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Polakoff’s Personal Papers Left to University of Scranton

July 12, 1996
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A prominent Jewish journalist’s papers have been donated to the University of Scranton.

Joseph Polakoff, a Scranton alumnus, served with the U.S. Information Agency and with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency as its Washington, D.C., bureau chief.

He died April 12 at the age of 87.

“This is a major acquisition for the University’s Weinberg Memorial Library, our first of an individual’s papers,” said Charles Kratz, director of the library.

“The collection goes back to the beginning of his career and includes all of Mr. Polakoff’s work — his columns, his notes, his correspondences, and several audio tapes as well.”

The more than 200 boxes of material include articles and notes from the journalist’s seven-decade career. They are being catalogued before being made available to researchers.

Polakoff, who was born in Russia, began his career at the old Scranton Republican in 1925. He graduated from the university, known at that time as St. Thomas College, in 1932 and worked for a variety of newspapers in New York City and the Scranton paper.

In 1942, he joined the Office of War Information, and later joined the State Department’s Information Service, the predecessor of the USIA.

Polakoff joined JTA in 1970, covering the White House, Congress and the State Department. He accompanied President Richard Nixon to the USSR, Poland and Iran, and President Jimmy Carter to Egypt and Israel for the signing of the peace treaty in 1979.

He retired from JTA in 1982 and began a freelance career, covering Washington for some 16 Jewish newspapers and a radio station.

“Mr. Polakoff’s Jewish identity was very important to him,” said Rabbi David Geffen of Temple Israel, which is near the campus. “But he was more than just a Jewish journalist. He was one of the most important journalists of our time. His papers are truly coverage of history in the making.”

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