The Joseph and Miriam Ratner Center for the Study of Conservative Judaism is an archive and research center located at The Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. It pursues three goals: to rescue and preserve the historical records of the Conservative Movement, to foster research on the Conservative Movement both past and present, and to educate and link Conservative Jews as the Movement enters its second century.
The first steps in creating the Ratner Center were taken in 1985 as part of JTS's centennial programs. The Conservative Movement, which has taken pride in its role as the historical school of Judaism, began to retrieve its own historical past in a systematic fashion. With the generous support of Joseph and Miriam Ratner, after whom the center is named, the Ratner Center began gathering and organizing the historical records of Conservative synagogues and rabbis. In 1990, with the assistance of a grant from the National Historical Records and Publications Commission (NHPRC), the Ratner Center began retrieving and organizing JTS's own historical records.
The Ratner Center continues to collect and organize the records of major agencies of the Conservative Movement, rabbis, synagogues, and educators. The archives contain the historical records of two hundred Conservative synagogues and rabbis from around the country, dating from the early nineteenth century to the present. The archives also hold the historical records of The Jewish Theological Seminary from its reorganization in 1902 through the 1980s. A scattering of material dating back to JTS's founding in 1886 is also included.
The photograph collection contains more than six thousand photographs, dating from the late nineteenth century to the present. Included are pictures of JTS people, buildings, and events, and images of Conservative synagogues and rabbis. Oral history interviews document the memories of people important to the history of JTS and the Conservative movement.
Housed in the special collections reading room of The Library of JTS, these records serve as indispensable primary sources for the historians of the Conservative movement and American Jewry who regularly consult them.
Ratner Center collections are available for scholars and other researchers who need to use primary source materials in order to carry out original research.
The Ratner Center's collections are housed in The Library's special collections reading room. The collections are available by appointment only. Researchers may make appointments with the archivist by phone, (212) 280-6011, or by email.
Please come prepared to take notes. The majority of items are too fragile to withstand copying.
In general, it is a good idea to look at relevant inventories before coming in to do research. Inventories contain descriptions of each collection, a box list, and information about any restrictions that may apply. With the help of a generous grant from the Lucius N. Littauer Foundation, the Ratner Center's inventories have been added to this website. Click on Archives, then click on Records of The Jewish Theological Seminary or Papers of Conservative Rabbis and Synagogues, then click on highlighted collection names to get the inventory for each collection. For information about collections or to make an appointment, please call the archivist at (212) 280-6011, or email.
The Ratner Center welcomes gifts of papers of Conservative rabbis and synagogues. We do want letters; photographs; manuscripts of and notes for sermons; scrapbooks and photograph albums; synagogue minute books, financial account books, and other synagogue record books; minutes and other records of synagogue organizations, such as sisterhoods or religious schools; and ephemeral synagogue publications such as bulletins, newsletters, or yearbooks.
We do not want published books; newspapers, magazines, and journals; routine tax or financial documents such as receipts or bank statements; or mounted plaques and awards.
Please call Jack Wertheimer at (212) 678-8065 or Ellen Kastel at (212) 280-6011 to discuss proposed donations, or email Ellen Kastel.
The Jewish Theological Seminary
3080 Broadway, Box 125
New York, NY 10027
Email the archivist
Joseph and Miriam Ratner were active in a wide range of Jewish communal affairs in New York and Boca Raton, Florida. Their support was critical to the founding of the Ratner Center, which serves as a memorial to their vision.