2022 National History Day: Debate and Diplomacy

For general information about this year’s theme, please read the official National History Day’s theme book, Debate and Diplomacy.

The Wyner Family Jewish Heritage Center has several collections that could pertain to this year’s theme. We encourage you to check out our finding aids, our subject files, or our digital archive. You can also view our collections in the library catalog.

Please note: if you wish to view documents in our Digital Library and Archive, you will need to email us to make a request. You can also call us at 617-226-1245 with your questions.

This is just a sample of relevant collections in our archives. To search for more materials, you can do a keyword search here.


Diplomacy and Debate with the International Community

Mark Bortman Papers, P-856
Mark Bortman was a businessman, lifelong student of American history, and a strong supporter of civic service. In 1956 President Dwight Eisenhower named Bortman Chairman of the People-to-People Civic Committee. Developed by Eisenhower, the program's goal was- and remains to this day- to promote cultural understanding throughout the international community. From 1959-1961 Bortman served as Chairman to the People-to-People Program, overseeing the Sister City Program, which paired together American and international cities. This collection primarily consists of correspondence and memorabilia pertaining to Bortman’s involvement in the People-to-People Program. Several photographs, some signed, of Bortman with Vice President and Lady Bird Johnson, Churchill, and Eisenhower are included, as well as scrapbooks with news clippings and programs regarding the People-to-People program.
View in Digital Library & Archives

Herbert B. Erhmann Papers, P-94
Herbert B. Ehrmann was a lawyer in Boston, Massachusetts. With William G. Thompson, Ehrmann served as associate counsel for Sacco and Vanzetti during the closing years of their trial. He wrote two books, The Untried Case and The Case that Will Not Die, about the trial. He was active in civic affairs and in Jewish organizational life, and in 1957 was a member of a nine-man delegation which conducted a 15,000-mile fact-finding survey in Europe, North Africa, and Israel. This delegation was granted a special audience with Pope Pius XII and was the only Jewish group to be awarded such an honor. The delegation also met with Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion and other Israeli officials, and with government leaders in France, Italy, Tunisia, and Morocco. This collection contains correspondence, addresses and speeches, newspaper clippings, and published material relating primarily to Ehrmann's activity in the national and Boston chapter of the American Jewish Committee (1935-1970). Of special interest is material on the relation of the Committee to the American Jewish Conference (1943-1948), the relationship of American Jewry to the State of Israel, and the attitude of the Committee to the establishment of Israel.
View in Digital Library & Archives

Samuel Gurvitz Papers, P-352
Samuel H. Gurvitz was born in Boston and graduated from Boston English High School in 1921 and Suffolk Law School in 1926. A resident of Newton, Massachusetts, he owned the New England Millwork Distributors in Dorchester for 30 years and practiced law privately. This collection contains schedules and notes from Gurvitz's trips to Palestine (1934 and 1936); Paris, Berlin, and Warsaw (1939); and Budapest, Vienna, Prague, and Paris (1939.) The European trips, sponsored by the American Joint Distribution Committee, focused on visiting camps for illegal refugees and Jewish towns. His notes discuss the political and emotional mood in Europe at the time due to the impact of Nazi Germany. The notes are a firsthand account of what was happening to Jews in Europe just prior to World War II. 
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Abraham C. Ratshesky Papers, P-586
Abraham Captain Ratshesky was a banker by profession who founded the U.S. Trust Company with his brother Israel in 1895, and served in a variety of political positions, including the Massachusetts State Senate from 1892-1895, delegate to the Republican National Conventions between 1892-1924, Assistant Food Administrator for Massachusetts during World War I, and United States Minister to Czechoslovakia from 1930-1932. A noted philanthropist, Ratshesky was involved in relief efforts for the 1917 Halifax Disaster, the donation of the building used for the American Red Cross headquarters in Boston, and the 1925 “Pennies Campaign” to restore the U.S.S. Constitution. He also founded the A.C. Ratshesky Charity Foundation in 1916, still in operation. This collection contains personal and professional photographs of family, friends and trips to Czechoslovakia, a scrapbook detailing his work on the Halifax Relief Expedition, reports on actions as U.S. Minister, diaries, films, and letters from new First Lady Coolidge following the death of President Harding.
View in Digital Library & Archives

Diplomacy and Debate about Israel and the Middle East

Ron Fox Papers, JHCP-014
Since 1972, lawyer Ron Fox has been a regular organizer, writer, and speaker on the conflict between Israel and Palestine, primarily as a critic of Israel’s actions. He wrote numerous articles on the subject, including on Israeli treatment of Palestinians, the legality of settlements, American politics and Israel, and much more. He maintains a blog, Judaism and Israel, where he posts many of his writings, including responses to current events. In 1990, Fox helped form a Tikkun Study Group to foster discussion about the Israel/Palestine conflict, as well as other issues affecting the Jewish community. This collection contains correspondence, writings, articles, meeting minutes, newspaper clippings, photographs, and cassette tapes documenting Fox’s longtime activism and criticism of Israel, as well as his involvement in the Jewish community. Also included are his correspondence with various politicians, organizations, and individuals regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; meeting minutes, correspondence, and photographs documenting his involvement in the New England Tikkun Community, Wadi Na’am Project, and Tikkun Leadership Committee; subject files—which include newspaper clippings, articles, and other secondary sources—on topics such as the 1982 Israel-Lebanon war and settlements; as well as numerous writings and articles Fox authored about issues surrounding the conflict.
This collection has not been digitized. Please contact us for more information.

Harry Levine Papers, P-592
Harry Levine was introduced to Zionism by Elihu D. Stone and influenced by Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis. He was largely responsible for overseeing the construction and import of Uzi submachine guns into British-Mandated Palestine for the purpose of establishing the State of Israel. Levine was a friend of Israeli President Dr. Chaim Weizmann and a charter member of the American Committee for the Weizmann Institute of Science, as well as the major contributor (with Leona Levine) of the Harry and Leona Levine Institute of Applied Science of the Weizmann Institute. This collection primarily deals with Levine’s contributions to the Weizmann Institute of Science as a donor and board member, and his role in establishing the State of Israel. Two interviews with Levine detail his meeting with Haim Slavin, the agent for David Ben-Gurion, and subsequent establishment of a munitions factory in then British-Mandated Palestine and the use of the weapons in the Israeli military force.
View in Digital Library & Archives

Robert Silverman Papers, P-1014
Robert Silverman worked as a lawyer and was an active American Zionist from an early age, establishing the youth organization Sons and Daughters of Zion in 1898. He was a member of the Zionist Organization of America and B’nai Zion and founded the Independent Order Sons of Israel and the National Zionist Archives, which were taken over by the Jewish Agency in New York. Additionally, Silverman was the New England, and later, national director of the United Palestine Appeal, served as secretary of the United Israel Appeal (renamed from the United Palestine Appeal in 1952), and acted as a delegate to the 1937 World Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland. He took many trips to the Middle East, both personally and with organizations, and he worked for decades to raise money and governmental aid for Israel.
This collection has not been digitized. Please contact us for more information.

Oscar and Celia Sterman Papers, P-875
The Stermans were involved in philanthropic Zionist activities and supported the establishment of the State of Israel. Their contributions included the construction of a library, youth center, health center, sports center, and the addition of the Electro Mechanic Department to the Max Pine Trade Center. In 1960, the Stermans traveled to Israel to oversee construction and attend the opening ceremonies for their buildings.
View in Digital Library & Archives

Dewey D. Stone Papers, P-529/529-A
Dewey David Stone played a role in U.S. politics, providing funds which aided Harry Truman in securing the 1944 Vice Presidential nomination and raising money for Truman's 1948 presidential campaign. Stone also assisted John F. Kennedy in his 1952 senatorial campaign by providing him the opportunity to address Massachusetts Jewish leaders. (Kennedy had had difficulty procuring invitations from Jewish organizations, due to his father's previous endorsement of Adolf Hitler.) Stone also served as an advisor to Kennedy during his presidential campaign. He was a leading figure in the American Zionist movement. In 1946, DDS headed the U.S. operation to acquire boats to bring survivors of the Holocaust into Palestine and during the 1947-1948 United Nations debates, he played a major role in securing votes for the UN Partition Resolution. After the Resolution was passed, he helped Dr. Chaim Weizmann secure President Truman's recognition of Israel.
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Elihu D. Stone Papers, P-555/555A
Active in the Zionist movement, in 1919 Stone was responsible for the passage of a resolution in the Massachusetts House of Representatives urging American Delegates to the Paris Peace Conference to support the establishment of a Jewish commonwealth in Palestine. He was largely responsible for the passage of the Palestine Resolution by the Massachusetts Legislation on March 29, 1922, which in turn led to the Joint Resolution passed by the U.S. Congress later that year, favoring the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine. This collection contains speeches, essays, correspondence, resolutions, and photographs documenting the professional, political, and personal life of Stone. Some material is in Hebrew, Yiddish, and German.  
View in Digital Library & Archives

Student Engagement in Diplomacy in Support of Soviet Jewry

Concerned Jewish Students of Greater Boston Records, I-157
The League of Concerned Jewish Students began as a small group of students in Boston making public demands in November 1969 at the General Assembly of the Council of Jewish Federations and Welfare Funds. Students sought more democracy within organized Jewish life and funding and asked that Jewish Federations be more aware of their cultural values. The organization served as a reminder to charities to maintain, and increase, their Jewish identity. Concerned Jewish Students demanded: reordering of domestic priorities toward Jewish education, more aid for Soviet Jews, ardent support for Israel and appropriation of funds toward creative programs examining Jews living in a world of shifting values.
View in Digital Library & Archives

New England Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry Records, I-237
The Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry began in April 1964, with college students from Yeshiva University, the Jewish Theological Seminary, Columbia University and Queens College gathering to discuss the plight of Soviet Jews. The meeting was the starting point for a grassroots movement led by Jacob Birnbaum, a British man whose family escaped Nazi Germany, to put pressure on the United States government to condemn the Soviet government's treatment of Soviet Jewry. Numerous college students were engaged in the movement, including those in the New England area. Limited information is available on the New England movement's history, but it began sometime in the mid-1960s and was active in the community throughout the early and mid-1970s. Included in this collection are letters to and from government officials and Rabbis who supported the cause.
View in Digital Library & Archives

Records of Student Coalition for Soviet Jewry—Brandeis University, I-493
The Student Coalition for Soviet Jewry (SCSJ) was founded in 1977 in response to the arrest of Anatoly B. Shcharansky. Thirteen students from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts went to Washington, D.C. to lobby Congress about the problems faced by Jews in the Soviet Union. The numbers of students involved continued to grow and expanded to include students from other colleges and universities in the United States. The Washington Lobby, which was held every February, provided opportunities for students to meet with members of Congress to educate them on the plight of Soviet Jews and urge them to get involved, either in letter writing campaigns or the adoption of Refuseniks (a term for Soviets who were denied the right to emigrate). Students also participated in silent vigils in front of the Soviet embassy and met with representatives of the Soviet Affairs desk at the State Department. 
View in Digital Library & Archives

Additional Resources


These collections have materials that pertain to a wide variety of sub-topics pertaining to debate and diplomacy, including ties with the topics listed above. Please view the finding aids for more information on each collection listed below. 

Combined Jewish Philanthropies (Boston, Mass.) Records, I-220/220A
Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP) of Boston, Massachusetts is the oldest federated Jewish philanthropic organization in the United States. The current incarnation of CJP was formed in 1960, when two separate federated philanthropies – the Combined Jewish Appeal and Associated Jewish Philanthropies – merged to create a single organization dedicated to serving the needs of Boston’s Jewish community. CJP’s records contain the history of several other organizations, from the forerunners of the current Federation to the Jewish institutions supported by CJP. Their beginnings can be traced to the founding of the United Hebrew Benevolent Association (UHBA) in 1864 at the Pleasant Street Synagogue (now Temple Israel).  
View in Digital Library & Archives

Boston Jewish Community Relations Council Records, I-123
To address community concerns surrounding the increase in antisemitic attacks in primarily Jewish neighborhoods, the Associated Jewish Philanthropies organized an interim committee in 1938 to examine interfaith cooperation in Boston. After this committee dissipated, the Associated Jewish Philanthropies organized the Central Advisory Committee during World War II. This committee established the Jewish Community Council of Metropolitan Boston in 1949. The Council continually modified its goals and purpose to reflect the changing political and economic landscape. After World War II, focus shifted to include Jewish representation in non-sectarian community or public groups, civil rights, community relations, and fund solicitation practices. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, committee work also addressed religious liberties, intercultural education, Israel and the Middle East, civil liberties, immigration, legislation, and discrimination. In the 1970s, council committees continued to focus on Middle East affairs, Church and State, human rights, and Jewish concerns, as well as Soviet Jewry, media, and the Boston Holocaust Memorial.    
View in Digital Library & Archives


The JHC has a collection of Jewish newspapers from Massachusetts.

In addition to the Jewish Advocate of Boston (available at our library or the Boston Public Library as a Proquest database) and the Boston Jewish Times (mid-1945 to 1992), the JHC has two other local Jewish newspapers available for research. These two newspapers have not been digitized and are only available as bound volumes:

  • Jewish Weekly News (Western Massachusetts, 1949-1997)
  • Jewish Journal (North Shore, 1950-2011

Other newspaper sources on microfilm are listed on this page.