The first community school opened its doors on December 28, 1924 under the name of Colegio Israelita de México, which is still in operation. The yearbooks published by the school are a source of information for the history of the institution. The Center of Documentation and Investigation has the yearbooks published from 1937 to 1994.
Centro Deportivo Israelita (Jewish Sports Center), Der Weg (The Road), Der Yid (The Jew), Di Idishe Welt (The Jewish World), Di Shtime (The Voice), Di Tzait (The Time) , Kesher (Contact), La Voz de la Kehilá (The Voice of the Kehillah), La Voz Sionista (The Zionist Voice), The Day, The Jerusalem Post and Tu Mundo (Your World).
a) DER WEG (The Road)
The first number of the Der Weg newspaper appeared on January 1, 1930. It was the pioneer of the Jewish press in Mexico. Der Weg very soon became the voice if the Jewish community in Mexico, promoting its intellectuals, writers and Yiddish theater.
Der Weg was published thrice weekly during ten consecutive years. From its beginning it had national and international news.
On September 18, 1939 the Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) edition appeared with five pages in Yiddish, two in Spanish and nine pages of publicity. The Spanish pages were aimed at the Sephardic and Syrian and Lebanese communities that did not speak Yiddish.
This library has 40 bound volumes edited between August 12, 1931 and December 14, 1977. The newspaper contains reports of the Jewish Chamber of Industry and Commerce, life cycles, theater publicity, business publicity, in a word, the daily life of the Community. Unique collection in Mexico. We have the whole newspaper in microfilm.
b) DI TZAIT (The Time)
“Di Tzait” became a weekly on April 4, 1936 under the leadership of Sh. Zfas and M. Rubinstein. It began life as an independent community newspaper. A total of 198 numbers appeared and after some interruptions it ceased to exist on September, 1938.
Some of the writers who collaborated in “Di Tzait” were M. Rubinstein, I. Abrams, Salomón Kahan, Jacobo Glantz, I. Berliner, M. Dujovich. The editors contacted the JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency), so they received Jewish world news, besides press material. During the three years it was published it had articles against anti-Semitism in Mexico.
Our library has 4 specimens of the volumes corresponding to 1936-1937.
c) DI SHTIME (The Voice)
Di Shtime initiated in April, 1939, under the administration of M. Rubinstein. In the first number, it had the figure “No. 199”, which meant that it would be an extension of “Di Tzait”. “Di Shtime” appeared as private business and as a weekly.
The periodical library has 61 volumes of Di Shtime that include the period 1937 to 1979. Unique collection in Mexico.
d) PRENSA ISRAELITA (Jewish Press)
This daily was created by Sergio Nudelstejer in 1945; it was a newspaper in Spanish, later led by Max and Sara Krongold; Zionist newspaper that broadcast news about Israel and the Jewish world.
The library has 25 volumes from 1953 to 1981.
The Center has publications coming from Mexico, Argentina, Israel and the United States, among which the most important are: Agencia Judía (Jewish Agency), Aliyat Hanoar (Youth Aliya), Di Goldene Keit (The Golden Chain), Dos Yiddishe Folk. (The Jewish People), Dos Yiddishe Vort (The Jewish Word), Folk un Zion (People and Zion), Foroys (Forward), The Future, Mexikaner Shriftn (Mexican Compositions), Tu Mundo (Your World), Sovietish Heimland (Soviet Home), Undzer Tzait, (Our Time), Yiddisher Kempfer (Jewish Fighter), Yivo Bleter (Notes from Yivo) and Tribuna Israelita (Jewish Forum).
a) MEXICANER SHRIFTN (Mexican Compositions)
The first number of Mexicaner Shriftn appeared in February, 1936 as a monthly magazine of literature, science and cultural affairs under the leadership of Moisés Glicowsky. His aim was to “Build a forum for the most representative literary figures in Mexico”.
Local writers who participated were: Jacobo Glantz with essays and poetry; Itzjak Berliner with poetry; Diego Rivera, who wrote about his paintings; Salomón Kahan, M. Rubinstein, A. Jinich, H. Lisker, E. Abrams, A. Yezior, L. Sosnowitz, and Sh. Zfas.
Mexicaner Shriftn came out regularly during four months. The number of pages varied between 24 and 30.
The Center of Documentation only has two samples from 1936 and 1937, which are unique samples.
b) FOROYS (Forward)
It was edited by the Society for Culture and Assistance, institution founded by a group of people arriving in Mexico from Poland of “Bundist” ideology (Jewish socialism). It was edited beginning in 1942 as a monthly magazine. Its editor and manager was N. Zfas.
The CDICA has 95 volumes that go from January 1943 to February 1983.
c) TRIBUNA ISRAELITA (Jewish Forum)
At the beginning it was an organ of the B´nei Brith Lodge (1944) and later on of the Anti-defamation Committee. This publication became the representative of the Central Committee and it published articles by its usual collaborators and by distinguished Mexican and foreign writers.
In the library we have a volume that goes from June, 1945 to October, 1947 and 174 magazines that embrace the period of January, 1947 to December, 1986.
The Center of Documentation safeguards files of various community institutions.
1) ASHKENAZI KEHILLAH FONDS(1928-1985)
Ashkenazi Kehillah in Mexico
On the second day of Passover in 1922, 28 Ashkenazi Jews gathered to create a congregation. The proposed name of the institution would be Nidjei Israel (Outcast from Israel), because they felt somewhat rejected. The community would be based on orthodoxy and thus it should fulfill the 613 mitzvot (good actions) that every Jew must perform according to the Torah. Finally, Rabbi Samuel Eliezer Dan said that his father’s name was Israel and this way he remembered his name. The proposal was accepted by everybody.
One of Nidjei Israel’s first tasks was to organize a house of prayer (Bet Medresh) where they could pray daily, but especially on the Sabbath and holidays.
The anxiety about having their own cemetery came up, because somebody had died and was going to be buried in a Christian cemetery.
At that moment, Mr. Adler came up with the news that Mr. Mentzer would donate a piece of land for the cemetery if a benevolent institution were to be created. When permit for the foundation was granted, Mr. Mentzer donated one thousand meters of land to the Nidjei Israel Benefit.
The Nidjei Israel Alliance was formed on August 19, 1924 and the document was protocolized on November 13, 1925.
The benevolent society continued renting a place on the 5 de Mayo 38 Alley until 1931 but membership was growing and there was not enough room and finally they decided to rent a house on Jesus María 3.
In 1933 Aarón Kletzel changed the name to Benevolent Alliance Nidjei Israel.
On January 27, 1937 they decided to buy land on Justo Sierra 71 and 73 and erect a synagogue. It was inaugurated on September 14, 1941.
From the very first years of Nidjei Israel’s creation several voices came up from the Ashkenazi Community in Mexico about the need to form a Kehillah, in the manner of European Kehillot (the idea had surfaced in 1926).
The Kehillah began its formal operations on January 1, 1957. It first board was made up of fifty four members, plus eleven collaborators from its subsidized organizations. Its first president was Simón Feldman.
The board’s plans, once its financial base was consolidated were:
To ensure the material existence of the Jewish school of the country.
To reduce school fees.
To buy new buses for the schools.
To edit a special publication about the Kehillah.
To obtain basic books for education.
To publish a children’s magazine.
To organize a youth excursion to Israel
To create a press to publish the work of Jewish writers in the country.
The 1988 elections renewed the board of the Ashkenazi Kehillah in Mexico. The winning list was headed by Jaime Bernstein and Israel Feldman; the latter was named president with vice-presidents Jaime Bernstein and Mendl Engelmayer.
After 1996 one of the president’s priorities was to approach all Ashkenazi institutions to try to bring them into the community fold. It tried to learn the problems in the schools, synagogues and other congregations to promote unity, because it felt that together much more could be done and there would be a much stronger Council.
There were new challenges and a solution had to be found as soon as possible. By petition of the Board and Ramat Shalom (an Ashkenazi synagogue) a decision was taken: to name a group of people from Ramat Shalom as well as from the Kehillah to perform a deep study of the Ashkenazi problems to present a new structure. Ramat Shalom’s position about its adherence to the Kehillah was clear and definite. This union could benefit both and in time reduce expenses and efforts. In 1997, the Ashkenazi Community Board was created.
The fonds is divided into six sections:
I) Record of Proceedings; II) Cultural Department; III) Eshel (Old People’s Home); IV) Religious Department; V) Administration; y VI) Department of Education (Vaad Hachinuch).
The documents belonging to this fondsallow us to reconstruct the history of the Kehillah. There is information about its presidents, of the meetings of its board, of the purchase of several pieces of land, building of its synagogues, various rulings, the change of name it has gone through in institutional life, etc.
2) FONDSOF THE MEXICAN JEWISH CENTRAL COMMITTEE (1938-1992).
The proposal to create a Jewish representation in the city occurred in 1927. The project took place partially in 1932 through the formation of the Federation of Jewish Societies, made up by the presidents of twenty societies that existed at the time in the capital city that were supposedly the authorized representatives of the Ashkenazi group. The Federation remained for two years. Then a Committee For Refugees arose that eventually became the Mexican Jewish Central Committee on November 9, 1938 in Mexico City.
The goals of the institution were to form an organic group of the whole Jewish Community in Mexico. The Central Committee began to work in a very difficult environment since its main activity was to support the refugees arriving in Mexican ports from Hitler’s Europe as well as the task of anti-defamation.
The Central Committee Fondshas twenty books of proceedings that tell the story of the work of the Central Committee between 1938 and 1992. In them we find the formation of the institution, the community composition in the Committee, money collections for Mexico such as Red Cross or the help granted after hurricanes or earthquakes suffered in the country, community leaders and help offered to refugees. The Documentation Center has 5,000 files in 178 archive boxes AGN12. This archive is unique and irreplaceable because it was donated by the Mexican Jewish Central Committee itself and there are no copies of its documents.
The most important sections are the administrative that holds the record of proceedings, accounting, reports from the board, assistance committee and membership; the Jewish Hospital that tells about the project of construction of a hospital to attend Jewish members; refugees divided into the Committee For Refugees, Assistance to Refugees and protection to Jews and Second World War with its branches: Allied Work of War, Anti Nazi Propaganda and protection to Jews.
3) JEWISH CHAMBER OF INDUSTRY AND COMMERCE (1931-1957).
Since the very first years of Jewish immigration into Mexico, commerce and small industry were the occupations of most of the new arrivals. The environment for merchants was very auspicious because intermediaries between large industry and the consumer mass were few. This situation benefited many of the immigrants so they could devote themselves to sales on the installment plan and later on to get a small capital for a store or workshop.
From the outset, the community required an organization able to protect and assist Jewish merchants. Men of this type together with small newly arrived producers needed juridical protection, advice and representatives who could intervene before the government authorities.
Having its own Chamber of Commerce became a question of prestige for the community because other smaller groups had their own chamber by then.
The Chamber of Small Jewish Businesses was founded on June 27, 1929 not just to coordinate among themselves but for the need of having representative organs before Mexican society. The first problem it had to face was the regulation of the Federal District authorities that their stands had to be taken away during lunchtime. However, that institution existed during only seven months. It dissolved on January 27, 1930.
In the protocols of the constitutive assembly of the Jewish Chamber of Industry and Commerce that took place in Tacuba 15, on March 24, 1931, it was stipulated that Mr. Barrou would be the president and Jacobo Landau the secretary.
The Chamber desired to have better relations with the Federal District and the state governments so that they could make a joint effort to strengthen and develop national industry and commerce.
Its creation had two main reasons: a) to be an instrument of defense of the interests of its members and b) to be united against anti-Semitic campaigns. The Jewish Chamber backed its members through advice, information about matters such as imports, exports, contract signatures, etc.
During its existence, the Chamber was devoted to:
1) Offering commercial, industrial and agricultural information both inside the country and abroad.
2) Obtaining the residence and legal entrance of members’ families and to hire juridical counsel.
3) Representing the community before the State.
4) Helping obtain licenses for small merchants, for peddlers and for manufacturers.
6) Creating a no-interest loan society.
For its operation it was divided into ten departments: commercial, industrial, judicial, public relations, technical advice, publicity, statistics, administration, finance and membership.
The Chamber’s main function was to serve as a link with similar non-Jewish institutions. It took part in the National Committee’s publicity campaign against illiteracy (1942), it cooperated during the Second World War with the Civil Defense Committee of the Federal District.
The fonds is made up of 79 catalogued boxes which were generated during the administration between 1931 and 1957. The most important are the series: Records of the Board; Refugees; Institutional Relations; Hardware Owners; Shoe Wholesalers; Jacobo Landau and Brothers; Jewish Committee for National Redemption and Defense Committee.
Among the most important in the fonds is the file:
Proceedings of the meeting of the Board on March 24, 1931, that established an association under the name of Jewish Chamber of Industry and Commerce in Mexico. The record shows the faculties and obligations of the Chamber.
4) FONDS OF THE MEXICAN COUNCIL OF JEWISH WOMEN.
The Council was formed in 1938 as part of the Mexican Jewish Central Committee under the name of Women’s Section. The women were in charge of assisting the immigrants who arrived as refugees. In 1962 this organization became independent and took the name of Mexican Council of Jewish Women (linked to the International Council of Jewish Women).
Their slogan was “From Jewish women to Mexican women”. This organization has contributed since 1943 to the building, maintenance and attention of nurseries, elementary schools and middle schools. In general, their line of work has stressed education, health and attention to the poor. The Mexican Council of Jewish Women has the peculiarity that their welfare work is devoted exclusively to Mexican society.
The Second World War took them to participate in support of women and children suffering from the consequences of the European war. The Mexican Council of Jewish Women decided to align itself with the International Red Cross to enable them to get assistance into combat areas. The link with the Mexican Red Cross exists till today and represents another important part of this organization’s activities: in financial help, in cooperating with campaigns for that institution and in the attention granted to various hospitals in Mexico, such as the Cardiology Hospital, Women’s Hospital, Psychiatric Hospital, Huipulco Hospital and General Hospital.
The Fonds is composed of 39 boxes divided into five sections: Administration; Board of Directors, Accounting, Community relations and Welfare.
5) FUND: ZIONIST ORGANIZATIONS.
Zionism is a movement created so as to perform the millenary dream of the Jewish people, to return to Eretz Israel and build a State.
In Theodor Herzl’s (founder of Zionism) time, Zionist congresses gathered every year and elected an Action Committee (or executive). The delegates were named by Zionist societies. In time, the mechanism of the Zionist Organization strengthened and grew. The Zionist Organization has federations or societies in almost every country in the world.
The Fonds is made up of sub-funds:
United Zionist Organization
Aliyat Hanoar. Institution in charge of helping children.
Mizrahi organization. Organization of religious Zionists. It works to strengthen religious feelings among Mexican Jews.
The Fonds is integrated by 153 boxes and 59 files.
The most important sections are the Jewish Agency, Aliyat Hanoar and Zionist Federation.
People who have played an important role in the history of the Mexican Jewish Community have often donated their files to the center, among the most important are:
a) DUNIA WASSERSTROM COLLECTION.
Dunia was a survivor of the Holocaust from the concentration camp of Auschwitz; she founded the Association of Members of Resistance and Deported Victims of the Second World War and wrote the book Nunca Jamás (Never Again) and her collection has documents of various types (photographs, diaries, manuscripts, documents, etc.)
b) BENJAMÍN KOVALSKY COLLECTION.
Benjamín Kovalsky was born in Lithuania and immigrated into Mexico. He worked as teacher during 40 years at the Colegio Israelita de México. His files contain documents and photographs.
c) NAHUM WENGROWSKY COLLECTION
Activist, promoter and tireless fighter for Keren Kayemet*in the Jewish Community of Monterrey, he arrived in Mexico on June 11, 1937. He played two important roles: that of firm Zionist and the fact that he was a pillar in religious community life. He was active in Keren Kayemet Leisrael, where he carefully registered every account and the proceedings of the organization. His meticulousness and hard work allowed us to keep this important documentary fonds. It is composed of 8 file boxes. It includes correspondence from Keren Kayemet and the Zionist Federation, Protocols, Hatikvah Club, Cemetery Accounting Books, loose receipts, Nahum Wengrowsky personal papers and those of the Monterrey Community.
d) JACOBO GLANTZ COLLECTION.
Jacobo was born in the Ukraine and immigrated to Mexico due to the bad economic situation and anti-Semitism unleashed in Russia. He lived through the ascent of Leninist communism, but he left the USSR when Stalin took power (1924). He performed a number of activities from selling bread to being a dentist.
The Glantz family had various businesses, such as a bag and glove boutique called Lisette, located on 16 de Septiembre Street, where he was attacked on January 1939 by a group of Golden Shirts who wanted to kill him. He managed to flee assisted by Siqueiros’ brother. The business he owned for several years was the Carmel restaurant that functioned “kosher style”. It was also one of the most important cultural centers in Mexico of that time.
As a Jewish Mexican intellectual he met a large number of personalities. Among the Mexican ones were Mariano Azuela, David Alfaro Siqueiros, José Clemente Orozco and Diego Rivera. Among the Jewish ones, Jacobo Glantz came together with Marc Chagal, Isaac Bashevis Singer and Sholem Asch whenever he had a chance to visit the literary circles in New York. In his own publications Mexicaner Yiddish Lebn (Mexican Jewish Life) is the most remarkable.
e) TUVIE MAIZEL COLLECTION
He was born in Yekaterinoslav, Russia in 1897 and died in Mexico in 1984. He arrived in Mexico in 1924 and was a great community activist from the onset of the formation of the Ashkenazi Kehillah; he headed the Cultural Department, was dean of the Teacher’s Seminar, defender of Yiddish and founder of the Festival of Jewish Music that carries his name. His Collection is composed by one file box.
BUSIA KOSTOV COLLECTION
Busia Kostov was an important activist of the Mexican Council of Jewish Women. She was born in Russia in 1910 and immigrated to Mexico in 1925, where she studied Chemistry at the National University. She participated constantly in various organizations such as the Committee for Refugees, the Committee for Human Rights of the Jews in the USSR and the Cultural Institute Mexico-Israel.
Her file contains a box of personal documents, postulations and conferences for the Mexican Council of Jewish Women, their reports, diplomas and magazines.
g) JANE FISHBEIN COLLECTION.
She was born in 1912. In 1953 she participated as secretary of the Women’s Committee at the Jewish Sports Center. Later she was President of the Press Committee of the same institution. She published several articles on Jewish tradition and religion. She was secretary of Aliyat Hanoar and president of Yom Hayeled (Children’s Day). She participated with the Plugah (defense) during the Six Day War. She proposed creating the Women’s Group of Karen Hayesod and was its president until 1969, as well as of Cavi, group dedicated to assist handicapped children. Her great community activity led her to have a relationship with Golda Meir and Eleanor Roosevelt. She worked in the Association of Jewish Journalists in Mexico, as well as in Zionist organizations.
In her files we find mainly documents about Aliyat Hanoar, Yom Hayeled, Cavi and Keren Hayesod.