ISU Hillel: A Jewish Student Club

Happy Jewish American Heritage Month!

Currently, Iowa State University boasts two recognized Jewish student organizations on campus: Hillel and Chabad. Because we, unfortunately, do not have an abundance of archival documentation on either, my knowledge of their histories is a bit murky. However, I have located some traces of ISU Hillel (a branch of a national organization by the same name) back to 1940, which appears to have been its date of arrival on campus. If this is indeed the correct date, and the club has been active continuously since that point, which seems to be the case, then next year, 2020, will be their 80th anniversary.

The earliest mention I found was a page from the 1942 Bomb yearbook, which featured a full page on the group after they chose to forgo an annual banquet so they could dedicate their entire event budget to the purchase of a patriotic war bond instead. The page details the group’s origins, touches on their weekly activities, and names club officers.

A page from the 1942 Bomb Yearbook, page 173, which reads as follows. Title: Hillel Club Purchase National Defense Bond. Text: Hillel Foundations are sponsered by B'nai B'rith, America's oldest and largest service organization, for the purpose of bringing more adequate knowledge of their heritage to the Jewish students of the university campus. Units are supervised by trained professional directors who cooperate with representative student leaders in the task of making Jewish religious and cultural values vital and relevant for the college generation. The first Hillel Foundation was established in 1923 at the University of Illinois. There are now 60 units, strategically centered in every part of the country. In 1940 a counselorship was awarded the group at Iowa State College, Rabbi Morris N. Kentzer, director at the University of Iowa, was made this group's director also. Dispensing with the tradition of the annual banquet, the Hillel group purchased a Defense Bond with the money that would have been used for food. The group meets weekly in the Pine Room at the memorial Union. After a short business session, a speaker is featured who may discuss religion, international affairs or student problems. Officers: Ben Bookless, president: Ann Harris, secretary: louis Plotkin, program chairman: Robert Ettinger, representative to Interchurch Council: Sylvia Kalnitsky, Corresponding secretary.

1942 Bomb Yearbook, page 173

Owing in part to the existence of a campus-wide “Religious Emphasis Week” in the 1940s, many of the ISC ’40s yearbooks feature sections on religious and service organizations, and these include images of the Hillel club sporadically through about 1949.

1946 Bomb Yearbook, page 120. There are group pictures and the following title: "Bit and Spurs rode show horses in Veishea; Hillel group took part in campus WSSF aid."

1946 Bomb Yearbook, page 120

1947 Bomb Yearbook, including group pictures of the Hillel club. The text reads: "B'Nai Brith Hillel. As part of a B'Nai Brith, national Jewish religious organization, Hillel held Friday evening religious services. Social hours, an informal winter dance, and a spring banquet featured the social program. President for the year was Harley Babbitz."

1947 Bomb Yearbook, page 159

Images of group shots of the Hillel Club. The title reads, "Hillel maintained its ties with the Jewish students association."

1948 Bomb Yearbook, page 162

Two images feature group pictures of the Hillel Club. Text reads: "Hillel. The members of B'nai B'rith Hillel used their weekly programs to combine social and cultural interests. The Hillel Players became an active group spring quarter. At the annual Memorial Day picnic awards were given to students for outstanding service to the group. Beatrice Shapiro was president; Richard Caplan, vice-president; Esther Medalie, treasurer; and Sol Hoffman, secretary.

1949 Bomb Yearbook, page 264

Researchers will be glad to see that most of these captions identify the individuals pictured, which means it may be possible to reconstruct membership rosters for the club’s early years, if these do not exist elsewhere, and/or look up additional information about graduating seniors’ majors or other campus involvement.

Several yearbook indexes post 1949, in fact, list B’nai B’rith Hillel under entries for senior activities, so we can surmise that the club was still in existence after this point, even if campus publications did not cover its activities as thoroughly.

Within the University Archives collections, however, we have some club ephemera that picks up documentation again in the 1970s.

Draft of a purpose statement on a fragment of paper. Text reads: "B'Nai B'rith Hillel. The purposes of B'Nai B'Rith Hillel are to provide for the social and religious needs of the group here at Iowa State College. Any person interested in the organization may join by paying the dues of $1.00 per year. During the year religious services, and discussion groups are held in room 222 of the Memorial Union every Friday night. Yearly reports of the organization may be obtained from the councilor of the local chapter."

Draft of a purpose statement on a fragment of paper. No date, but circa 1970. RS 22/8/0/2 Box 1, folder titled “B’nai B’rith Hillel (Jewish)”

Handwritten calendar and financial statement for club activities for the 1972-1973 school year. For details on text, please contact the ISU archives.

Handwritten calendar and financial statement for club activities. RS 22/8/0/2 Box 1, folder titled “B’nai B’rith Hillel (Jewish)”

A number of these documents are internal club records — handwritten accounts detailing yearly activities and budgets. Correspondence included in this folder suggests that ISU student groups were being required for the first time to submit annual paperwork in order to maintain an official affiliation with the university, and/or receive funding. So these single-page accounts may have been drawn up for an early version of what is now the club recognition process.

Handwritten calendar and financial statement for club activities for the 1972-1973 school year. For details on text, please contact the ISU archives.

RS 22/8/0/2 Box 1, folder titled “B’nai B’rith Hillel (Jewish)”

There are also a few 1970s programs, like the 1974 handout below, which advertises a series of Holocaust memorial events.

Front of the handout. For details on text, please contact the ISU archives.

Front of the handout, RS 22/8/0/2 Box 1, folder titled “B’nai B’rith Hillel (Jewish)”

Back of the handout. For details on text, please contact the ISU University Archives.

Back of the handout, RS 22/8/0/2 Box 1, folder titled “B’nai B’rith Hillel (Jewish)”

There are also a few newspaper clippings that date from the late 1970s through the early 1990s, again evidencing that the group was active on campus throughout that time, if not particularly well-documented in archival records.

RS22-08-00-02_1978

Article from the Iowa State Daily, February 2, 1978

Article from the Iowa State Daily, August 6, 1991

Article from the Iowa State Daily, August 6, 1991

If you have more information or documentation regarding the history of ISU’s B’Nai B’rith Hillel club, or of other Jewish organizations or events on campus, please feel free to contact the University Archives at archives@iastate.edu. We would love to hear from you.


Yes! You Were Here, Too: Yearbook Portraits of AAPI Students from the 1940s.

Because our classes let out at the beginning of May, ISU tends to celebrate AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islander) History Month a month early.

Something I’ve noticed about our heritage months posts, which center the histories of specific racial or ethnic communities, is that they tend to front-end very recent history. This makes sense from an archival stand-point, because the records we have preserved for these communities don’t always go back very far. But, sadly, the archival gaps  perpetuate an illusion that non-white students were not always present on the ISU campus.

But this was not true! We have photographic evidence to the contrary — at least, we have some senior portraits in the old Bomb YearbooksThe real issue is that we don’t usually have much documentation beyond these photos, or even about the people in them, and that, if we do, it’s not always clear where this documentation might live. This is why these pictures tend not to be brought forward all that much. We don’t know the story behind them. As archival records, they just exist.

But they do exist.

Here, then, is a sampling of 1940s (decade chosen somewhat at random) yearbook portraits of students whom I believe — based, unfortunately, solely on appearance and name — to be AAPI, along with at least one potentially South Asian/Middle Eastern student. My hope is that someday all of our students will be able to see themselves in Iowa State history very readily, without first needing to pour through tomes of records in order to find a face that looks like theirs. But we are still working on that goal.

1942_Tsuneo Tanabe_portrait

Tsuneo Tanabe, Class of 1942. 1942 Bomb Yearbook page 113

As can be seen on his yearbook page below, Tanabe was from Poctello, Idaho and completed a B.S. in Dairy Husbandry.

1942_Tanabe with Classmates

Tanabe with his classmates. 1942 Bomb, page 113.

1943_Woo C._Portrait

Chi-tang Woo, Class of 1943. 1943 Bomb Yearbook page 129.

Not all yearbooks give detailed information on graduating seniors, but, because of the war, classes of the early 1940s were relatively small, so this year’s yearbook made an exception. Woo’s hometown, area of study, undergraduate college, and some of his I.S.C. activities are listed below.

1943_Woo Info

1943 Bomb, page 128

 

1944_John Barakat

John Barakat, Class of 1944. 1944 Bomb Yearbook, page 20.

For those students whose yearbook pages were less helpful, I was not, unfortunately, able to do any external research at this time. But, if you are interested in learning more about their stories, feel free to use my post as a jumping-off point!

1944_Barakat with Classmates

Barakat pictured with his classmates. 1944 Bomb, page 20.

1946_Mildred A. Saha

Mildred A. Saha, Class of 1946. 1946 Bomb Yearbook, page 37.

1946_Mildred with Classmates

Mildred with her classmates. 1946 Bomb Yearbook, page 37.

1946_Yutaka Kobayashi_portrait

Yutaka Kobayashi, Class of 1946. 1946 Bomb Yearbook, page 32.

1946_Kobayashi with Classmates

Kobayashi with his classmates. 1946 Bomb Yearbook, page 32.

1947_Shigeru Fujimoto_portrait

Shigeru Fujimoto, Class of 1947. 1947 Bomb Yearbook, page 23.

1947_Fujimoto with Classmates

Fujimoto with classmates. 1947 Bomb Yearbook, page 23.

1948_Chujen Julien Liu

Chujen Julien Liu, Class of 1948

1948_Chung Yu Lo

Chung Yu Lo, Class of 1948

1948_Liu and Lo with Classmates

Liu and Lo with their classmates. 1948 Bomb yearbook, page 34.

1948_Tze Sheng Chiang_portrait

Tze Sheng Chiang, Class of 1948. 1948 Bomb Yearbook, page 24.

1948_Chiang with classmates

Chiang with classmates. 1948 Bomb Yearbook, page 24.

Another important thing to note is that, because these portraits feature only graduating seniors, and only those who chose to have their pictures taken, it is likely that there were more AAPI students on campus at this time. It is also very possible that I missed people, misidentified people’s ethnicit(y/ies), or both. I did not do extensive research on any of these students, and, because yearbook portraits from this era are black and white and very low resolution, I omitted several ethnically-ambiguous individuals who had German or Anglo-Saxon last names (which might have meant they were multi-racial, bore anglicized family names, were white-passing, were in fact white, or any other number of things). As such, I encourage you to come look at the yearbooks yourself. They are available both in the SCUA reading room and via our digital collections online.

If you happen across additional information (or additions or corrections!) about any of the individuals featured above, feel free to send me an email at achesonr@iastate.edu, and I will update the post. Also, if you decide to do further research on former students who have peaked your interest, please let us know what you find out about them! We are always interested in learning more about Iowa State alumni.


Tornado Country

Tornadoes have always played a major role in Iowan life, as those still reeling from the images of last week’s destruction realize all too well. In fact, as one might guess from the nickname “Cyclones,” this aspect of life is something the area is known for. SCUA has not, at least in the past, actively collected documentation of any major storms, but evidence of their ongoing existence has crept in here and there nonetheless.

Below is a rare original page of Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper housed in Special Collections. Also known as Leslie’s Weekly, the paper — based in New York — was famous for depicting scenes from breaking news via wood block engravings in an era before photographs were commonplace.

Page from Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, features a wood block engraving of a young couple with children running into a dugout during a tornado. Caption under the illustration reads, "Iowa -- the approach of a tornado -- family seeks refuge in a 'cyclone shelter'."

Page from Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, MS 390, folder 9

For folks who like more tangible evidence of the past, you should check out the “tornado souvenir,” a hand-carved piece of birch bark from a storm on campus in 1924, which is held in our artifact collection. See more pictures here.

Piece of birch bark with lettering (by hand): "Tornado Souvenir June 28, 1924[.] From Tree near Margaret Hall I.S.C. Ames, Iowa" (Artifact #2001-024)

Piece of birch bark with lettering (by hand): “Tornado Souvenir June 28, 1924[.] From Tree near Margaret Hall I.S.C. Ames, Iowa” (Artifact #2001-024). Photograph by Rachel Seale.

It’s a bit further away from home geographically, but you can also glimpse damage wrought by an earlier storm (circa 1890-1910, though the image itself is undated) in Grand Mound, Iowa if you visit SCUA’s Flickr page, where we have a lot of other cool pictures, as well. You will need to click through to the link to see it, but this particular image was scanned from a glass plate negative, which can be found in the Descartes Pascal Papers, MS 91, Box 6, Folder 8.

Because tornado damage is an ongoing reality in this part of the country, Iowans have cultivated a lifestyle of helping neighbors re-build and recover from these periodic disasters. And ISU students have been no exception, as all current members of the Cyclone football team demonstrated by donating their time last Saturday to help with clean up in Marshalltown. Nor have our athletes been the only students historically inclined towards lending a hand. The 1967 Bomb article below evidences that multiple Greek organizations provided monetary donations and were well-represented on site after a tornado struck Belmond, IA in October 1966, even if the author of the article presents a rather biased interpretation of their motives.

Iowa State Greeks Aid Others Less Fortunate. A perennial criticism of fraternities and sororities is that they have no purpose, and that they no longer accomplish anything worthwhile. Although there may be some truth to this, most houses at Iowa State actively participate in surprisingly worthwhile service projects. While many suspect that most of these projects are mainly for publicity, the fact remains that Iowa State's Greeks do a lot of things for other people that they wouldn't have to do. Pi Beta Phi and Delta Sigma Phi collected over $3,000 to help pay for the rebuilding of Belmond. Alpha Chi Omega pledges offered their services for a day to the Beloit Children's Home. Whatever the motive, ISU's fraternities and sororities devote time and energy, and sometimes even money, doing things for those who appreciate their efforts.

The Bomb 1967, page 403

Best wishes, then, from SCUA for a speedy recovery to everyone who got caught in one of the most recent storms. And for those of you who are newer to campus, or to the state, don’t forget to check out the University severe weather protocols and/or some safety tips from ISU Environmental Health and Safety.



Gloria Steinem’s 1984 visit to ISU #TBT @iowastatedaily @GloriaSteinem

When reading the Iowa State Daily today I was pleased to see an article on Pat Miller and her role in building the ISU Lectures Program. It is a vibrant program and has had as many as 177 lectures in a year. The article mentions Gloria Steinem‘s participation in the ISU Lectures Program. I thought it would be fun to share an article about Gloria Steinem’s first lecture from the Bomb, the Iowa State University yearbook printed from 1894-1994. If you didn’t catch her previous lectures, you are in luck! Gloria Steinem is returning to campus, on October 11.

Pages 92-93 of the 1985 Bomb. The white string vertically crossing page 93 is  a weight. We use weights to gently hold down pages without putting undue pressure on the spine of our books. The pages describe Women's Week '84 at ISU, pictured are Gloria Steinem at her "Everyday Rebellions" lecture, people protesting Steinem's lecture, and the prediction run.

Pages 92-93 of the 1985 Bomb. The white string vertically crossing page 93 is  a weight. We use weights to gently hold down pages without putting undue pressure on the spine of our books. The pages describe Women’s Week ’84 at ISU, pictured are Gloria Steinem at her “Everyday Rebellions” lecture, people protesting Steinem’s lecture, and the prediction run.

Drop by the Reading Room to check out the Bomb! We’re open Monday – Friday from 9-5. You can also view all of the Bombs online, thanks to Digital Initiatives!