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American Jewish Society for Service records

Call Number: MS 1495

Scope and Contents

The records comprehensively document the organizational and operational history of the American Jewish Society for Service and its summer camps through administrative correspondence; meeting summaries; site documentation, including proposals, information packets, reports, and evaluations; publicity; and visual materials, including photographs, film, and videotapes.

One strength of the records is documentation of the organization's formation, growth, daily operations, and social service activities throughout the United States, from 1951-1984. The records also shed light on the impact AJSS work camps have had on certain impoverished segments of American society. Administrative files of general and project site records, photographs, and feature newspaper articles provide background information on the disadvantaged towns, city neighborhoods, and Native American reservations in which the AJSS has set up projects. The records also document the accomplishments of the AJSS at each site. Project summaries and reports reveal the ways in which impoverished communities have reacted and adjusted when AJSS volunteers have taken up temporary residence to perform manual labor, as well as to provide day care supervision and language tutoring. Summary project reports and AJSS promotional materials, including the annual newsletters and anniversary commemorative books, comprehensively illustrate the evolution of AJSS philosophy on Jewish-based social services in America, and how administrative experience and changing social conditions have refined that philosophy. Finally, evaluations from camp directors and counselors, letters by campers written to the AJSS, reports by campers, and photographs provide insight into the impressions, reactions, and changes in perspective teenagers have when, as AJSS volunteers, they meet and form working relationships among themselves, with adult leaders, and with residents of disadvantaged communities.


  • 1948-2008


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Original audiovisual materials, as well as preservation and duplicating masters, may not be played. Researchers must consult use copies, or if none exist must pay for a use copy, which is retained by the repository. Researchers wishing to obtain an additional copy for their personal use should consult Copying Services information on the Manuscripts and Archives web site.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright for unpublished materials authored or otherwise produced by the American Jewish Society for Service has been transferred to Yale University. These materials may be used for non-commercial purposes without seeking permission from Yale University as the copyright holder. For other uses of these materials, please contact

Copyright status for other collection materials is unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.

Copies of commercially produced audiovisual materials contained in this collection cannot be made for researcher use outside of the repository.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of the American Jewish Society for Service, 1989, 1994, 2001, 2002, 2005, and 2008.


Arranged in four series and three additions: I. Administrative Records, 1948-1983 (inclusive), 1951-1983 (bulk). II. Chronological File, 1950-1984. III. Newsletters and Commemorative Books, 1960-2000. IV. Audiovisual Materials, 1951-1992 (inclusive), 1951-1984 (bulk).


39.84 Linear Feet (45 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


The records comprehensively document the organizational and operational history of the American Jewish Society for Service and its summer camps through administrative correspondence; meeting summaries; site documentation, including proposals, information packets, reports, and evaluations; publicity; and visual materials, including photographs, film, and videotapes.

Biographical / Historical

Henry Kohn, who earned his B.A. degree from Yale College in 1939 and his J.D. degree from Yale Law School in 1942, founded the American Jewish Society for Service (AJSS) in 1950. Since then, the organization has provided assistance every summer to various disadvantaged small towns, urban centers, and Native American reservations throughout the United States. The AJSS has also stressed to American teenagers the social and personal value of volunteer service through intensive manual labor. Advertisements soliciting high school applicants have appeared in major newspapers and public service bulletins throughout the United States each year. While most students are drawn from the Jewish American high school community, religion or ethnicity is not a requirement. Camper activities have included building, repairing, weatherizing, and renovating homes, shelters, churches, parks, and community centers, as well as clearing land, demolishing unneeded structures, digging ditches, and installing pipes and cables. To promote contact with their host communities and to foster the spirit of camaraderie, the AJSS also has provided the campers with numerous field trips, guest speaker presentations, and general recreational activities associated with camp life. Many Jewish campers also have used this time to explore the tenets of their faith through formal and informal discussions.

The first AJSS project took place in Indianapolis, Indiana, in July and August of 1951 when college students also qualified as applicants. Campers joined with Flanner House Homes, Inc., to help build single-unit dwellings for African American war veterans living in an impoverished section of the city. Religious life centered each Friday evening on the Kiddush and Sabbath observance, though religious affiliations within and outside of Judaism varied among the participants. Each work camp since then has been typically configured with a director, the director's spouse, one male and one female counselor, and, as of 1953 when college students were no longer asked to apply, ten to twenty male and female high school juniors and seniors at least sixteen years of age. The AJSS has provided food and housing at the summer project site for a modest fee, and project directors have arranged the recreational, educational, and religious activities. At the end of every project, the campers have compiled reports featuring their own poems and essays reflecting on the summer. Many also have written letters afterward, at the request of the AJSS, evaluating their experiences. By the mid-1960s and into the 1970s, as many as four AJSS projects were taking place at once, depending on the summer.

The AJSS celebrated its forty-fifth anniversary in 1995 and the completion of 106 projects in forty-two states.

American Jewish Society for Service Project Sites

Indianapolis, Indiana
Winchester and Southern New Hampshire
Northfield, Massachusetts; Hawthorne, New York
Morgantown, West Virginia; Fallsington, Pennsylvania
Monteagle, Tennessee
Winsted, Connecticut
Yellow Springs, Ohio
Fagleysville, Pennsylvania
Frogmore, South Carolina
Buckhorn, Kentucky
Palatine, Illinois; Pierre, South Dakota
Indianapolis, Indiana; Palatine, Illinois; Kiryat Haim, Israel
Pine Ridge, South Dakota; Cherokee, North Carolina
Macy, Nebraska; Cloquet, Minnesota; Rosebud, South Dakota
Albuquerque, New Mexico; Palatine, Illinois; Bluffton, Ohio
East Troy, Wisconsin; Babb, Montana; Bono, Ohio; Neapolis, Ohio
Lackawana, New York; Lilbourn, Missouri; Crownpoint, New Mexico
Northern Cheyenne, Montana; Clinton, Kentucky; Fort Duchesne, Utah
Crow Agency, Montana; Ripley, Tennessee; Steamboat Canyon, Arizona
Alamo, Texas; Fulton, Kentucky; Seaford, Delaware
Mora, New Mexico; Abbeville, Louisiana; Madisonville, Kentucky; Woodburn, Oregon
Tahlequah, Oklahoma; Abbeville, Louisiana; Waterloo, Iowa; Lewes, Delaware
Richmond, Virginia; Crookston, Minnesota; Westmore, Vermont; Sisseton, South Dakota
Opelika, Alabama; Orland, Maine; Tacoma, Washington
Spokane, Washington; Greenville, North Carolina; Clinton, Iowa
Rochester, New York; Grand Rapids, Michigan; Charlottesville, Virginia
San Miguel, New Mexico; Springfield, Massachusetts; Madison, Wisconsin
Hattiesburg, Mississippi; Des Moines, Iowa; Lincoln, Nebraska
Wake Forest, North Carolina; Alice, Texas
Goldsboro, North Carolina; Jeanerette, Louisiana
Eustis, Florida; Hinckley, Maine
Lewiston, North Carolina; Cannelton, Indiana
McAllen, Texas; Des Moines, Iowa
Jackson, Mississippi; Dahlonega, Georgia
Amarillo, Texas; Fort Thompson, South Dakota
Cincinnati, Ohio; Marty, South Dakota
Cumberland, Maryland; St. Louis, Missouri
Denton, Maryland; Laredo, Texas
Chattanooga, Tennessee; Florence, South Carolina
Wilmington, Delaware; Detroit, Michigan
Chicago, Illinois; Everett, Washington; Topeka, Kansas
Fabens, Texas; Four Corners, Louisiana
Selma, Alabama; Fabens, Texas; Eugene, Oregon
Eugene, Oregon; Phoenix, Arizona; Grand Forks, North Dakota
Caribou, Maine; Tulsa, Oklahoma; Tucson, Arizona
Tulsa, Oklahoma; Virginia City, Nevada; Twin Falls, Idaho
McAllen, Texas; Salt Lake City, Utah
Tulsa, Oklahoma; Kansas City, Kansas; Riverton/Casper, Wyoming
Albany, Georgia; Escanaba, Michigan; Marquette, Michigan
Santa Ana, California; Helena, Montana; Riverton, Wyoming
Escanaba, Michigan; Las Vegas, Nevada; Rocky Ford, Colorado
Marquette, Michigan; Taos, New Mexico; Tulsa, Oklahoma
Hood River, Oregon; Rapid City, South Dakota
Anchorage, Alaska; Sante Fe, New Mexico; Hood River, Oregon
Grand Rapids, Michigan; Roseburg, Oregon; Vancouver, British Columbia
Roseburg, Oregon; New Iberia, Louisiana
San Juan, Texas; Little Rock, Arkansas

Processing Information

The American Jewish Society for Service Records were processed by Mark Bailey, with assistance from Erika Johnson, Robert Fisher, Christina Coleman, Scot Buzza, and Timothy Clark. Funding for this project was made possible through the generosity of the American Jewish Society for Service.
Guide to the American Jewish Society for Service Records
Under Revision
compiled by Mark Bailey and staff of Manuscripts and Archives
June 1996
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

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