Jewish Education Service of North America

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The Jewish Education Service of North America (JESNA) was founded in New York City, where it still resides today, on May 7, 1939 as the American Association for Jewish Education (AAJE). Its establishing mission was “to advance the cause of Jewish Education in the United States through cooperative efforts.” The collection of data on Jewish education began in 1945 with the establishment of the Department of Research. Under the tutelage of the new department, school censuses were carried out almost annually. The studies’ findings were published at least in part in the American Jewish Yearbook from 1945 to 1980. In 1959 AAJE released the results of its first major national study of Jewish education. Numerous community studies were continuously conducted, but the next national study was released not until 1964, this time focusing on adult Jewish education. This second study was prompted by the rise in adult Jewish education following World War II, and led AAJE to establish the first national conference on adult Jewish education in February of 1965.

Furthermore, the after-effects of WWII affected not only the focus of AAJE’s research but also its overall mission. In its initial years of existence AAJE’s membership was comprised of individuals and professionals. However, following the war the number of Jewish educational organizations grew considerably, and by the 1960s AAJE recognized a need to restructure its purpose and function. In 1965, AAJE became an umbrella organization for educational and congregational bodies, as well as denominational commissions. Prior to the reorganization, the American Jewish Yearbook described the function of AAJE in 1960 as: “...serves local communities with studies in educational trends, stimulation of student enrollment, recruitment and placement of teachers, and pedagogic materials.” By 1970, the American Jewish Yearbook described AAJE's activities as: “Coordinates, promotes, and services Jewish education nationally through 17 constituent national organizations and 44 affiliated Bureaus of Jewish Education; conducts and administers exchange program for Israeli teachers; sponsors and supports the National Curriculum Research Institute, the National Board of License, the National Testing Bureau, the National Council on Adult Jewish Education, the National Council on Jewish Audio-Visual Materials, the Commission on Teaching about Israel; engages in statistical and other educational resources." By 1970, AAJE was sponsoring numerous organizations and serving cities throughout the United States and Canada, and on July 1, 1981 AAJE became the Jewish Education Service of North America (JESNA).

The final series of the collection contains records from the Jewish Media Service though this organization was never part of JESNA. Originally founded in 1973 by the Institute for Jewish Life, the Jewish Media Service was created under a mandate from the Council of Jewish Federations. The Jewish Welfare Board, the Council of Jewish Federations, and the National United Jewish Appeal became primary sponsors of the Media Service in 1978. During its existence into the late 1980s, the Media Service distributed film equipment and videos, evaluated and offered consultation on media materials, and assisted communities in establishing media centers. They also organized workshops on the use of media in addition to developing supplementary materials such as discussion guides. Much of the records in this series represent the Jewish Media Service’s further objective to consult filmmakers and video producers for their publication "Medium," a Jewish media review. For much of its existence the Media Service resided within the New York offices of the Jewish Welfare Board. However, at some point in the late 1980s the Jewish Media Service disbanded, and in the early 1990s the Jewish Education Service of North America took over its role to some extent.


Bell, Roselyn, ed. The Hadassah Magazine Jewish Parenting Book . New York: Avon Books, 1991. Print.

American Jewish Committee, and Jewish Publication Society of America. American Jewish Year Book . 41-83 vols. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1939-1983. Print.

Norwood, Stephen H., and Eunice G. Pollack. "Jewish Education Service of North America." Encyclopedia of American Jewish History . 2007. Print.

The Jewish Media Service/JWB: Five Years of Service, 1983, I-337, NJWB, American Jewish Historical Society

From the guide to the Records of the Jewish Education Service of North America, 1922-1999, bulk 1940-1987, (American Jewish Historical Society)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Records of the Jewish Education Service of North America, 1922-1999, bulk 1940-1987 American Jewish Historical Society
referencedIn 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 Cleveland Bureau of Jewish Education (Cleveland, Ohio) corporateBody
associatedWith Coalition for the Advancement of Jewish Education corporateBody
associatedWith Council of Jewish Federations (U.S.) corporateBody
associatedWith Engelman, Uriah Zevi person
associatedWith Janowsky, Oscar I. (Oscar Isaiah), 1900- person
associatedWith Jewish Media Service corporateBody
associatedWith Kallen, Horace Meyer, 1882-1974 person
associatedWith Lown, Philip W., 1890- person
associatedWith National Curriculum Research Institute corporateBody
associatedWith Pilch, Judah person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Jewish education statistics. Research report

Corporate Body



Ark ID: w6m76mdx

SNAC ID: 12002820