting with the YWCA, Jewish Women on the Way Up with the Foundation for Jewish Philanthropies, the Peace Bridge Conference with the Better Business Bureau of Western New York, the annual Interfaith Community Seder, and the two part seminar on Community Policing and Policing Buffalo in the 1990's held at City Hall.

The period following the 50th anniversary in 1993 is reflected well in this collection. The 1999-2000 calendar shows continued interfaith and historical Jewish programming and annual award dinners. The Chapter disbanded in 2007.


17.25 Linear Feet (14 cartons, 1 legal envelope)


Records of the American Jewish Committee - Buffalo/Niagara Chapter primarily from its final 20 years of operation documenting interfaith and Jewish heritage programming and community awards.


This collection is arranged in nine series: I. Board of Directors, II. Administrative files, III. Award dinners, IV. High school programs, V. Interfaith programming, VI. Membership, VII. Polish Jewish relations, VIII. Programming - general, and IX. Videotapes and memorabilia.

Acquisition Information

Collection was received from the American Jewish Committee in March 2012. 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

Inventoried by Chana Revell Kotzin and Kathryn McKinney, April 2012; processed by Karen Spencer, May 2012.
Finding aid encoded by Danielle White, February 2015.


Finding Aid for the American Jewish Committee, Buffalo/Niagara Chapter records
Finding aid prepared by Karen Spencer.
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The arrangement and description of the records of the American Jewish Committee Buffalo/Niagara Chapter was made possible, in part, by a 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)