Jewish Media Service

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Jewish Media Service (1975-1987)

In 1973, the Institute for Jewish Life, located in Wellesley, Massachusetts, initiated a national project with the goal of "fostering the effective use of the non-print communications media by Jewish institutions and groups." 1 The Media Project assessed the extent to which audiovisual materials and equipment were already being used in the community and, on that basis, provided for unmet needs. 2 The Media Project was designed "to promote increased understanding and greater effective use of media for the improvement of Jewish education and the cultivation of Jewish identity in the United States." 3

There was a need for a central, professionally-run archive of media information and materials, geared towards the specific and widely shared objectives of Jewish educators, community workers and lay leaders. The Media Project began to perform many of the functions of such a center and laid the foundation for its establishment.

In March of 1975, the Institute reviewed the accomplishments of the Media Project and decided on its continuation, renaming it the Jewish Media Service (JMS). When the Institute closed up, the JMS moved its offices into Brandeis University and operated independently in 1975. The JMS was created under a mandate from the Council of Jewish Federations. The Jewish Media Service became a national clearinghouse for the exchange of audio-visual materials and media ideas that originated from national and local community experiences. 4 The JMS supported independent filmmakers and video producers seeking new opportunities for their work as well as providing exposure for quality productions.

The Council of Jewish Federations and the National United Jewish Appeal became two immediate primary sponsors of the JMS in 1978. The Jewish Welfare Board became a sponsor later in 1978 and agreed to take on and house the records of the JMS. The first director of the Jewish Media Service was Sharon Pucker Rivo, who served from 1975 to 1978. Eric Goldman served as an intern under Rivo at Brandeis from 1974 to 1976 and directed the New Jewish Media Project, a student film cooperative. Bernard Timberg and David Kaufman, two Jewish film aficionados, also participated in this project. In 1978, Eric Goldman became the second director of the Jewish Media Service and served until the Spring of 1987. Under Goldman's supervision, the Service provided the intellectual leadership to educate CJF and other Jewish organizations about the potential of media to support a variety of communal objectives. 5

The Jewish Media Service, in conjunction with the Jewish Welfare Board Lecture Bureau, published Jewish Films and Their Makers (AJHS Call # DS115.95.Z9 J29) in 1986, a listing of independent filmmakers/speakers and their films. The publication is a resource guide to the work of more than forty Jewish film and video artists. 6

The Jewish Media Service started at Brandeis, but for much of its existence the JMS operated in the New York offices of the Jewish Welfare Board. While operating in New York City from 1978 to 1987, the JMS was funded by three main organizations: the Council of Jewish Federations, the American Zionist Youth Foundation, and the Jewish Welfare Board. Representatives of the reform and conservative movements also financially supported the JMS. In 1987 after the Jewish Media Service closed, the Jewish Education Service of North America (JESNA) took over some of the responsibilities of the JMS, including the publication of Medium, until the early 1990s. When JESNA realized that they could no longer continue operating the JMS as well as the publishing of Medium, the records of the JMS were surrendered and somehow donated to the American Jewish Historical Society (Eric Goldman, personal communication, June 15, 2011).

The Jewish Media Service was involved with the creation of Jewish cable networks in the Jewish communities. The JMS initiated the creation of film festivals such as the American Film Festival, the Sephardic film festival, and Yiddish film festivals. The Service produced trigger films and was involved with pilot projects. The JMS also participated in many film screenings and taught media workshops in schools.

The functions of the JMS were: "to serve as a central repository and distribution center for audiovisual materials (film, videotape, slide/tape, and filmstrip/tape programs) of particular value to the community; add to the stock of such materials by facilitating new production on both the national and the local levels; provide consultative and referral services to users in the field, based on an ongoing evaluation of existing materials; inform users of new technological developments and train them in their use." 7 The functions of the JMS are listed below.

Consultation and Media Referral Service

The Jewish Media Service staff answered inquiries and provided consultation on film selection, acquisition and usage of audio-visual equipment, media production, and the effective use of these materials for training and community education. 8 This service was provided to local and regional Jewish media centers, Jewish community centers, educational institutions, Jewish Federations, and community organizations.


The Jewish Media Service developed a series of workshops for presentation at national conventions and for staff training to increase understanding of the creative potential of the media for Jewish programming and teaching. The workshops revealed the potential of each medium in a variety of settings and demonstrated production techniques with media such as: 16-mm, film, super-8 film, videotape, filmstrips, slide/tapes and overhead transparencies. 9

Update & Review

Medium, the Jewish media review, was published three times per year by the Jewish Media Service. A specific topic of Jewish interest was explored in each issue. Medium was distributed nationally for free to Jewish communal professionals, educators and concerned lay leaders. Issues of the Medium can be found in the Jewish Educational Service for North America (I-75) collection at the American Jewish Historical Society. The Jewish Media Service evaluated existing and new media and published specialized listings and filmographies for distribution in the Medium as well as in TV in Review and TV Memo .

Film and Videotape Distribution

The Jewish Media Service began a nonprofit film and videotape distribution program. The JMS carefully selected materials of special value and prepared supplementary printed materials to meet the various needs of the Jewish community. Feature-length films, short films and videotapes were selected for catalog listing from national and international sources.

Television (Broadcast and Syndication)

The Jewish Media Service supported national Jewish programming and made television-ready programs available for lease. JMS also provided consultations to communities wanting to make use of the television medium, and offered innovative suggestions with which to program. TV Memo, the JMS TV usage advisory, was published periodically and distributed to professionals and individuals in Jewish communities.

Film Archives

The Jewish Media Service created the Rutenberg and Everett Yiddish Film Library in the American Jewish Historical Society to salvage, restore, and circulate films of unique historic importance.


1 Brochure: Jewish Media Service: A National Clearinghouse For Audiovisual Resources - A Project of the Institute for Jewish Life (AJHS I-513, Box 30, Folder 13)

2 ibid

3 Pamphlet: Soviet Jewry: A Catalogue of Media Materials, compiled by Amy W. Kronish. Institute for Jewish Life (AJHS I-168, Box 10, Folder 11: The Media Project)

4 Brochure: Jewish Media Service: A National Clearinghouse For Audiovisual Resources - A Project of the Institute for Jewish Life (AJHS I-513, Box 30, Folder 13)

5 Ukeles, Jacob D. The New Technology: Strategies for Enhancing Jewish Education . Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture, 1986.

6 Jewish Media Service & JWB Lecture Bureau. Jewish Films and Their Makers . New York, NY (1986).

7 Brochure: Jewish Media Service: A National Clearinghouse For Audiovisual Resources - A Project of the Institute for Jewish Life (AJHS I-513, Box 30, Folder 13)

8 ibid

9 Brochure: Jewish Media Service: A National Clearinghouse For Audiovisual Resources - A Project of the Institute for Jewish Life (AJHS I-513, Box 30, Folder 13)

From the guide to the Jewish Media Service, records, undated, 1898, 1944, 1955, 1957, 1961-1990 (bulk 1975-1987), (American Jewish Historical Society)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Institute for Jewish Life, records, undated, 1967, 1969-1976 American Jewish Historical Society
referencedIn Records of the Jewish Education Service of North America, 1922-1999, bulk 1940-1987 American Jewish Historical Society
creatorOf Jewish Media Service, records, undated, 1898, 1944, 1955, 1957, 1961-1990 (bulk 1975-1987) American Jewish Historical Society
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith American Jewish Historical Society corporateBody
associatedWith American Zionist Youth Foundation corporateBody
associatedWith Brandeis University corporateBody
associatedWith Council of Jewish Federations (U.S.) corporateBody
associatedWith Goldman, Eric A. (Eric Arthur) person
associatedWith Institute for Jewish Life (U.S.) corporateBody
associatedWith Jewish Education Service of North America corporateBody
associatedWith Jewish Welfare Board corporateBody
associatedWith Kaufman, David, 1948- person
associatedWith Rivo, Sharon Pucker person
associatedWith Timberg, Bernard person
associatedWith United Jewish Appeal corporateBody
associatedWith Weicher, Karyl J. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
New York (N.Y.)
Wellesley (Mass.)

Corporate Body



Ark ID: w63d119q

SNAC ID: 57915447