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Archival Research at the American Jewish Archives

Kevin Proffitt, Senior Archivist for Research and Collections at the American Jewish Archives

The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives (AJA), located on the historic Cincinnati campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, is an internationally known research and educational center. Its mission is to collect, preserve, and make available to all interested users - through research, publications, and programming – its unique and rich archival collection on the American Jewish experience. Founded in 1947 by Jacob Rader Marcus (1896-1995), the prodigious scholar who first defined the field of American Jewish history, the AJA is today the world's largest free-standing research center dedicated solely to the study of the American Jewish experience.

Dr. Gary Phillip Zola, the Edward M. Ackerman Family Professor of the American Jewish Experience and Reform Jewish History at HUC-JIR, is the Executive Director of The Marcus Center. Dr. Zola has led the AJA since 1998, when he succeeded the institution's founder.

The AJA houses personal papers, organizational records, images, recordings, and manuscripts and, increasingly, digital files, documenting the scope and diversity of Jewish life in North America. Through its vast collection of primary resource material, the AJA strives to enable its patrons to reconstruct the myriad ways in which Jews have influenced life and culture in the US and North America from the 17th century to the current day.

The AJA is a service-oriented research center, which takes pride in its long-standing reputation for offering its patrons a helping hand whenever possible. Visitors and researchers are welcomed as honored guests. All those wishing to examine the AJA's collections do so in The Marcus Center's inspiring and historic Barrows-Loebelson Family Reading Room, erected in 1912 and magnificently refurbished in 2005. Patrons are encouraged to visit the AJA website and to contact the AJA's archival professionals prior to their visit in order to make their stay as efficient and beneficial as possible.

The AJA's online catalog--available through its website--provides easy searching to its entire collection, including manuscript and non-print materials. The AJA's website contains full text inventories for its major manuscript collections, both personal papers and organizational records. In addition, the AJA is increasingly providing online access to its materials. Most recently, the papers of Rabbi Marc H. Tanenbaum are now available, in full, on the AJA's website through a generous grant from the Tanenbaum Foundation and the family of Rabbi Tanenbaum.

For scholars pursuing an in-depth study of American Jewish history – including Ph.D. candidates, academics, and senior scholars -- the AJA offers an expansive and well-endowed fellowship program that makes it possible for Fellows to spend up to four weeks at the AJA studying in their chosen topics. More information on this program and how to apply is available here. The AJA's archival professionals also provide remote research assistance for those who are unable to visit the AJA personally through its 'Ask an Archivist' portal, wherein researchers are invited to submit detailed requests concerning their research interests. Each request receives individual attention from a member of the AJA's archival staff, who performs a basic search and provides a personal response. Copies of relevant documents can be made and sent to the patron for a fee. For any request requiring extensive research, patrons are offered the possibility of hiring an independent researcher who, for an hourly fee, works directly with the patron.

The AJA also serves as a multi-faceted center for promoting scholarship and education on American Jewish life. The AJA sponsors and produces many public programs, including travel trips to historic American Jewish communities, webinars, symposia, exhibits, and conferences. The AJA has an active publication program, the cornerstone of which is The American Jewish Archives Journal. Published bi-annually since 1948, this scholarly journal includes essays on American Jewish history, analysis of primary documents, book reviews and historiography on contemporary scholarship.

Whether through its collections, programs, or publications, the AJA takes pride in helping to preserve and promulgate the heritage of Jewish life in the American nation. All those interested in studying the American Jewish experience are warmly encouraged to contact the AJA by contacting either Mr. Kevin Proffitt, Senior Archivist for Research and Collections (, or Dr. Dana Herman, Managing Editor of The American Jewish Archives Journal and Academic Associate (