History of the JHSGNH

The Society had its beginning in the Spring of 1976, when Harvey N. Ladin held several organizational meetings in his offices on Temple Street.

[Photo of Harvey N. Ladin]

[Harvey N. Ladin (1913-1984) was the founder and first president of the Jewish Historical Society of New Haven. After his death, the Society’s Board of Directors voted unanimously to name the Archive of the Society in his memory, The Harvey N. Ladin Memorial Archives. This picture appeared in Volumes IV of “Jews in New Haven.”] 

Mr. Ladin had been collecting New Haven Judaica and related historical materials for many years, most of which were stored in the basement of his home. The remaining materials were kept in the library of the Jewish Community Center. Mr. Ladin felt strongly that these materials should be properly stored and cared for, and that they should be made available to scholars for research. He also felt strongly that the history of New Haven’s Jewry should be written down for posterity.

With these thoughts in mind, the Society was incorporated under the name, The Jewish Historical Society of New Haven. In time, the name was changed to reflect the broader scope of the Society’s activities. Shortly after the founding, Jonathan Sarna, then a doctoral candidate at Yale, assumed the task of publishing the first volume of Jews in New Haven. When the book was being prepared for publication, Jonathan felt that its cover should be adorned with an appropriate logo.

The late Manny Zeid, then a member of the Society and a graphic designer, volunteered his services to produce an appropriate symbol to adorn the cover of the book. The logo which he produced represents the “nine squares” of the City of New Haven, the Holocaust Memorial on Whalley Avenue, and the Hebrew phrase K’tov zot zikaron. The Hebrew words (from Exodus 17:14) mean “Write this as a rememberance,” and was suggested by the late Rabbi Arthur A. Chiel. Rabbi Chiel, of Congregation B’nai Jacob, was an author, lecturer, and a respected historian, and was also a fundamental force in the organization of the Society.

Much needed guidance, advice, and leadership were also given by Ms. Judith A. Schiff, Chief Research Archivist at Yale University, and the late Rollin Osterweis, Professor of History at Yale. There were of course many others who also lent their support and time and expertise to the establishment of the Society. When Harvey N. Ladin passed away in 1984, the Board of directors voted to name the archives in his honor.

Today, the Society maintains its office and archives on the campus of Southern Connecticut State University, and employs two staff members. The holdings of the Society have been used by scholars, genealogists, and other researchers from around the world. Seven volumes of Jews in New Haven have been published to date, several of which have been honored with “Awards of Merit” from the Connecticut League of Historical Societies. The Society has also loaned materials and participated in mounting exhibits for the City of New Haven, Yale University, the New Haven Colony Historical Society, and the Ethnic Heritage Center.