Guide to the Gerald Serotta Papers, 1973-1987


Processed by Nicole Greenhouse

American Jewish Historical Society

Center for Jewish History

15 West 16th Street

New York, N.Y. 10011

Phone: (212) 294-6160



© 2019  American Jewish Historical Society, New York, NY. All Rights Reserved.
Electronic finding aid was encoded in EAD 2002 by Nicole Greenhouse in December 2016. Description is in English.

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Serotta, Gerald
Title: Gerald Serotta Papers
Abstract: This collection contains the papers of Rabbi Gerald Serotta, a founder of Breira and the New Jewish Agenda. The materials found in the collection date from the 1970s and 1980s and mostly document the founding of and controversy surrounding Breira and the founding of the New Jewish Agenda.
Languages: The collection is in English with some Hebrew.
Quantity: 1.75 linear feet (4 manuscript boxes)
Identification: P-1023
Repository: American Jewish Historical Society
Location: Located in AJHS New York, NY
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Biographical Note
Inside Cover of 'New Perspectives: The Diaspora and Israel' (Box 2, Folder 11)

Inside Cover of 'New Perspectives: The Diaspora and Israel' (Box 2, Folder 11)

Gerald Serotta is a rabbi and Jewish activist. In 1968 he received his undergraduate degree from Harvard. He was ordained Rabbi in New York in 1974 by Hebrew Union College. In 1973 he co-founded Breira, an organization that called for a two-state solution in Israel and Palestine. When Breira dissolved, Serotta was a founder of the New Jewish Agenda, a progressive Jewish grassroots organization active in the 1980s. Serotta served as a university chaplain and Hillel rabbi for 28 years, including twenty years of service at George Washington University. Serotta served as a rabbi in Maryland at Temple Shalom and Shirat HaNefesh Congregation in Chevy Chase, Maryland and as Executive Director of Clergy Beyond Borders. As of this writing (2016), Serotta is the Executive Director of the Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington.

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Scope and Content Note

This collection mostly contains materials related to the founding and controversy surrounding Breira throughout the 1970s. Breira was founded in response to the Yom Kippur War in 1973 and called for a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine. In 1976, Breira members Max Ticktin and Arthur Waskow met with Sabri Jiryis, closely tied to the PLO, and Isam Sartawi, a member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council. This meeting led to an outcry from the Jewish press, most strongly from the newspaper Jewish Week. Other Jewish organizations denounced Breira, particularly the Jewish Defense League, which led protests outside of Breira's first national convention in Chevy Chase, Maryland on February 20, 1977. Breira continued to receive bad press, which led to their dissolution in 1979. Materials in the collection mostly focus on controversy, the lead up to the convention, and Breira's response to the press. In addition, the collection also holds Breira publications, newsletters, circulars, Breira's platform, committee meeting materials, and clippings.

The other half of the collection focuses on the founding of the New Jewish Agenda (NJA), a progressive multi-issue Jewish organization that focused on nuclear disarmament; peace in the Middle East, Central America, and South America; equal rights for women, gays, and lesbians; and the fight against racism and anti-Semitism. The records hold materials related to the founding conference in December 1980, the official establishment of NJA in 1982, and the formation of task forces within the organization. The collection also holds newsletters, chapter handbooks, correspondence, and clippings. In addition to Breira and NJA, there is also some material in the collection on the Havurah movement, Jewish socialism, and other Jewish left organizations.

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Arranged alphabetically.

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Access and Use

Access Restrictions

The collection is open to all researchers by permission of the Director of Collections and Engagement of the American Jewish Historical Society, except items that are restricted due to their fragility.

Use Restrictions

Information concerning the literary rights may be obtained from the Director of Library and Archives of the American Jewish Historical Society. Users must apply in writing for permission to quote, reproduce or otherwise publish manuscript materials found in this collection. For more information contact:
American Jewish Historical Society, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY, 10011

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Related Material

The Gerald Serotta Papers is one individual collection within the Counter Culture collections located at the American Jewish Historical Society (AJHS). Other counter culture collections at AJHS include the Arthur Ocean Waskow Papers (P-152), Leonard Fein Papers (P-582), Shira Eve Epstein Papers (P-776), Riv-Ellen Prell Papers (P-795), Ruth Abusch-Magder Papers (P-841), Virginia Levitt Snitow Papers (P-876), Goldie Milgram Papers (P-876), Jack Jacobs Papers (P-1020), Jack Nusan Porter Papers (P-1024), Arthur J. Lelyveld Papers (P-1030), Jews for Urban Justice (Washington, D.C.) Records (I-159), Jewish Peace Fellowship Records (I-189), Jewish Student Press Service Records (I-248), Breira Records (I-250), American Jewish Alternatives to Zionism (New York, New York) Records (I-326), North American Jewish Students Appeal Records (I-338), Jewish Labor Committee Records (I-377), New Jewish Agenda Records (I-393), Vermont Chapter of the New Jewish Agenda Records (I-449), Jewish Counter Culture Collection (I-504), Trees and Life for Vietnam Records (I-542), Lights in Action Records (I-560), Brit Tzedek v'Shalom/Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace Records (I-587), and portions of the Jewish Student Organizations Collection (I-61).

AJHS also holds a small collection of records of the Jewish Defense League (I-374).

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Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form:
Identification of item, date (if known); Gerald Serotta Papers; P-1023; box number; folder number; American Jewish Historical Society, New York, NY.

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Acquisition Information

This collection was donated to AJHS in 2006 by Gerald Serotta. The accession number associated with this collection is 2006.18.

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Processing Information

In 2016, a full DACS compliant finding aid was written for the collection and materials in the collection were arranged and put into archival folders. When possible, folder titles were maintained.

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Access Points

Click on a subject to search that term in the Center's catalog. Return to the Top of Page

Container List

Click the box in the request column to open the form that allows you to request a box for onsite viewing in the reading room at the Center for Jewish History, New York, NY.


Gerald Serotta Papers, 1973-1987

11Breira—Articles about Breira1977request_box
12Breira—Articles on Palestine Liberation Organization, Arab-Israeli Conflict, Israeli Left1974-1977request_box
13Breira—Board of Directors Members and Minutes1976-1978request_box
14Breira—Circulated Materials1974-1979request_box
18Breira—Correspondence and Letters to the Editor1975-1979request_box
21Breira—Executive Committee1977request_box
24Breira—Handwritten Notes1974-1977request_box
26Breira—Jewish Week1977request_box
27Breira—Max and Esther Ticktin1976request_box
28Breira—National Convention1976-1977request_box
210Breira—Personnel Committee1977request_box
212Breira—Statements and Memos1974-1977request_box
213Breira—Working Committee1974request_box
214Havurot and New Halacha1973-1976request_box
215History of Breira and New Jewish Agenda1973-1983request_box
31Jewish Socialist Tzedakah Collective1976-1978request_box
32New Jewish Agenda—Chapter Handbook1981request_box
33New Jewish Agenda—Clippings1980-1984request_box
34New Jewish Agenda—Conference Committee1979-1980request_box
35New Jewish Agenda—Conventions/Conferences1980-1987request_box
36New Jewish Agenda—Correspondence1980-1982request_box
37New Jewish Agenda—Financial1981request_box
38New Jewish Agenda—Founding Document1971-1982request_box
39New Jewish Agenda—Handwritten Notes1980-1982request_box
310New Jewish Agenda—Interim Council1981-1982request_box
311New Jewish Agenda—"Israeli and Palestinian Women in Dialogue: A Model for Nairobi"1985request_box
312New Jewish Agenda—Issues Committee1980-1982request_box
313New Jewish Agenda—Lists1982request_box
314New Jewish Agenda—Mailings and Minutes1979-1980request_box
315New Jewish Agenda—Middle East Program1981-1982request_box
316New Jewish Agenda—Newsletters1980-1987request_box
317New Jewish Agenda—Organization1981request_box
41New Jewish Agenda—Organizational Minutes1981request_box
42New Jewish Agenda—Post Opening Conference1981request_box
43New Jewish Agenda—Pre-Conference Organizing1980request_box
44New Jewish Agenda—Steering Committee1981-1982request_box
45New Jewish Agenda—Task Force Formation1981request_box
46New Jewish Agenda—Task Forces1980-1981request_box
47Parallel Groups—Palestine Solidarity Committee, Coalition for Justice and Peace in the Middle East, Project on Jewish Institutions, American-Israeli Civil Liberties Coalition, Washington-Area New Jewish Agenda, American Friends of "Peace Now," Washington Area Jews for an Israeli-Palestinian Peace, B'nai Brith, National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council, Shalom Network1980-1982request_box
48Parallel Groups—Tzedek Tzedek, Institute for Policy Studies, American Jewish Forum, Tikun, Radius Institute1976-1981request_box
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