Max Straus Jewish Community Center records, 1936-1968.

 

Descriptive Inventory for the Collection at Chicago History Museum, Research Center

By Jennifer Small, 1978; comp. by Victoria Irons Walch, 1979; rev. by Heather Leslie, 2011

 

 

Please address questions to:

Chicago History Museum, Research Center

1601 North Clark Street

Chicago, IL 60614-6038

Web-site: http://www.chicagohistory.org/research

 

 

Copyright 2011, Chicago Historical Society

 

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Title: Max Straus Jewish Community Center records [manuscript], 1936-1968.

Main Entry: Max Straus Jewish Community Center (Chicago, Ill.)

Inclusive Dates: 1936-1968

Size:

11 linear ft. (28 boxes)

 

Restrictions: Research use of this collection is governed by the standard rules and regulations of the Chicago History Museum Research Center.

Accession#: M1969.0032

Provenance statement: Gift of the Max Straus Center of the Jewish Community Centers of Chicago in July 1969 (M1969.0032).

Terms governing use: Copyright may be retained by the creators of items, or their descendents, as stipulated by United States copyright law, unless otherwise noted.

Please cite this collection as: Max Straus Jewish Community Center records (Chicago History Museum) plus a detailed description, date, and box/folder number of a specific item.

 

This descriptive inventory contains the following sections:

Biographical/historical note,

Summary description of the collection,

Description of some materials related to the collection,

List of online catalog headings about the collection,

Arrangement of the collection,

Detailed description of the archival series of the collection,

List of contents of the collection.

 

Biographical/historical note:

The Max Straus Center in Albany Park was the first branch opened by its parent organization, the Jewish Community Centers of Chicago (JCC), known before 1946 as the Jewish People's Institute (JPI). The JCC was founded in 1903 as the Chicago Hebrew Institute to meet the cultural, religious and social needs of the Jewish population of Chicago. As the city's Jewish population expanded beyond the West Side, where the JCC had its original headquarters, the organization began establishing branches in other parts of the city that had a large Jewish population. This initiative began with the construction of the Max Straus Center in 1941.

 

The need for a Jewish center in Albany Park was recognized as early as 1931 when Samuel A. Goldsmith, executive director of Jewish Charities of Chicago, surveyed the area and found that 60 percent of its population was Jewish. At that time 15.3 percent of the city's Jews lived in Albany Park. The community area--which is bounded on the north by Foster Avenue and the north branch of the Chicago River, on the south by Lawrence, Montrose and Elston Avenues, on the east by the Chicago River, and on the west by Cicero Avenue--was first settled by Czechoslovakians during the 1870s and 1880s and after 1900 by Germans, Swedes and Irish. Russian Jews had begun a rapid and steady influx into the area after 1911. By the time of the 1931 Goldsmith survey, the community was served by a sufficient number of synagogues for the population, but they offered no social, cultural, or recreational programs. Although the neighborhood had some boys' groups, there were few activities for girls. In 1936 the Women's Division of Jewish Charities founded the Albany Park Girls' Club at 4721 North Monticello Avenue. The Women's Division soon realized the community should have an organization to answer the needs of the entire Jewish population; the following year the JPI opened its first branch in the Girls' Club headquarters and named it after Max Straus.

 

The desire of the Jewish People's Institute to expand its Albany Park operations had received a great impetus in 1935 upon receiving 50,000 dollars from the estate of Chicago businessman Max Straus, who was president of the Hartman Furniture Company of Chicago, 1880-1923. When he died in Los Angeles in 1935, he left a large bequest that would have enabled the JPI to renovate an old building in Albany Park. Then the trustees of his estate added another 15,000 dollars to the original contribution so that the JPI could build an entirely new building designed for its programs. The Jewish Charities of Chicago contributed another 35,000 dollars to the building fund, and the new center opened as the Max Straus Center in November 1941 at 3715 West Wilson Avenue in Chicago.

 

The activities offered at the Max Straus Center ranged from a nursery school to services for senior citizens, and included one of the first day camps in the city as well as many other social, recreational, and physical education activities. Club activities and lecture series also were an important part of the center's overall program. It also emphasized Jewish culture and heritage and gave a focal point for the Jewish population in the community.

 

Through the 1950s Albany Park was a predominantly Jewish middle class community marked by its stability. In 1959, 60 percent of the community's population was Jewish. In the early 1960s, however, the percentage began to drop rapidly as younger and more affluent Jews began moving northward to the suburbs. By 1964 the figure had dropped to 49 percent; just three years later, in 1967, only 21 percent of Albany Park's residents were Jewish. The community became ethnically mixed, and the Jewish population that remained in the area was significantly older and poorer than previously. By 1969 the JCC responded to these changes by closing the Wilson Avenue Center and opening a Max Straus Senior Adult Center at 2961 West Peterson.

 

(This collection does not contain any materials from the Max Straus Senior Adult Center, which closed in late 1973 or early 1974, when its facilities were turned over to the Chicago Jewish Youth Council. At that time, a new Albany Park JCC facility, the Henry N. Hart Senior Adult Center, was opened at 4920 North Kimball.)

 

Summary description of the collection:

Correspondence, minutes of board and staff meetings, reports, surveys, studies, and other records of the Max Straus Center of the Jewish Community Centers of Chicago (JCC), located at 3715 West Wilson Avenue in the Albany Park neighborhood. Plus materials received from the JCC central office, and minutes and other records from the Albany Park Community Council (1937-63), Albany Park Jewish Youth Council, Albany Park Action Committee (1963-67) and Virginia Frank Child Development Center. Topics include recreation and physical education, adult education, day care for children, services for older people, clubs for teenagers and others, community improvement, and lecture series on various topics including Jewish culture and heritage.

 

Description of some materials related to the collection:

Related materials at Chicago History Museum, Research Center, include the Jewish Community Centers of Chicago records with scrapbooks and file relating to the Max Straus Center specifically; the Jewish Community Centers of Chicago collection of visual materials (1980.0175); and publications of the Jewish Community Centers of Chicago and its predecessor organizations and its neighborhood centers, all cataloged separately.

 

List of online catalog headings about the collection:

The following headings were placed in the online catalog.

Subjects:

Max Straus Center (Chicago, Ill.)--Archives.

Jewish People's Institute of Chicago.

Jewish Community Centers of Chicago. Max Straus Center (Chicago, Ill.)--Archives.

Jewish Community Centers of Chicago--Archives.

3715 West Wilson Avenue (Chicago, Ill.)

Albany Park Action Conference (Chicago, Ill.)

Albany Park Community Council (Chicago, Ill.)

Albany Park Jewish Youth Council (Chicago, Ill.)

Virginia Frank Child Development Center (Chicago, Ill.)

Adult education--Illinois--Chicago--20th century.

Charities--Illinois--Chicago--20th century.

Community centers--Illinois--Chicago--20th century.

Community organization--Illinois--Chicago--20th century.

Day care centers--Illinois--Chicago--20th century.

Jewish community centers--Illinois--Chicago --20th century.

Jewish women--Illinois--Chicago--Societies and clubs.

Jews--Illinois--Chicago--20th century.

Recreation--Illinois--Chicago--20th century.

Social service--Illinois--Chicago--20th century.

Albany Park (Chicago, Ill. : Community area)

Chicago (Ill.)--Social life and customs--20th century.

Chicago (Ill.)--Social conditions--20th century.

 

Form/genre:

Correspondence.

Minutes.

Programs (documents)

Reports.

 

Co-creator:

Grunsfeld, Ernest A., Jr.

Weisman, Leah.

Jewish People's Institute of Chicago.

Jewish Community Centers of Chicago.

Albany Park Action Conference (Chicago, Ill.)

Albany Park C

Community Council (Chicago, Ill.)

Albany Park Jewish Youth Council (Chicago, Ill.)

Virginia Frank Child Development Center (Chicago, Ill.)

United States--Illinois--Cook County--Chicago.

 

Arrangement of the collection:

The collection is arranged in three series:

Series 1: Minutes, 1940-1968, and history (box 1-3)

Series 2: Topical files, 1936-1968 (box 4-24)

Series 3: Albany Park community organizations, 1937-1967 (box 25-28)

 

Detailed description of the archival series of the collection:

Series 1. Minutes of various groups within the Max Straus Center, contains two principal sets of material: minutes from the board of directors meetings, 1946-1968 (1 box) and minutes from staff meetings, 1948-1968 (1 box). There also are scattered minutes from the Health and Physical Education Committee, and the Teen Age Presidents Council, as well as minutes from joint meetings of the Deborah Boys' Club and the Max Straus Center.

 

Series 2. The topical files of the Max Straus Center cover operation of the community center, including budgets, materials about fund-raising, membership and attendance statistics, newsletters of the women's and teens' organizations, and scattered handbills and invitations publicizing annual meetings, social occasions and other events at the center. The center had three directors during these years: Sidney J. Linden, 1941-1945; Leah Weisman, 1946-1968; and Morton Schrag, 1968-1969. Many papers relate to their duties, especially in the form of staff memos and correspondence with the JCC central office. There also are announcements of board meetings and elections, press releases, and reports on the effectiveness of various programs and community center relations. A few reports on children's clubs are included, as well as reports on problem children with whom the center worked.

 

In 1953, when the JCC celebrated its 50th anniversary, the Max Straus Center planned many activities for the occasion, including a JCC "alumni" reunion for original members of the Chicago Hebrew Institute and the Jewish People's Institute. The registration book for the reunion is included in this series. There also are various studies and statistical reports that were made as the Jewish population in the Albany Park neighborhood rapidly decreased in size during the late 1950s and throughout the 1960s. They express concern for the center's responsibilities to the changing community around it.

 

The third portion of Series 2, the papers received from the JCC central office from 1939-1968, primarily consists of material sent to all JCC branches and includes letters, memoranda, and reports. Includes minutes of the Liaison Committee which was established to develop uniform policies among the JCC branches and various reports and surveys relating to the goals and achievements of the various branches and of the JCC as a whole.

 

Series 3 contains operating files of several Albany Park organizations, principally the Albany Park Community Council, 1937-1963. The council was formed in 1942 under the leadership of the Max Straus Center. The Max Straus Center's Advisory Council felt that an organization of community leaders would be useful to the area. Members included representatives of church, civic, and educational groups, as well as citizens at large. The Albany Park Community Council dealt with problems in housing, education, and juvenile delinquency, among others, as well as community activities. In 1963 the Albany Park Community Council apparently reorganized and became the Albany Park Action Conference, with much the same activities but a broader community base.

 

Series 3 also contains scattered minutes from two other community organizations: minutes from the Albany Park Jewish Youth Council, 1950-1951, and from its Adult Advisory Committee, 1949-1952 and 1954-1956; as well as minutes from meetings of the Virginia Frank Child Development Center, 1956-1959.

 

 

List of contents of the collection:

Series 1: Minutes, 1940-1968, and history (box 1-3):

box 1

folders:

1 Historical sketch

 

2 Board of directors meetings, 1946-1949

3 Board of directors meetings, 1950-1953

4 Board of directors meetings, 1954-1957

5 Board of directors meetings, 1958-1960

6 Board of directors meetings, 1961-1964

7 Board of directors meetings, 1965-1968

 

box 2

folders:

1 Staff meetings, 1948-1950

2 Staff meetings, 1951-1954

3 Staff meetings, 1955-1957

4 Staff meetings, 1958-1960

5 Staff meetings, 1961-1963

6 Staff meetings, 1964-1965

7 Staff meetings, 1966-1968

 

box 3

folders:

1 Committee meetings: advisory council, 1942; 1944-1945

2 Committee meetings: building committee, 1940-1942

3 Committee meetings: Health & Physical Education Committee, 1946; 1951-1956

4 Committee meetings: joint meetings of Deborah Boys' Club & Max Straus Center, 1952-1953; 1956-1957

5 Committee meetings: Teen Age Presidents Council, 1954-1955

6 Committee meetings: miscellaneous committees

 

Series 2: Topical Files, 1936-1968 (box 4-24):

box 4

folders:

1 Max Straus estate, 1937-1940

2 Max Straus estate, 1941-1944

3 Purchase of Albany Park building site, 1938-1941; 1945

4 Plans for Max Straus Center, 1938-1942; 1944

5 Dedication plans, 1941-1942

6 Reports by Dr. Philip Seman, 1942

 

box 5

folders:

1 Contracts for construction of center, 1940-1941

2 Building account for construction, 1940-1943; 1955

3 Equipment for Max Straus Center, 1939; 1941-1942

4 Playground, 1942-1946

 

box 6

folders:

1 Building committee, 1940-1942

2 Deficit fund, 1941-1942

3 Loan received from the Jewish Charities of Chicago, 1940-1945

4 Cooperative committee between the Max Straus Center & Young Men's Jewish Council, 1938-1940

5 Cooperative committee between the Max Straus Center & Young Men's Jewish Council, 1941-1947

 

box 7

folders:

1 Max Straus Center advisory council, 1941-1944

2 Max Straus Center advisory council, 1945

3 Max Straus Center advisory council, 1946-1947

 

box 8

folders:

1 Max Straus Center annual reports, 1941-1946

2 Max Straus Center annual reports, 1947-1954; 1957

3 Max Straus Center annual reports, 1960-1962; 1966

4 Reports of director to annual meetings, 1942; 1952; 1959; 1965-1966; 1968

5 Max Straus Center general papers, 1936-1938

6 Max Straus Center general papers, 1939-1940

 

box 9

folders:

1 Max Straus Center general papers, 1941

2 Max Straus Center general papers, 1942-1943

3 Max Straus Center general papers, 1944-1945

4 Max Straus Center general papers,1946

5 Max Straus Center general papers, 1947

6 Max Straus Center general papers, January-July 1948

 

box 10

folders:

1 Max Straus Center general papers, August-December 1948

2 Max Straus Center general papers, January-July 1949

3 Max Straus Center general papers, August-November 1949

4 Max Straus Center general papers, December 1949; 1949 & undated

5 Max Straus Center general papers (youth groups), 1949 & undated

6 Max Straus Center general papers (youth groups), 1940s & undated

 

box 11

folders:

1 Max Straus Center general papers, January-February 1950

2 Max Straus Center general papers, March-August 1950

3 Max Straus Center general papers, September-December 1950

4 Max Straus Center general papers, 1950 & undated

5 Max Straus Center general papers, January-February 1951

 

box 12

folders:

1 Max Straus Center general papers, March-April 1951

2 Max Straus Center general papers, May-October 1951

3 Max Straus Center general papers, November-December 1951

4 Max Straus Center general papers, January-August 1952

5 Max Straus Center general papers, September-December 1952

 

box 13

folders:

1 Max Straus Center general papers, January-April 1953

2 Max Straus Center general papers, April-June 1953

3 Max Straus Center general papers, July-December 1953

4 Max Straus Center general papers, 1953 & undated

5 Max Straus Center general papers, January-May 1954

 

box 14

folders:

1 Max Straus Center general papers, June-October 1954

2 Max Straus Center general papers, November-December 1954

3 Max Straus Center general papers, 1954 & undated

4 Max Straus Center general papers (self study interviews), 1954

5 Max Straus Center general papers (self study interviews), 1954

6 Max Straus Center general papers, January-February 1955

 

box 15

folders:

1 Max Straus Center general papers, March-May 1955

2 Max Straus Center general papers, June-September 1955

3 Max Straus Center general papers, October-November 1955

4 Max Straus Center general papers, November-December 1955

5 Max Straus Center general papers, 1955 & undated

 

box 16

folders:

1 Max Straus Center general papers, January-March 1956

2 Max Straus Center general papers, April-June 1956

3 Max Straus Center general papers, July-November 1956

4 Max Straus Center general papers, December 1956; 1956 & undated

5 Max Straus Center general papers, 1956 & undated

6 Max Straus Center general papers, January-June 1957

 

box 17

folders:

1 Max Straus Center general papers, July-December 1957

2 Max Straus Center general papers, January-April 1958

3 Max Straus Center general papers, May-September 1958

4 Max Straus Center general papers, October-December 1958

5 Max Straus Center general papers, 1958 & undated

6 Max Straus Center general papers, January-June 1959

 

box 18

folders:

1 Max Straus Center general papers, July-December 1959

2 Max Straus Center general papers, January-May 1960

3 Max Straus Center general papers, June-December 1960

4 Max Straus Center general papers, January-June 1961

5 Max Straus Center general papers, July-December 1961

6 Max Straus Center general papers, January-July 1962

 

box 19

folders:

1 Max Straus Center general papers, August-December 1962

2 Max Straus Center general papers, January-April 1963

3 Max Straus Center general papers, May-December 1963

4 Max Straus Center general papers, January-April 1964

 

box 20

folders:

1 Max Straus Center general papers, May-September 1964

2 Max Straus Center general papers, October-December 1964

3 Max Straus Center general papers, January-April 1965

4 Max Straus Center general papers, May-December 1965

5 Max Straus Center general papers, January-May 1966

6 Max Straus Center general papers, June-December 1966

 

box 21

folders:

1 Max Straus Center general papers, January-April 1967

2 Max Straus Center general papers, May-October 1967

3 Max Straus Center general papers, November-December 1967

4 Max Straus Center general papers, January-June 1968

5 Max Straus Center general papers, July-December 1968

6 Max Straus Center general papers, undated items

 

box 22

folders:

1 Material received from JCC central office, 1939-1946

2 Material received from JCC central office, 1947-1949; 1940s & undated

3 Material received from JCC central office, 1950-1953; 1953 & undated

4 Material received from JCC central office, 1954-1955

5 Material received from JCC central office, 1956-1957

6 Material received from JCC central office, 1958-1959

 

 

box 23

folders:

1 Material received from JCC central office, 1960-1961

2 Material received from JCC central office, 1962-1963

3 Material received from JCC central office,1964

4 Material received from JCC central office, 1965

5 Material received from JCC central office, 1966

6 Material received from JCC central office, January-September 1967

 

box 24

folders:

1 Material received from JCC central office, October-December 1967

2 Material received from JCC central office, 1968

3 Material received from JCC central office, undated items

 

Series 3: Albany Park Community Organizations, 1937-1967 (box 25-28):

box 25

folders:

1 Albany Park Community Council: Minutes, 1942; 1947-1948

2 Albany Park Community Council: Minutes, 1949-1951

3 Albany Park Community Council: Minutes, 1952-1955

4 Albany Park Community Council: Minutes, 1956-1958

5 Albany Park Community Council: Minutes, 1959-1963

 

box 26

folders:

1 Albany Park Community Council general papers, 1937-1947

2 Albany Park Community Council general papers, 1948

3 Albany Park Community Council general papers, 1949

4 Albany Park Community Council general papers, 1950

5 Albany Park Community Council general papers, 1951

 

box 27

folders:

1 Albany Park Community Council general papers, 1952

2 Albany Park Community Council general papers, 1953-1954

3 Albany Park Community Council general papers, 1955

4 Albany Park Community Council general papers, 1956

5 Albany Park Community Council general papers, 1957

6 Albany Park Community Council general papers, 1958

 

box 28

folders:

1 Albany Park Community Council general papers, 1959-1961

2 Albany Park Community Council general papers, 1962-1963

3 Albany Park Community Council general papers, undated items

4 Albany Park Action Conference, 1963-1967

5 Albany Park Jewish Youth Council: adult advisory committee minutes, 1949-1952; 1954-1956

6 Albany Park Jewish Youth Council: minutes, 1950-1951

7 Virginia Frank Child Development Center minutes, 1956-1959

 

Card Catalog Entries:

The following subject and added entry cards were made in the Manuscripts Card Catalog.

Subjects:

Jewish Community Centers of Chicago. Max Straus Center.

Architects. Chicago.

Chicago. Communities. Albany Park.

Chicago Hebrew Institute.

Community centers. Chicago.

Community organization.

Day nurseries. Chicago.

Education. Chicago.

Jewish People's Institute.

Jews in Chicago.

Recreation. Chicago.

Social life and customs. Chicago.

Social service. Chicago.

Women. Societies and clubs.

Youth. Chicago.