Five College Archives and Manuscript
UMass Amherst seal
Leon Shapiro Papers, 1939-1984
15 boxes (8.75 linear ft.)
Collection number: MS 127

Historian, author, Professor of Russian and Soviet Jewish History at Rutgers University, who helped arrange the escape of Jews from Europe during World War II and was active in several organizations concerned with the emigration of Soviet and Eastern European Jews to Palestine. Papers include biographical materials, correspondence, legal documents, writings, lecture and research materials, statistical data in the world Jewish population before and after World War II, oral history transcripts, pamphlets, newspaper clippings, and four photographs.

Terms of Access and Use:

The collection is open for research.

Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries

Biographical Note

Leon Shapiro (1905-1984) was a historian and Professor of Russian and Soviet Jewish History at Rutgers University; author of The History of ORT: A Jewish Movement for Social Change ; a 35-year contributor of articles to "The American Jewish Yearbook"; fluent speaker of Yiddish, Hebrew, English, Russian, German, French, and Ukrainian; helped arrange the escape of Jews from Europe during World War II; and an active member in several organizations concerned with the emigration of Soviet and Eastern European Jews to Palestine and other issues related to Judaism.

1905Born July 14, in Hersun (Korsun, Korsoun, Hersein), Kiev, Russia, to Mark and Freida Scheinblum Shapiro.
Candidate for degree in Social Sciences and Law, University of Kiev.
Imprisoned for anti-Bolshevik activities.
1925Exiled to Palestine.
1928Diplome de Licencie en Droit, Social Sciences and Law, University of Toulouse.
1935Married in Paris to Leorfore Rita Willdorff; divorced in 1940.
1940Secretary General, Federation des Societes Juives de France, Paris
1941-1949Research Associate, American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, New York.
1941Immigrated to U.S.
1946Married Luba.
1954-1956Assistant Director, Cultural Department, Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany
1964-1967Research Associate, Columbia University Seminar in International Research Methods.
1964-1972Assistant Executive Director, Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture.
1968-1978Professor, Russian and Soviet Jewish History, Department of Hebraic Studies and Soviet/Eastern European Studies Program, Rutgers University.
1972-1973Adjunct Professor, Queens College, School of General Studies, City College of New York.
1973Adjunct Associate Professor, Judaic Studies, Brooklyn College, City College of New York.
1974-1975Adjunct Associate Professor, Academy Without Walls, Haifa University.
1978-1979Professor, Empire State College.
1984Died, December 25, New York City.
Scope and contents of the collection

The Leon Shapiro papers (1939-1984) pertain primarily to Soviet and Eastern European Jewry before and after World War II and to the formation of the nation of Israel in personal, research, and published materials.

The collection comprises biographical materials, correspondence, legal documents, audio-tapes, four photographs, writings, newspaper clippings, research materials, oral history transcripts, printed materials, and statistical data.

Information on Use
Terms of Access and Use
Restrictions on access:

The collection is open for research.

Preferred Citation

Cite as: Leon Shapiro Papers (MS 127). Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries.

History of the Collection

Acquired from Luba Shapiro, Leon's wife, via Michael Wolff and Stanley Radosh, 1986.

Processing Information

Processed by Linda Seidman, December 1986.

Additional Information
Contact Information
Special Collections and University Archives
W.E.B. Du Bois Library
University of Massachusetts Amherst
Amherst, MA 01003-9275

Phone: (413) 545-2780
Fax: (413) 577-1399
Link to SCUA
English and French
Related Materials
East and Central Europe
Orla history
Social change
World War II

Encoding funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Series Descriptions

Shapiro's legal papers and official documents, biographical information, two audio-tape interviews of Mr. Shapiro, newspaper obituaries, and publication lists are in Series 1.


Incoming letters and typescript copies of outgoing letters, mostly professional, some personal, are in Series 2, alphabetically arranged. Notable are the letters from Romanian Jews seeking immigration to Israel (1970s). Series 2 also contains a photograph of a painting titled "On Both Sides of the Warsaw Ghetto Wall 1943" sent by the artist, Israel Beinbauer, and three other unidentified photographs, ca. 1931 Vienna.


Subject files in Series 3 are divided into two sections, arranged alphabetically. The first contains materials related to Shapiro's professional and personal interests, and includes pamphlets and minutes of meetings from the program for Jewish Studies Without Walls, his two audio-tape lectures on the History of Soviet Jewry, a certificate and badge of Honor from the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee along with Russian newspaper articles, various committee materials, and independent research projects. The second section is primarily comprised of Rutgers University student papers, correspondence, and lectures.


Handwritten, typescript, and photocopies of various articles about the Soviet Union submitted to the American Jewish Yearbook for publication, along with their printed versions, are arranged chronologically in Series 4. Also present are statistics on the World Jewish Population, correspondence relating to publishing, ORT papers, book reviews, and an audio-tape of the 1980 ORT Rabbinic Scholar Conference.


Census and other statistical data on the world Jewish population before and after World War II, together with descriptions of French concentration camps and Jewish life in occupied France, are in Series 5 in chronological order. Notable are the materials regarding Irgun, Haganah, and Palestine. This series contains a message to British soldiers dated 1947, other Hebrew documents, newspaper articles, and transcripts of political broadcasts relating to the foundation of Israel. Also in Series 5 there are reference materials on Jewish resistance during the holocaust and in Palestine.


Series 6 contains transcripts and seven audio-tapes from the Lautenberg Oral History Collection of Surviving Eastern European Communities, listed alphabetically. These describe Jewish life before Hitler and Stalin assumed power.


Pamphlets, booklets, articles, and miscellaneous ephemera relating to Soviet and European Jewry and holocaust survivors are in this series.

Contents List
Series 1. Biographical and Bibliographical

Vita and Biographical articles

Box 1:1
Lists of Publications

Box 1:2
Official Documents: Birth, Marriage

Box 1:3
Official Documents: Citizenship, Travel

Box 1:4
Official Documents: Education, Work

Box 1:5

Box 1:6
Interview: LS interviewed by Rabbi Seligson on "Message of Israel", audiotape

Box 1:7
Interview: LS interviewed by Sheila Zucker, WEVD-FM, audiotape

Box 1:8
Series 2. Correspondence

A - American Committee

Box 1:9
American Jewish Committee - American Jewish Yearbook

Box 1:10
American ORT Federation

Box 1:11
B - C

Box 1:12
D - G

Box 1:13
H - K

Box 1:14
L - Ma

Box 1:15
Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture

Box 1:16
Mon - N

Box 1:17
O - Wol

Box 1:18
Women's American ORT

Box 1:19
World ORT Union

Box 1:20
Wos - Z, unidentified

Box 1:21
75th birthday greetings

Box 1:22
Series 3. Subject files

Academy for Jewish Studies Without Walls

Box 2:23
American Council for Emigres in the Professions

Box 2:24
American Jewish Committee talk, Irving

Box 2:25
American Joint Distribution Committee--Certificate of Honor

Box 2:26
Association for Jewish Studies

Box 2:27
Brooklyn College

Box 2:28
Columbia University

Box 2:29
Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture

Box 2:30
National Endowment for the Humanities

Box 2:31
New York Association for New Americans

Box 2:32
ORT Jewish Book Fair, Detroit, packet

Box 2:33
ORT: National Rabbinic Scholar Conference

Box 2:34
Pasternak, Boris, clippings

Box 2:34a
Project on 100 Years of Jewish Life in Russia and USSR

Box 2:35
Queens College

Box 2:36
Rutgers: class handouts

Box 2:37
Rutgers: course materials

Box 2:38
Rutgers: Hebraic Studies Department

Box 2:39
Rutgers: Jews in Eastern Europe, Lecture Notes and background materials

Box 3:40
Rutgers: Lectures-Eastern European Jews

Box 3:41
Rutgers (and Queens): Modern Anti-Semitism--Lecture notes and suppl.

Box 3:42
Rutgers: University position--correspondence and documents

Box 3:43-46
Rutgers: Soviet and East European Program--memos and correspondence

Box 4:47
Rutgers: Soviet and East European Program--reports, lists, etc.

Box 4:48
Schwartz (?), Part I, edited ts draft

Box 4:49
Society for Research on Jewish Communities

Box 4:50

Box 4:51
Stalin-Alliluyeva, Svetlana

Box 4:52
Students' papers

Box 4:53
Students' papers

Box 4:54
Students' papers

Box 4:55
Students' papers

Box 4:56
Students' papers

Box 5:57
Students' papers

Box 5:58
Students' papers

Box 5:59
Students' papers

Box 5:60
Students' papers

Box 5:61
Students' papers

Box 5:62
Synagogue Council of America

Box 5:63
Union of Russian Jews

Box 5:64
World Union of Jewish Studies

Box 5:65
Zipperstein, Steven: "First Years of Jewish Odessa" 1978

Box 5:66
Unidentified items

Box 5:67
Series 4. Writings

American Jewish Yearbook --ms, typescript, and printed versions of LS contributions

Box 6:68-80
"L'Influence Juive Chez Marcel Proust" --ms; also ms or notes on Charles Plisnier

Box 7:81
"Foyer de la Bibliotheque de la Sorbonne" --dialogue

Box 7:82
Encyclopedia Judaica articles: correspondence about and typescript

Box 7:83
"Russian Jewry after Stalin", in Russian Jewry 1917-1967

Box 7:84
"Passover Restrictions in the Soviet Union", Jewish Telegraphic Agency Passover Release No. 9

Box 7:85
History of the Jews in Russia and Polandby Simon Dubnow, reissued--biog., intro., and outline history by LS: correspondence., reviews, publicity

Box 7:86
"Soviet Jewry since the Death of Stalin" --typescript draft and reprint from American Jewish Yearbook, 1979

Box 7:87
History of ORT

Box 7:88-91
Guide to the Material on ORT's History

Box 7:92
"Mid-passage--50 Years of ORT: Short Comments"

Box 7:93
Speech: ORT Rabbinic/Scholar Conference, audiotape

Box 7:94
Speech: "ORT in Jewish Life"

Box 7:95
Speech: "ORT's Origins"

Box 7:96
Speech: "Jews and Jewish Communities in Eastern and Central Europe--An Overview"

Box 7:97
Jews Under Tyranny: The Soviet Union -outline

Box 7:98
Additional notes re: USSR

Box 7:99
Jewish Life in Russia and the USSR --outline, chapter, ms, corresp.

Box 8:100
One Hundred Years of Jewish Life in the Russian Empire and Under Soviet Rule -outline

Box 8:101
Soviet Russia/Russian Jewry in the 20th Century--lecture notes (?),writing preparation (?)

Box 8:102
Book reviews

Box 8:103
Series 5. Research Materials

World Jewish Population

Box 9:105-114
Soviet, Russian, and East European Jewry

Box 10:115-126
ORT, Gide

Box 11:127-135
Irgun, Haganah, Palestine

Box 12:136
Series 6. Oral Histories

Project documents, Transcripts A-Z, tapes

Box 13-14:137-140
Series 7. Printed Materials

Printed versions of writings by others

Box 15:141

Search Terms
The following terms represent persons, organizations, and topics documented in this collection. Use these headings to search for additional materials on this web site, in the Five College Library Catalog, or in other library catalogs and databases.

  • Europe, Eastern--Ethnic relations--History--20th century--Sources.
  • Israel--Emigration and immigration--History--Sources.
  • Israel--History--1948-1967--Sources.
  • Jews, Soviet--History--Sources.
  • Jews--Europe, Eastern--History--Sources.
  • Jews--Migrations--History--Sources.
  • Jews--Population--History--Sources.
  • Jews--Soviet Union--History--Sources.
  • Occupational training for Jews--History--Sources.
  • Palestine--History--1929-1948--Sources.
  • Romania--Emigration and immigration--History--Sources.
  • Rutgers University--Curricula.
  • Rutgers University--Faculty--History--Sources.
  • Rutgers University--Students--History--Sources.
  • Shapiro, Leon--Archives.
  • Soviet Union--Ethnic relations--History--Sources.
  • World ORT Union--History--Sources.

Genre terms
  • Oral histories.
  • Photographs.

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