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Greater Boston Committee of the Massachusetts Observance of the American Jewish Tercentenary Records

Identifier: I-63

Scope and Content Note

This collection documents the activities of the Greater Boston Committee through correspondence, publicity, radio scripts, meeting minutes, membership lists, photographs, questionnaires, newspaper clippings and programs. The bulk of the collection's correspondence is from Herbert B. Ehrmann and Robert E. Segal, but committee lists and programs identify many names of prominent Jewish Boston community members who were involved in varying degrees with programming and planning.


  • undated, 1952-1955 (bulk 1954-1955)


Language of Materials

The collection is in English and Yiddish.

Access Restrictions

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Use Restrictions

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Historical Note

The creation of the American Jewish Tercentenary Committee in 1951 to celebrate the 300th anniversary of Jewish settlement in the United States was received widely and enthusiastically in Jewish communities across the country. The theme of the observance, "Man's Opportunities and Responsibilities Under Freedom" was meant to "describe the significance of the present day for American Jews, and sum up the aspirations for the future for ourselves, for all Americans, and indeed for people everywhere who yearn for freedom," according to David Bernstein, who served as the executive director of the American Jewish Tercentenary Committee.2 Boston began preparations for their own celebrations in 1952 under the leadership of Herbert B. Ehrmann as chairman, Robert E. Segal as coordinator and Elaine F. Lipson as assistant coordinator of the Greater Boston Committee. Both Ehrmann and Segal were well known and respected community leaders who utilized their connections to identify people who could participate in sub-committees that were organized to accomplish the numerous tasks at hand. The Greater Boston Committee was designed similarly to the National Committee and had 300 members, some of whom were members in name only.

Working committees, members and goals included:

Steering Committee: Members of this committee were responsible for providing oversight of the Greater Boston Committee, and included Milton Kahn as chairman (who also served as vice chairman for the Greater Boston Committee), Mark Bortman, Harold S. Goldberg, Fanny Goldstein, Judges Jacob Kaplan, Jennie L. Barron, David A. Rose, Dr. Abram L. Sachar, Lewis H. Weinstein, Joseph Weisberg, and Jacob L. Wiseman, among others. Weinstein and Wiseman also represented Boston on the National American Jewish Tercentenary Committee.

Retail Stores Display: This committee worked with local retail stores to create and implement exhibits highlighting the important contributions of Boston Jews. Chairman William Ehrlich oversaw the committee.

History Project: This particular committee was responsible for working with The Jewish Advocate on the publication of a special Tercentenary issue of the newspaper, highlighting specific achievements and moments in American Jewish history. Joseph Weisberg, managing editor of The Jewish Advocate, worked with Fanny Goldstein, Oscar Handlin, and Rabbi Joseph Shubow to identify topics and writers.

Library Exhibits: Overseen by Fanny Goldstein of the West End Branch Library, this committee ensured that the Boston Public Library and its branch libraries had exhibits depicting American Jewish, and specifically Boston Jewish life.

Radio and TV Committee: This group worked with local radio and television stations to promote programming on Jewish history and notable Jewish people. Fanny Goldstein, Hannah London, Lewis Weinstein and several professors from local colleges and universities participated in this committee.

Subcommittee on Resources & Planning: This committee was formally known as the Program and Projects Committee, and was chaired by Mrs. Philip Segal and Mrs. Arnold Mork. The primary purpose of this committee was to work with organizations interested in holding Tercentenary events. To this end, they created a Speakers Bureau, vetted filmstrips and scripts for viewing, and publicized these offerings to organizations.

Youth Committee: Chaired by Mrs. Nehemiah Williams and Mrs. James Kahn, the Youth Committee was responsible for developing activities for the Youth and Children's Observance. A musical, "A Happy Land," was presented, which depicted 300 years of American Jewish life.

The main event was the December 26, 1954 Boston Observance, which was held at Symphony Hall. The Boston Jewish Festival Chorus performed, with speeches by Herbert Ehrmann, Lewis Weinstein of the Jewish Community Council of Metropolitan Boston, Mayor John B. Hynes, Lee M. Friedman of the American Jewish Historical Society, Dr. Nathan M. Pusey of Harvard University, and Dr. Abram L. Sachar of Brandeis University. There was also a dramatic presentation, "Faith and Freedom," written by Marc Siegel and presented by the School of Creative Arts at Brandeis University, as well as prayers and benedictions offered by Rabbi Israel Harburg of the Rabbinical Association of Greater Boston, and Rabbi Myer J. Strassfeld of the Orthodox Rabbinical Council of Greater Boston.


  1. Press Release, June 9, 1953. Massachusetts Observance of the American Jewish Tercentenary collection,
  2. "Boston Observance of American Jewish Tercentenary," Massachusetts Observance of the American Jewish Tercentenary,
  3. Materials from collection.


Boston committee of 300 is appointed.
September 12, 1954
First celebration in Boston with Lee M. Friedman addressing delegates to the American Jewish Congress convention.
Major John Hynes of Boston issues a proclamation along with Governor Christian Herter, declaring September 14, 1954 to May 15, 1955 "American Jewish Tercentenary Months"
Program planning sub-committee is established.
October 14-November 14, 1954
Exhibit at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts includes portraits of Jewish citizens from the colonial era, 18th and 19th centuries, gold and silver of Myer Myers, and silhouettes and miniatures relating to American Jewish culture.
October 20, 1954
National Tercentenary Celebration at the Sheraton Astor in New York. Eddie Fisher, Irving Berlin and the Jewish Chapel Choir of the United State Military Academy at West Point perform. President Eisenhower delivers the address.
November 1954
Exhibit at the Boston Public Library includes 30 units depicting the contributions of Jewish Americans in the arts, sciences, politics, economy and law; also exhibited is the development of Yiddish theatre, contemporary Jewish leaders, Jewish education, Jewish organizations, Zionism, early Jewish Bostonians and Jewish writers, among many other subjects.
December 26, 1954
Symphony Hall celebration of the Tercentenary. Speakers include Dr. Nathan Pusey, Dr. Abraham Sachar, and Lee Friedman.
December 28-January 3, 1955
Department store windows exhibit religious objects and art.
January 6, 1955
Publication of the Jewish Advocate Tercentenary issue.
January 20, 1955
Exhibit at the Boston Public Library includes ceremonial objects, photographs and mementos of early Boston Jews, and book collections of Boston authors.
January 27, 1955
Boston Medical Library exhibit of Jewish medical leaders, including medieval manuscripts and awards presented to Jewish physicians.
March 24, 1955
Display at the Children's Museum in Jamaica Plain.
March 6, 1955
Jewish Labor Committee observance at John Hancock Hall, with a pageant and choral music program.
April 19-20, 1955
Youth musical production of "A Happy Land" at John Hancock Hall.


1.5 linear feet (3 manuscript boxes)


The Massachusetts Observance of the American Jewish Tercentenary documents the correspondence, activities, photographs and publications of the Greater Boston Committee’s efforts to celebrate the 300th Anniversary of Jewish settlement in the United States. Many notable Boston Jewish community members were a part of the planning and implementation of activities, which included a celebration at Symphony Hall and a musical for children entitled, "A Happy Land."

Physical Location

Located in Boston, Mass.

Acquisition Information

Gift of the Jewish Community Council of Metropolitan Boston, 1970.

Processing Information

Reprocessed by Stephanie Call, 2008

Guide to the Greater Boston Committee of the Massachusetts Observance of the American Jewish Tercentenary Records, I-63
Reprocessed by Stephanie Call
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Processed by Stephanie Call, Schilder Assistant Archivist, made possible by a grant from the Schilder Family Fund. This collection has been digitized, made possible by a grant from the Trustees u/w of Herman Dana.

Repository Details

Part of the Wyner Family Jewish Heritage Center at American Ancestors Repository

99-101 Newbury Street
Boston MA 02116 United States