Scope and Contents
The collection consists of the complete records of the Center, including board meeting minutes and reports from 1945 to 1977, the constitution, financial records, payroll records, photographic scrapbooks, negatives, and color slides of Center activities covering the years 1947 to 1966; Center publications “News & Views” and newsletters; newspaper clippings from 1947 to 1972; subject files, maintained as an alphabetically arranged unit; correspondence, flyers and memos. Notably, includes survey forms that were the basis for a population study done in 1968.
Biographical / Historical
In the 1920’s and 1930’s there was a strong movement to erect Jewish community center
buildings across the United States. They functioned as important elements of unification for the Jewish
community regardless of synagogue loyalties or the lack thereof. The New Bedford Jewish community had
many clubs and organizations in which many participated, but missing was a central location—a nucleus of
Jewish activity. The League of New Bedford Jewish Youth began in 1938 discussions of a building for the
already functioning Community Center. A physical building being beyond their immediate financial
means, they continued to conduct activities to build community spirit within the walls of the Synagogue.
The process of acquiring a building for the Jewish Community Center of New Bedford began in 1940. The
Tifereth Israel Synagogue purchased the Nowell Estate property (95 Madison St.) with funding from the
New Bedford Council of Jewish Women and the Young Women’s Hebrew Association. However, the
Nowell Estate was never used as a Jewish Center, but was occupied by and rented to the Women’s Civilian
Defense Corps during World War II. The property was then sold, and the Synagogue purchased the
McCullough property (Sixth and Madison St.). When the Langshaw (also known as the Rodman Mansion)
property at 388 County Street became available for purchase, the McCullough property was sold and the
Langshaw property acquired. The building was then renovated for the purpose of housing the Jewish
Community Center. The formal dedication of the Center was held on March 23, 1947, during which, a
commemorative plaque was presented by Rabbi Gordon on behalf of the Jewish Welfare Board.
The new building housed classrooms for the Synagogue’s Hebrew and Sunday Schools, Boy and Girl Scout
troops, the Sisterhood Library, Synagogue offices, as well as various meeting rooms, lounges, and a music
room. The rooms could be used by all members for informal gatherings or organized activities. The
purpose of the Center and this new building was not to overshadow any of the existing Jewish institutions.
Rather, its goal was one of supplementation and enrichment of such institutions. The purpose of the Jewish
Community Center, as stated in its constitution, was to foster Jewish cultural and spiritual values as well as
to organize and support programs that would enrich and guide all aspects of Jewish life. Their many
activities for men, women, and children included social and literary education, music, art, drama, recreation
and athletics. A strong emphasis was placed on community and American democracy, as well as the
traditions of Jewish culture.
After 25 years at 388 County Street, it was voted on January 4, 1972 by the Board of Directors to sell the
Community Center building to the Swain School of New Bedford. It ceased operation in that building on
August 11, 1972, and began occupancy on September 5, 1972 of facilities rented from Tifereth Israel
Synagogue, in the Bernard H. Ziskind School of Judaism, located at 467 Hawthorn St., North Dartmouth
(behind the Synagogue). The new building provided a more convenient location for the majority of the
Center’s members. However, declining membership prompted the Board of Directors to vote on May 29,
1973 to suspend the operation of the Jewish Community Center as of September 1, 1973. Annual meetings
would continue to be held with the purpose of gradually phasing out the operations of the Center and to
facilitate the revival of the Center should the Jewish community choose to do so in the future.
15 Linear Feet (27 manuscript boxes, 3 oversize boxes, 1 shoe size box and 1 three-ring binder in slipcase and 4 black three-ring photo binders