Janowsky, Oscar I. (Oscar Isaiah), 1900-

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Professor of Political Science.

Janowsky was an alumnus of City College, Class of 1921.

From the description of Papers, 1935-1957. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 155503026

Oscar I. Janowsky was born on January 15, 1900 in Suchowola, Poland to Aaron and Dina (Bobre) Janowsky. In 1910 the Janowsky’s immigrated to the United States. In 1921 he graduated from City College of New York with a BSS. He then went on to earn his Ph.D. in History from Columbia University in 1933. In 1922 he married Pauline; they had three children Sylvia, Melvin, and Tamar. They remained married until her death in the 1980s. Sometime thereafter he married Lillian who cared for him in the remaining years.

Oscar Janowsky served as Professor of History at City College of New York from 1922 until his retirement in 1966. During his tenure at the college he initiated the development of the MA Liberal Arts program and served as the Director of Graduate Studies (1951-1957). Additionally, he served as part of the doctoral faculty at City University of New York while there he assisted in the development of the doctoral history program. Upon his retirement in 1966 he was named the Jacob Ziskind Visiting Professor of History and Contemporary Jewish Studies at Brandeis University.

Much of Janowsky’s research focused on the common ground between Jewish Studies and general subjects with special emphasis on modern history. The courses he taught focused on international relations and imperialism, the rights of national minorities, Jewish history and literature, American Jewry, Israel, and modern European history. If one were to take his research as journey of discovery to discovery, the common theme would be seeking an understanding of minority rights and culture in pluralistic societies.

Initially Oscar studied the effects of imperialism on national minorities in Europe. His first major work Jews and Minority Rights (1898-1919) was published in 1933. Due to his research he served as an advisor (1935-1936) to League of Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, James G. McDonald, whom he assisted in the writing of McDonald's Letter of Resignation. The following year he, along with Melvin Fagan, wrote International Aspects of German Racial Policies (1937). He then traveled throughout the Balkans and East-Central Europe researching the problems of national minorities, these travels and his notes were used in the writing of People at Bay: The Jewish Problem in East-Central Europe (1938) and later Nationalities and National Minorities (1945).

Following his time abroad Janowsky returned to the United States, and with other Jewish scholars sought to understand the place of American Jews within American culture and how best to combat anti-Semitism in the United States. Their efforts were edited by Janowsky in The American Jew: A Composite Portrait (1942). Due to his research and knowledge of American Jewry, he was commissioned by the National Jewish Welfare Board to direct a study on the Jewish orientation of Jewish community centers in the United States by surveying 300 community centers. The results where published in the seminal JWB Survey (1948) also known as the “Janowsky Report.” His recommendations emphasized the Jewish cultural aspects of the centers rather than non-sectarian programming.

Continuing to examine Jewish life in the United States and the changes taking place in community centers, Janowsky sought to understand how Jewish teachers were trained. In 1952 he was named Chairman of the Commission for the Study of Jewish Education in the United States. Along with U.Z. Engelmann, Janowsky, working for the commission, organized and directed the study of Jewish Education in the United States. His research in the field of Jewish Education was published in The Education of American Jewish Teachers (1967).

For most of his academic career he served as member of various groups working to establish and support the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. These included the Board of Governors, the Academic Council, where he served as chairman, and the American Friends of Hebrew University. He also organized the American Student Program for the university. Sometime in the 1950s his research interests changed again, this time focusing on the welfare-state policies practiced in Israel. His findings are covered in his Foundations of Israel: Emergence of a Welfare State (1959).

Nearing the end of his career, he returned to the study of American Jewry and in 1964 edited The American Jew: A Reappraisal (1964) more than two decades after the original examination of Jews and Jewish culture in the United States was published. Two years later Janowsky retired from his post at City College and moved to the community of Rossmoor in New Jersey. From the time of his retirement until his death in 1993, he continued to serve the academic and Jewish communities as a teacher and scholar. From the study of Jewish and other minorities facing turmoil in Europe, to Jewish community centers and education in the United States, to the establishment of Israel’s welfare policies, Oscar Janowsky’s research is both broad and deep.

From the guide to the Oscar I. Janowsky Papers, undated, 1916-1993, (American Jewish Historical Society)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Janowsky, Oscar I. (Oscar Isaiah), 1900-. Papers, 1935-1957. Campbell University, Wiggins Memorial Library
referencedIn Records of the Jewish Education Service of North America, 1922-1999, bulk 1940-1987 American Jewish Historical Society
referencedIn National Jewish Welfare Board, Army-Navy Division records, undated, 1917-1955, 1969, 1974 American Jewish Historical Society
creatorOf Janowsky, Oscar I. (Oscar Isaiah), 1900-. Open membership and Jewish purpose: dilemma of Jewish community centers. Yeshiva University
referencedIn Louis Kraft Papers, undated, 1914-1975 American Jewish Historical Society
creatorOf Janowsky, Oscar I. (Oscar Isaiah), 1900-. The Fabian society, its origin and early history. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
referencedIn National Jewish Welfare Board, Records, undated, 1889-1995 (bulk 1917-1990) American Jewish Historical Society
creatorOf Oscar I. Janowsky Papers, undated, 1916-1993 American Jewish Historical Society
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Adler, Cyrus, 1863-1940 person
associatedWith American Jewish Historical Society corporateBody
associatedWith Baron, Salo Wittmayer, 1895-1989 person
associatedWith City University of New York. City College. corporateBody
associatedWith College of the City of New York (1926-1961). City College. corporateBody
associatedWith Fagan, Melvin person
associatedWith High Commission for Refugees (Jewish and Other) Coming from Germany corporateBody
associatedWith Jewish Education Service of North America corporateBody
associatedWith Jewish Welfare Board for Soldier’s and Sailor’s Relief corporateBody
associatedWith JWB (Organization) corporateBody
associatedWith Kraft, Louis, 1891-1975 person
associatedWith Kraft, Louis, 1947- person
associatedWith League of Nations. corporateBody
associatedWith Marcus, Jacob Rader, 1896-1995 person
associatedWith McDonald, James G. (James Grover), 1886-1964 person
associatedWith National Jewish Welfare Board corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
United States
New York (N.Y.)
Europe, Eastern
United States
Human rights
International relations
Jewish community centers
Jewish community centers
Jewish culture and contexts
Jewish educators
Political science
Welfare state
College administrators
College teachers


Birth 1900-01-15

Death 1993-11-04


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