In 2012, Leah Ellenbogen was looking for an opportunity to work in a library. She emailed several area libraries and archives, and soon heard back from AJHS-NEA Director Judi Garner. Leah wasn’t sure exactly what working at the archive would entail, but, she says, “I was interested in what AJHS had to offer.” Today, as a Digital Archives Assistant, she assists with the process of “uploading our scanned documents to a website so they can be searched and seen easily by patrons from home.” Most of her workday is spent at the computer, preparing images to be uploaded, but she also writes finding aids for some of the archive’s smaller collections and posts content to AJHS-NEA’s social media accounts. In addition, as “the only person in the office who can read Hebrew,” she often helps with translation.
During Leah’s time at AJHS, she has become familiar with the histories of Jewish Boston’s people and places. “We have plenty of fascinating collections with secrets to share,” she says. One of her favorites is a “wonderful ledger from the Chelsea Free Loan Society which is in many ways very traditionally Jewish – written on parchment in elaborate calligraphy, with names recorded based on lineage and dates according to the Jewish calendar – but also has several gorgeous, colored illustrations. It smells roughly how you imagine hundred year old parchment would smell, but it looks amazing, and is a great record of the outreach and support programs in early- to mid-twentieth century Chelsea.”
She has also realized how crucial it is for personal papers to be preserved. “What you might not consider significant might be fascinating in fifty or a hundred years.”
Though Leah does not plan on working in archives for the rest of her career, she does hope to stay in the library field, and has been accepted to Simmons Graduate School of Library and Information Science in the Youth Services librarianship track. She credits her work at AJHS-NEA with providing technical skills that will help her along that path.
She also appreciates the experience for another reason. “Jewish history is my history, and I have studied it both in formal educational settings and on my own, both famous events and minor ones related only to my family, so [working at AJHS] was quite a nice intersection.”