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Jewish Community Center (New Bedford, Mass.) records

Identifier: MC-021-CJC

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.


  • 1944-1977

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 )

Language of Materials


Immediate Source of Acquisition

Bulk of the collection acquired around 1997; accession # 99-19. Kiddush cups, gift of Iris Shaw.

Processing Information

Processed August, 2001 by J. Burdette ’02 (historical note) and K.Carey’01 (inventory). Completed by Judy Farrar in January 2002. Photographic negatives were removed from envelopes and placed in binder in plastic sleeves. Judy Barry identified many of the events and individuals in the photographs, especially for the color slides. All of the information was transferred to the plastic sleeves, to the best of our abilities. Dates for many photographs may not be the date the event took place, but rather, the date that reprints were ordered. Since it was the only date available, and research was not done to determine exact date on each negative, this is the date that was transferred. Center photographers, as indicated on the envelopes, appeared to have included Saul Richmond (slides, 1956-1957 and black and white prints, 1955 and 1957); Fred Matthews (1954 b&w prints); M. Entin (early 1960s, b&w); R. Kaplan (1958 b&w); Allan M. Konner (1956, 1957 b&w); and Jerry Kline (1967 b&w).

MC 21, Jewish Community Center (New Bedford, Mass.) records
Joelle Burdette (historical note), Kyle Carey (inventory), Judy Farrar
January 2002
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Claire T. Carney Library Archives and Special Collections, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Repository

285 Old Westport Rd.
N. Dartmouth MA 02747 USA