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Elinor Weiss Papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MS-0200-0045

Scope and Contents

The papers of Elinor Weiss offer an understanding of several interconnected areas of activism for the general community and within the Buffalo Jewish community from the 1960s through 2016. Series I highlights aspects of National Council of Jewish Women during the decades of the 1980s and 1990s. The NCJW was founded in 1893 as a local grassroots community organization of Jewish women volunteers committed to progressive ideals and social justice to improve the quality of life for women, children, and families. It also holds a commitment to safeguarding individual rights and freedoms through advocacy and education. The collection includes testimony researched and written by Elinor Weiss on a variety of issues relating to the link between women’s lives, work and poverty, mandatory drug testing, and censorship in Schools. It was within the NCJW framework that Weiss was also active in developing numerous testimonies on the need for environmental safeguards and oversight both locally and globally.

Series II extends Weiss’ interest in environmental activism to focus on specific local activities including the Pfohl Brothers Landfill Cleanup Committee in Cheektowaga and mosquito and pesticide controls in Amherst, NY. It includes significant materials relating to the campaign for clean up in the form of letters and clippings and testimony. This series also includes materials relating to radioactive release and water contamination into Lake Erie, as well as separate concerns regarding the dangers of labeling nuclear waste, “below regulatory concern.” A long running effort to change chemicals used and oversight for mosquito spraying and other pesticide use in Amherst, NY is also part of this series.

Series III includes a variety of materials relating to a run for the 142nd District New York Assembly that includes campaign literature and photographs. Series IV highlights Israel Advocacy through programming and letters to the editor, or general articles relating to Israel. Programs have included, “Tolerating Intolerance,” and “How to Talk about Israel.” Letters, articles, advocacy and activism led to a 2016 award by the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America in New York City.

The collection also houses ephemera in the form of buttons such as one made by a committee member of the Pfohl Brothers Landfill Cleanup Committee. Other buttons relate to women’s rights, Elinor Weiss’ assembly run, her activism for libraries, and issues within the Buffalo public school systems, as well as National Council of Jewish Women roles and interests. An MIA (Missing in Action) bracelet for Major Earl Glenn Cobeil is also part of this holding. Major Cobeil went missing on November 5, 1967 in Vietnam. His name is listed on Panel 29E, Row 23 of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC., as part of a memorial to those who were killed while serving in Vietnam.


  • 1984-2016


Language of Materials

Collection material in English.

Terms and Access

The personal papers of Elinor Weiss (bulk 1984-2016) are open for research. There are no restrictions regarding access to or use of this collection.

Physical Access

Original poster information housed in MS 200.25 box 2.


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 the collection. Most papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures unless otherwise specified.

Biographical Note

A retired educator, Elinor Weiss was born in the Bronx and grew up in Yonkers. She graduated from the University of Buffalo in 1968, and taught in the Buffalo public school system, later becoming a co-owner of Adventure Unlimited Day Camp with her husband, Joel, alongside her teaching career.

Active in Jewish and non-Jewish communal causes for over forty years, Elinor Weiss has campaigned against anti-Semitism and for environmental safeguards, education, and Israel Advocacy among other issues. With a commitment to civic literacy through access to library resources, as well as an interest in children’s and community health affected by environment, Elinor Weiss became an active member of the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) during the 1980s and 1990s. Developing testimony on the links between poverty and gender, civic understanding and support of the public libraries, and protecting health by ensuring environmental safeguards, Weiss served at various times as Buffalo Legislative Affairs Chair for NCJW, and as the Environmental Legislative Liaison for New York State Public Affairs of the NCJW. In this capacity she worked with the National Religious Partnership for the Environment and a range of other groups, and individuals, on multiple bills for the benefit of the city and region. One such major effort was the Pfohl Brothers Landfill Cleanup Committee chaired by Elinor Weiss. The 120-acre site was a privately owned and operated landfill in Cheektowaga, New York, and was filled with various toxic chemicals that drained into nearby waterways. Weiss also became active in promoting the cleanup at the West Valley Nuclear Waste facility. In Amherst, she served on the pesticide committee of the Amherst Conservation Advisory Council, working as part of community efforts to create new town laws for regulating pesticides and a pesticide notification bill. In 1991, Weiss received the Hannah G. Solomon Award of the National Council of Jewish Women, Buffalo Section for her work in environmental activism. In 1992, she ran for State Assembly.

Alongside her interest in environmental safeguards, Weiss has a strong commitment to supporting Jewish community. In 1987, after visiting refuseniks (Jews refused exit visas to resettle outside of the Soviet Union), she and her family sponsored a family to resettle in the Buffalo area. Following a trip to Israel in 2002, Elinor Weiss joined the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), Letter-Writing Group in 2003 and thereafter worked with local Jewish organizations and synagogues to organize Israel Advocacy programs.


2 Linear Feet (2 manuscript boxes, 1 oversized box)


Personal papers documenting aspects of activism in Buffalo and Niagara Falls. Material includes minutes, newsletters, programs, photographs, speeches, research notes, testimonies and newspaper clippings relating to environmental issues, education, and Israel Advocacy.


This collection is arranged in four series as follows:

  1. National Council of Jewish Women, Buffalo, NY
  2. Environmental Activism
  3. Other Activities
  4. Israel Advocacy

Acquisition Information

Elinor Weiss donated her papers in 2015. The papers were arranged in February and March 2016 and deposited at the University Archives, Special Collections by the Jewish Buffalo Archives Project in March 2016.

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.

The arrangement and description of the Elinor Weiss Papers was made possible by funding obtained through the Foundation for Jewish Philanthropies.

Accruals and Additions

Accruals are not expected to this collection.

Related Resources

Processing Information

Collection was processed by Chana Revell Kotzin in February and March 2016. Finding aid encoded by University Staff, April 2016.


Finding Aid for the Elinor Weiss Papers
Finding aid was finalized by Chana Revell Kotzin
March 2016
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the University Archives Repository

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