Scope and Content
Organization and Arrangement
Title: Western States Jewish History Archive
Date (inclusive): 1800-2004
Collection number: 1739
Stern, Norton B.
Kramer, William M.
Western States Jewish History Association
Abstract: The Western States Jewish History Archive contains the compiled research and activities of the Society's two founders, Dr.
Norton Stern and Rabbi William Kramer. The bulk of the collection includes research files on individuals, institutions and
organizations, and synagogues throughout California. These vary in their breadth and specificity, some offering original primary
source materials, while others largely comprised of newspaper clippings and research notes. Files from institutions and organizations,
as well as synagogues, often contain internal documents -meeting minutes, memos, and legal and financial records- in addition
to newsletters, pamphlets and other public materials. Kramer's personal papers are also in the collection as well, including
drafts of his oral and written work, personnel records from his various employments, and photos and ephemera of his family.
Language: Finding aid is written in
University of California, Los Angeles. Library. Department of Special Collections.
Los Angeles, California 90095-1575
Physical location: Stored off-site at SRLF. Advance notice is required for access to the collection. Please contact the UCLA Library, Department
of Special Collections Reference Desk for paging information.
Restrictions on Access
COLLECTION STORED OFF-SITE AT SRLF: Open for research. Advance notice required for access. Contact the UCLA Library, Department
of Special Collections Reference Desk for paging information.
Restrictions on Use and Reproduction
Property rights to the physical object belong to the UCLA Library,
Department of Special Collections. Literary rights, including copyright,
are retained by the creators and their heirs. It is the responsibility of
the researcher to determine who holds the copyright and pursue the
copyright owner or his or her heir for permission to publish where The UC
Regents do not hold the copyright.
Provenance/Source of Acquisition
Gift of the Western States Jewish History Association, 2004.
Processed by Caroline Luce in the Center for Primary Research and Training (CFPRT), with assistance from Elizabeth Sheehan
and Kelley Wolfe Bachli, 2009.
[Identification of item], Western States Jewish History Archive (Collection Number 1739). Department of Special Collections,
Charles E. Young Research Library, UCLA.
The Western States Jewish History Association, originally named the Western States Jewish Historical Society, began as an
offshoot of the Southern California Jewish Historical Society, a local branch of the American Jewish Historical Society. The
Association's founder, Norton Stern, and was appointed to create and publish a journal,
The Western State Jewish History Quarterly in 1968.
Norton Stern was closely affiliated with the Santa Monica Temple, and an amateur researcher whose interest in history began
as a hobby. He conducted massive amounts of genealogical/biographical research on Jews in the West, writing several articles
and books, as well as a weekly column entitled "Our Pioneer Heritage," published in the Northern California Jewish Bulletin.
His pursuits largely related to recovering the Judaism of many characters in early-American California (i.e. post-Gold Rush,
mid 19th onward) as he canvassed cemeteries, early newspapers, business directories, and temple records to construct a richer
narrative. Stern also conducted an extensive and highly valuable oral history project, interviewing many of the older Jewish
residents in LA and the surrounding areas before his death in 1992.
Because Norton Stern's research interests extended beyond Southern California Jewish history, Stern broadened the focus of
the journal to the entire American West, highlighting particularly the "pioneer phase" of Jewish arrival into areas in West
in the 19th century. His research trips and interviews served as the basis of the
Quarterly's early content, Stern and Kramer working closely to write and publish as much as they could. As popular and academic interest
in both the history of the American West and Jewish history in the West expanded in the 1970s and 1980s, dozens of researchers
and librarians became part of the Western Jewish History Association's network, submitting articles and essays of their own
and assisting with Stern's research. These contributors also appear in the collection.
William Kramer began as one such contributor, but soon began to play an integral role in Stern's publication. Kramer served
as the scribe, helping Stern to craft longer essays and books about his research. Kramer and Stern published several books
together, and lectured together at synagogues and organizations throughout Los Angeles. As a rabbi, Kramer served at Temple
Israel of Hollywood and later Temple Beth Emet in Burbank, as well as other congregations throughout the U.S. before he arrived
in Los Angeles, and late in his life, an online community he called B'nai Bill. His work with the Temple Israel religious
school promoted his involvement with a variety of Jewish educational committees, including the Western Association of Temple
Educators and the Bureau of Jewish Education. Kramer also involved himself in other activities within the Jewish Community,
serving in the Bureau of Jewish Education and several Reform and Liberal Judaism councils. He was also on the faculty at
Hebrew Union College and California State University, Northridge. Many of the research files on Jewish organizations and institutions
in Los Angeles contain materials he collected through his various commitments. Kramer also had an avid interest in Jewish
art, writing frequently about local artists such as Hans Burkhart and Harry Lieberman. Much of Kramer's material in the collection
was gathered in preparation for his autobiography, which was unfortunately never completed, as Kramer died in 2004.
The network of researchers, historians, and interested community members that Kramer and Stern created in the Western Jewish
History Association continues to this day. As of 2008, the Quarterly began its 40th year of publication, thanks largely to
the efforts of Gladys Sturman, David Epstein, and the Association's volunteers. Ms. Sturman and the volunteers worked to gather
all of Stern and Kramer's research materials, distributing them to libraries throughout Southern California, including UCLA,
the Autry National Center, and the Huntington Library. The Western States Jewish History Archive is but one of the portions
of the materials they gathered, for a full list of libraries, refer to the Association's webpage,
Scope and Content
The bulk of the collection is organized into research files of materials Kramer and Stern compiled about individuals, institutions
and organizations, and synagogues throughout California. These research files vary in their breadth and specificity, some
offering original primary source materials, while others largely comprised of newspaper clippings and research notes. Files
from institutions and organizations, as well as synagogues, often contain internal documents -meeting minutes, memos, and
legal and financial records- in addition to newsletters, pamphlets and other public materials. The scope of these research
files cannot be underestimated. They include a wide variety of organizations and institutions, as well as nearly 500 individuals
and families and nearly every major Jewish congregation in California.
There is also an abundance of source material related to individuals and topics outside of those contained in the research
files. The collection contains an assortment of journal and book excerpts, newspaper clippings, pamphlets and tracts, sermons
and speeches, and a few maps and photos. In addition to the written materials, there are audio and visual materials, including
several roles of microfilm from Stern's collection.
There is large amount of Kramer's personal papers in the collection as well, including drafts of his oral and written work,
personnel records from his various employments, and photos and ephemera of his family. The collection also contains similar
legal and financial records and correspondence of the Association.
Organization and Arrangement
The collection is divided into 5 large series: research files, source materials, William Kramer's papers, Norton Stern's papers,
and the papers of the Western States Jewish History Association. The majority of the material had been previously organized
into research topics - some obviously created by the researchers themselves (i.e. Norton and Stern) and others potentially
renamed/created by someone else (i.e. the archivists at WSJHA). Because of the authorship/collector was difficult to determine,
the titles given to have been retained. Some titles that have multiple files have been collapsed into a single folder or box.
The research files are divided into subseries based on what type of information they contain, falling into 5 large categories:
Biographies, Institutions/Organizations, Places (both by-state and by-country), Topics (events and themes), and Congregations
(primarily within the state of California).
The materials not included in specific files scattered throughout the collection fall into the category of "source material."
While the Huntington received the Society's collection of books, thousands of newspaper articles, pamphlets, sermons, speeches,
maps, book excerpts, journal articles, photos, and other resources are included in the source material category. Also included
are the collections' audio and visual materials, including microfilm rolls of several historical newspapers, as well as recordings
of a variety of educational and religious events. While some of the other source materials appear in their original form,
many of the books and newspaper clippings are reproductions and copies.
Kramer and Stern's personal papers both include drafts and manuscripts of their written work, as well as their research related
and personal correspondence. Both had a hand in creating the research files, and their notes appear scattered throughout the
research materials. Kramer's papers include far more materials related to his life and work, including photos and personnel
files from his various pulpits and appointments. These materials related to his various jobs are organized by the occupation
and the institution, each Temple at which he served as well as each school at which he taught corresponding to a folder. Stern,
on the other hand, worked more diligently to catalogue his own research, and his papers include research write-ups and reports
on interviews that the WSJHA has helped to organize into bound volumes.
The WSJHA has its own additional series, including folders for various regular contributors to the
Quarterly as well as legal documents, unpublished records and correspondence pertaining to their parent organization, the Southern
California Jewish Historical Society. Notes, correspondence, drafts and other documents that cannot be ascribed to Stern or
Kramer are housed in this category (ex. typed with no author listed). This folder also holds clippings from the Western States
Jewish History Quarterly (the Society's publication).
The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
Western States Jewish History Archive