Volume II, DIVISION II: JEWISH HISTORY IN THE MISHNAH AND TALMUD PERIOD, IN THE MIDDLE AGES AND...

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Transcript of Volume II, DIVISION II: JEWISH HISTORY IN THE MISHNAH AND TALMUD PERIOD, IN THE MIDDLE AGES AND...

  • World Union of Jewish Studies /

    /NEW TRENDS IN AMERICAN JEWISH PHILANTHROPY AND SOCIAL SERVICESAuthor(s): C. Bezalel Sherman and 'Source: Proceedings of the World Congress of Jewish Studies / Volume II, DIVISION II: JEWISH HISTORY IN THE MISHNAH AND TALMUD ,, PERIOD, IN THE MIDDLE AGES AND MODERN TIMES; THE JEWISH LABOUR MOVEMENT;CONTEMPORARY JEWISH HISTORY; THE HOLOCAUST / , : , ; ; ; ... " / 196Published by: World Union of Jewish Studies / Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/23515517 .Accessed: 20/06/2014 22:01

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  • NEW TRENDS IN AMERICAN JEWISH PHILANTHROPY AND

    SOCIAL SERVICES

    Bezalel Sherman

    New York

    The part philanthropy played in the development of the American Jewish community has been second only to that performed by the syna

    gogue in some cases even transcending it.

    Philanthropy has been broadly conceived by the Jewish benevolent

    agencies. They have rarely regarded public aid merely in terms of provid ing bread to the hungry and shelter to the homeless. As early as 1807, a Jewish orphanage in Charleston, S. C. included among its tasks

    assistance in the development of the artistic potentialities of its wards.

    The Jewish charity institutions have as a rule been in advance of their

    non-Jewish counterparts, introducing concepts, functions and methods

    which have subsequently been accepted by the general community and

    have greatly influenced public and government welfare programmes. More often than not, Jewish philanthropic agencies, in addition to

    carrying out purely benevolent functions, also sought to create self

    improvement opportunities for the persons appealing for help. From

    the beginning, the line dividing charity from social service was a narrow

    one in Jewish benevolence; in recent years the line has been all but

    obliterated.

    The Jewish philanthropic agencies, as most Jewish community services, were not built according to plan; they have evolved under the

    pressure of emergency situations. Many were improvised to meet unex

    pected needs and were regarded by their founders as temporary setups.

    Contrary to expectations, however, these setups were soon transformed

    into permanent institutions, not infrequently surviving the events

    which brought them into being. By the late nineteenth century there was

    established a network of Jewish hospitals, orphanages, homes for the

    aged, free loan associations, immigrant aid societies, and other benevolent

    institutions which extended from the Atlantic to the Pacific and from

    Canada to Mexico. They were for the most part organized and operated without regard to each other, reflecting the stratification of the Jewish

    population and taking on the particular image of the groups sponsoring them. However, under the impact of the changes American processes

    155

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  • 156 C. BEZALEL SHERMAN

    have wrought in Jewish life, the barriers separating the different agencies and their founders gradually broke down and gave way to overall

    community undertakings. Some of the internal and external factors contributing to the trans

    formation of parochial institutions into community agencies made

    themselves felt as early as 1860, when the Hebrew Benevolent Society, founded by New York Sephardim in 1822, amalgamated with the German

    Hebrew Benevolent Society which was organized in 1844. If the earlier

    separate existence of the two bodies was originally the result of the socio

    economic superiority of the Sephardim, their subsequent merger attested

    the material and communal progress of the German Jews. The mobility

    marking this process established a pattern which was to shape future

    relationships between German Jews and Jews of East European back

    ground. Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe at first resorted to the

    welfare agencies organized by the earlier arrivals from Western Europe; but religious, cultural and social considerations soon moved them to

    build agencies of their own in many a case paralleling those already in existence. The trend toward the unification of philanthoropy was thus

    interrupted but not for long. A desire on the part of the larger donors, the backbone in all fund raising, to do away with the annoying multipli

    city of campaigns on one hand, and the rising economic status of the East European sector on the other hand created a basis for consolidation in philanthropic endeavour. This gave rise to the federation movement

    which, getting off to an organized start in Boston in 1895, gathered momentum during the early twentieth century. By the 1920s there was a

    federation in practically every sizeable Jewish community in the country. It was the function of the federation to provide for the budgets in toto or in part of local welfare institutions out of the proceeds of one

    general campaign and to exercise some supervision over their fiscal

    policies without impinging on their ideological organizational autonomy. The welfare funds were an extention of the federations and picked

    up where the latter left off. The welfare funds, overwhelmingly the

    product of the enormous relief responsibilities the Nazi period placed upon the shoulders of American Jewry, raised funds to support overseas causes and American Jewish institutions functioning on a countrywide scale.

    In time, practically all federations and welfare funds combined their

    campaigns and, in most cases, also their administrative bodies. Out of this combination there have emerged local central agencies which were

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  • AMERICAN JEWISH PHILANTHROPY 157

    no longer content with merely acting as fund raising and fund distribut

    ing organs, but have increasingly assumed regulating and evaluating functions in relation to the causes they were supporting. By also sponsor

    ing and financing the community relations councils in their respective localities the federations have become widely-based centres of community action and framers of Jewish public policy. They are the common meeting

    ground of all elements and groups comprising organized American

    Jewry. From instruments for collecting larger sums of money at less

    expense, they have evolved as centres of Jewish community consolidation

    and strongholds of Jewish group continuity. They are the nearest thing to the traditional kehilla to be found in the United States.

    Although widely based in their localities and representing a cross-sec

    tion of Jewish leadership they are nevertheless far from being truly democratic bodies. Since fund raising is the axis about which they revolve and the source of their power, they must of necessity place the

    greatest emphasis on appealing to the large contributors. A very small

    percentage of donors account for 80 per cent of the sums raised by the

    federations, whereas the overwhelming proportion of donors contribute

    only 20 per cent of the amounts collected. Contributions of $500 and

    over account for 76 per cent of the moneys raised by the New York

    Federation of Jewish Philanthropies. This being the case, the big giver becomes the hub of federation cam

    paigns. His views and wishes are given primary consideration by the

    professional directors of the campaigns and his pet projects or causes

    receive allocations in excess of their value to the overall requirements of

    the community. It should be pointed out, however, that rarely does the big

    giver exercise his power in a capricious or dictatorial manner. More

    often than not, he is content to leave decisions as to appropriations to

    the allocations committees and boards of directors of the federations, which as a rule are composed of active campaign workers who them

    selves are not necessarily the largest contributors. The federations have

    thus developed a new type of voluntary K'lal tuers leaders who do

    not owe loyalty to any one institution or cause but are concerned with

    the alfairs of the community as a whole. The broad representativeness of the new leadership enables it to create a public opinion around the

    campaigns, which even the biggest giver cannot ignore. Th