Areas of Study

MSS 188

National Congress of Jewish Deaf, 1956-

National Congress of Jewish Deaf Collection, 1909-1998

Gallaudet University Archives

Descriptive Summary

Repository: Gallaudet University Archives

Call No.: MSS 188


Title: National Congress of Jewish Deaf Collection, 1909-1998

Quantity: 15 linear feet (23 document boxes, 2 slide boxes, 4 artifact boxes)

Abstract: This collection includes correspondence, minutes, program books, prayer books, photographs and slides, forms, artifacts, newsletters and other periodicals, newspaper and magazine clippings, display boards, and other materials related to the NCJD and the deaf Jewish community.

Note: This document originally written March 2013. Last update March 2013.

Administrative Information

Acquisition Information: The NCJD archives were established in 1984 using space provided by Gallaudet University, and collected materials until the mid-1990s under the management of NCJD’s archivists. The archive remained under the NCJD’s ownership until the fall of 2012, when they agreed to donate it to Gallaudet’s collection.

Processed By: Christopher Shea, March 2013.

Processing Note:

Conditions on Use and Access: This collection is open to the public with no
restrictions. Photocopies may be made for scholarly research.

Related Material in the Archives:


  • Collection of Temple Beth Or of the Deaf, 1961-1998. Gallaudet University Archives, call number MSS 181


  • Papers of Albert Berke, 1956-1959.Gallaudet University Archives, call number SMSS
  • Papers of Anna Bernhardt Plapinger, 1977.Gallaudet University Archives, call number SMSS
  • Papers of Adele Shuart, 1970. Gallaudet University Archives, call number SMSS


  • Albert Berke [picture]. Gallaudet University Archives, call number Portraits
  • Albert Berke photograph collection, 1956. Gallaudet University Archives, call number PH 0170
  • Philip Hanover album. Gallaudet University Archives, call number AL 32
  • Adele Shuart [picture]. Gallaudet University Archives, call number Portraits

Vertical Files

  • Berke, Albert. Gallaudet University Archives, call number: Deaf Biography
  • Fleischman, Alexander. Gallaudet University Archives, call number: Deaf Biography
  • Hanover, Philip. Gallaudet University Archives, call number: Deaf Biography
  • National Conference of Synagogue Youth. Gallaudet University Archives, call number: Deaf Associations
  • Plapinger, Anna Bernhardt. Gallaudet University Archives, call number: Deaf Biography
  • Steinman, Harold I. Gallaudet University Archives, call number: Deaf Biography
  • Warshawsky, Leonard B. Gallaudet University Archives, call number: Deaf Biography
  • Washington Society of Jewish Deaf. Gallaudet University Archives, call number: Deaf Associations

Historical Sketch

The National Congress of Jewish Deaf was founded in New York City in 1956. With the support of New York’s Hebrew Association of the Deaf, a group of deaf Jews – including chairman Philip Hanover, secretary Harold Steinman, and treasurer Anna Plapinger – made plans for a convention of deaf Jewish groups around the country. The convention was attended by representatives of deaf groups from Cleveland, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Boston, and even further abroad, including Canada and Israel. At the convention, it was agreed to establish a permanent national group to represent the interests of deaf Jews. Hanover was elected first president and Plapinger became the first treasurer, along with vice president Leonard Warshawsky and secretary Shirley Lerner.

At the second convention, held in Atlantic City in 1958, the group was officially named the National Congress of Jewish Deaf and its constitution and by-laws were approved by the members. After this, conventions were held every two years to share ideas and make plans for the advancement of the Jewish deaf community.

Among the NCJD’s achievements was creating an Endowment Fund to support the education of rabbis interested in serving the deaf, supplement their salary, and assist them in learning sign language if necessary. The NCJD was also instrumental in the founding of the World Organization of Jewish Deaf in 1976 and in 1978, began giving the Anna and Henry Plapinger Award to recognize NCJD members who had demonstrated outstanding leadership.

The NCJD also published prayer books, Haggadahs, and other Jewish religious materials intended specifically for the use of the deaf. In 1986, the NCJD brought out Adele Shuart’s book Signs in Judaism to help standardize the use of signs related to Jewish religious topics.

In 1990, then vice president Alan Hurwitz suggested the foundation of a new group in order to preserve the NCJD’s tax-exempt status. This group, the Jewish Deaf Congress, was approved as the NCJD’s successor organization in 1996 and has taken over the NCJD’s mission.

Scope and Content

This collection is a mixture of NJCD records and material acquired from NCJD affiliate groups. The bulk of the material is from the 1960s through the early 1990s; material earlier than the 1950s consists mostly of news clippings.

NCJD records present include a great deal of material from the NCJD’s biennial conventions, including souvenir program books and artifacts, minutes of board meetings at the conventions, and correspondence and other material related to planning the conventions. Also included is a run of the NCJD’s quarterly newsletter from 1959 to 1994 and papers from leading NCJD members including Albert Berke, Ben Estrin, and Philip Fleischman.

A vertical file of deaf Jewish newsmakers accumulated by the NCJD is also included. There is also extensive material related to Adele Shuart’s 1986 book Signs in Judaism, published by the NCJD, including a copy of the manuscript and a large collection of photographic slides showing the signs being demonstrated.

Material from other Jewish deaf groups mostly includes newsletters and publications, including a set of an early magazine for deaf Jews, The Jewish Deaf, published in the 1910-1930 era. Groups particularly well represented include California’s Temple Beth Solomon, New York’s Temple Beth Or, and the Washington Society of Jewish Deaf.

Series 1: Minutes, 1956-1990

Box 1

A collection of minutes of NCJD board meetings, mostly taken at the organization’s biennial conventions. Includes text of resolutions voted on by the board, financial and other reports presented to the board, and texts of speeches made before the board. Also includes some programs, fliers, and other material related to the conventions. See series 8 for more on the conventions.

Arranged chronologically.

Series 2: Financial records, 1963-1990

Box 1

Reports, forms, and correspondence related to NCJD’s financial status. About half this series is made up of federal tax forms (form 990) and Maryland state tax forms for NCJD. Also included are treasurer’s reports on NCJD’s balances, reports by convention hosts on the costs of running the conventions, and some correspondence between NCJD and the IRS about NCJD’s nonprofit status.

Arranged by subject.

Series 3: NCJD collection, 1960-1988

Box 2

Clippings, letters, publications, and other material produced by NCJD or related to its mission to promote the Jewish deaf. Of particular interest are printed copies of the NCJD’s constitution and by-laws – original and revised versions – and an informational brochure intended to introduce the NCJD to outsiders. This series also includes some religious material produced by the NCJD for the use of Jewish deaf, including a Passover Haggadah and some Sabbath prayer books, as well as fliers showing holiday and religious signs.

Arranged alphabetically by title.

Series 4: Albert Berke papers, 1956-1989

Box 3

As original chairman of the NCJD’s law committee, Berke was tasked with creating the new organization’s constitution and by-laws between the 1956 and 1958 conventions. Most of this series is related to the drafting of the NCJD constitution and by-laws, such as draft copies of the NCJD constitution, both typed and handwritten, and lists of potential changes. Also included is Berke’s correspondence with Morton Rosenfield, Alexander Fleischman, Philip Hanover, and others on the subject of the constitution, and some material related to Berke’s work planning the NCJD’s biennial convention in 1962.

Arranged by subject.

Series 5: Alexander Fleischman correspondence, 1986-1990

Box 3

A leading member of the NCJD, Fleischman was also first president of the World Organization of Jewish Deaf. This series consists of Fleischman’s correspondence from his term as NCJD’s executive director in the late 1980s, including correspondence with NCJD affiliate groups and with people requesting information on NCJD. It also includes correspondence with the NCJD’s board and copies of minutes from board meetings.

Arranged by subject.

Series 6: Ben Estrin papers, 1958-1993

Box 4

Most of these papers are from Estrin’s term as NCJD’s secretary-treasurer in the late 1960s and mid-1970s. Included are Estrin’s correspondence with other NCJD officers, correspondence with individual members and outside groups, and minutes and other material from NCJD conventions. Most correspondence deals with financial matters.
Also included are later papers related to Estrin’s term as president of the Washington Society of Jewish Deaf during the 1980s and 1990s. Most of these papers are Estrin’s correspondence and minutes from WSJD meetings he attended. For more on the WSJD, see series 6 and 13-15.

Arranged by subject.

Series 7: Sharon Dror papers, 1889-1990

Boxes 4-6

The bulk of this series consists of Dror’s book Deaf Trivia, published by the NCJD, and copies of various articles and clippings she used to gather information for her trivia questions. The series also includes correspondence and other materials from Dror’s work on youth programs for the 16th Biennial Convention in 1986. Also included are clippings and other research materials Dror used to create articles while editor of the NCJD Quarterly, as well as some of her correspondence and printed transcripts of TDD calls.

Arranged by subject.

Series 8: Conventions, 1958-1992

Boxes 6-8

Materials produced relating to the NCJD’s biennial conventions, held starting in 1958. Includes a complete run of souvenir program books from 1958 to 1992, as well as photographs, fliers, prayer books, attendee badges, and similar items given to members attending the conventions. For slides from the 16th Biennial Convention, see series 20. For souvenir items from the conventions, see series 21. For minutes from board meetings held at the conventions, see series 1. Series 2 has information on the costs of the conventions, and series 4-6 have various material related to the conventions, although most of that is duplicated elsewhere. Series 19 includes summaries of the proceedings of the first sixteen conventions.

Arranged chronologically.

Series 9: Periodicals, 1915-1995

Boxes 9-15

This series includes the NCJD’s own newsletter, the NCJD Quarterly, and various newsletters and other periodicals published by Jewish deaf groups. Of particular interest is The Jewish Deaf, a magazine published in the first decades of the 20th century. This series also includes an extensive run of Congregation News, the newsletter of California’s Temple Beth Solomon of the Deaf, and Demama, a magazine published by the Association of the Deaf and Mute in Israel in both English and Hebrew formats. For the Washington Society of Jewish Deaf newsletter, see series 13.

Arranged alphabetically by title, with NCJD Quarterly first.

Series 10: Vertical File, 1864-1992

Boxes 16-18

A collection of clippings, photographs, papers, and other items collected by the NCJD. Most of the series is made up of newspaper and/or magazine clippings about individual deaf Jews, drawn from both deaf and hearing media. Some entries in this vertical file are related to more general Jewish topics, such as the Holocaust.

Arranged alphabetically by name or title.

Series 11: Award Applications, 1990

Box 18

Forms and letters from NCJD affiliate groups proposing their members for NCJD awards, including the Anna Plapinger Award and the Award of Merit. Each entry includes the candidate’s name and contact information, as well as a brief description of what they did to merit nomination.

Series 12: Affiliate Member Reports, Undated

Box 18

Forms sent in by NCJD’s affiliate groups for inclusion in the affiliate membership directory. Information provided includes the name of each group’s officers, its recent activities (both secular and religious), and its goals and wishes for the NCJD.

Series 13: Washington Society of Jewish Deaf records, 1972-1995

Boxes 18-19

This series consists of minutes, correspondence, by-laws, and other materials from the Washington Society of Jewish Deaf, one of the NCJD’s affiliate groups. Also included is a run of the WSJD’s newsletter. For more on the WSJD, see series 6, 14, and 15.

Arranged by subject.

Series 14: East Coast Shabbaton Records, 1990

Box 19

Records from a shabbaton, or religious retreat, held in Reisterstown, Maryland, in 1990 under the joint sponsorship of the NCJD and the Washington Society for Jewish Deaf. Includes publicity materials, minutes of planning meetings, registration forms for attendees, and photos taken at the event. See series 6, 14, and 15 for more on the WSJD.

Series 15: Affiliates collection, 1909-1990

Boxes 19-22

This series is mostly made up of records from Jewish deaf groups around the country that are or were affiliated with the NCJD. Materials present include newsletters (see series 9 for more on newsletters), prayer books and other publications, program books from events, and news clippings about the groups. There is also some correspondence from the groups. There are especially large collections of material from California’s Temple Beth Solomon of the Deaf, New York’s Temple Beth Or, and the Orthodox deaf group Our Way.

Arranged alphabetically by group name or title.

Series 16: Camp Mikarev Chereshim records, 1984-1985

Box 22

Records from a 1985 summer camp held in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains for Jewish deaf children, sponsored by the NCJD. Most records in this series are from the notebooks of camp director Simon Carmel and include correspondence, clippings, brochures, worksheets and booklets used at the camp, information on campers and activities, and financial records for the camp.

Series 17: Adele Shuart manuscript and blueprints, 1986

Box 23

Fair copy of the manuscript and “blues” for Shuart’s book Signs in Judaism, intended to make it easier for Jewish deaf to communicate religious concepts accurately. Series 20 includes an extensive set of slides demonstrating Shuart’s signs.

Series 18: Helena Schmitt correspondence and register, 1985-1990

Box 23

Materials from Schmitt’s time as the NCJD archivist. Most correspondence in this collection is related to the archive, including acknowledgment letters for donations and letters regarding the processing of the collection. The register is an item-level description of the contents of the archive, arranged by donor name. (Schmitt’s register does not reflect the current arrangement or contents of the NCJD Collection.)

Series 19: Joseph S. Slotnick thesis, 1989

Box 23

A thesis written by Slotnick while attending CSUN as part of the requirements for his master’s degree in educational administration and supervision. The thesis covers the NCJD’s founding and summarizes the proceedings of the NCJD’s first sixteen biennial conventions.

Series 20: Photographs, 1945-1986

Boxes 23-25

The bulk of this series consists of photographic slides, mostly demonstrations of Adele Shuart’s signs for Jewish religious subjects – see series 17 for more on this topic. The collection also includes slides from the NCJD 16th biennial convention in 1986, a slide of Ms. Shuart herself, slides of a religious service for the deaf and blind, slides of pieces by the deaf artist David Bloch, and slides from the Israeli deaf dance troupe Kol Demama. There are also some oversized photos from events held by the New York Hebrew Association for the Deaf in 1949 and 1952, which are stored unboxed.

Series 21: Objects, 1940-1988

Boxes 26-29

Artifacts related to the history of the NCJD and Jewish deaf culture. Of particular interest are some items related to NCJD founding president Philip Hanover, including a gavel he was given at the 1958 convention by the Philadelphia Hebrew Association of the Deaf and a certificate of appreciation he received from the Chicago branch of the HAD. This series also includes a megillah, or Purim holiday scroll, made at New York’s Lexington School for the Deaf in the 1940s, a number of souvenir items from the NCJD’s annual convention, and a cape worn by Miss NCJD at the convention beauty pageants.

Series 22: Display boards, undated


This series is a set of posterboards used for display at conventions and other events. It includes a three-panel board used by the NCJD and a set of two two-panel folders and nine oaktag sheets decorated with copies, clippings, and photos from the history of Temple Beth Or.

Click here for folder listing, part 1

Click here for folder listing, part 2

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