Strictly speaking, there is little of the quality newspaper people term, “human interest” in an anniversary celebration by a Young Men’s Hebrew Association. A story, to attract attention, must deal with action, be warm with novelty and rich with drama.
Behind the sixty years’ progress of the Y.M.H.A. organization there is merely a record of repeatedly published, small notices of meetings, contests, lectures, campaigns and anniversaries. Nevertheless the story of Y.M.H.A. when pieced together is a moving history.
The writer gathered much of his information from a man who tomorrow night will be honored at a testimonial dinner marking the completion of twenty-five years’ service that has resulted in the creation of hundreds of community centers in this country and Canada. He is Harry L. Glucksman, executive director of the Jewish Welfare Board.
LOOKS TO YOUTH
“I believe”, says Mr. Glucksman, “that our present leadership in Jewry needs repair. It is growing old It should reside in youth.”
This has been a cry since the twenty-second day of March 1874, when a group of men, including Sol B. Solomon, Dr. Simeon Newton Leo, Julius J. Frank, Dr. de Sola Mendes, Meyer S. Isaacs, William Strauss, Arnold Tanzer and Adolph L. Sanger, gathered at 320 West 33rd Street for the purpose of creating a Jewish young men’s organization.
The idea met with approval, especially among the people for whom the organization was intended.
A group convened, avowed its interest in Jewish affairs and headlined their interests as religious and cultural. An objective was physical and intellectual self-development.
MOVEMENT SPREAD QUICKLY
In many cities and villages similar unions were. organized. Isolated groups in some cases succeeded in obtaining the cooperation of the older Jews in the community, unofficial sanhedrins. For a few dollars they rented gymnasiums and meeting halls.
For several months the Manhattan unit met in the trustees’ room of Temple Emanu-E1. Later a small house at 112 West 21st Street was rented. Success accompanying these efforts, the pioneer group was obliged to take larger quarlers. A commodious building at 110 West 42nd Street was subleased. Gymnasium, bowling alleys, reading rooms, clubrooms were among the conveniences offered members.
It is not difficult to understand the enthusiasm which seized the members of the organization who without evangelizing managed to spread the good word and attract a considerable number of supporters. For a modest sum a young man could enjoy the conveniences of otherwise expensive club life, and good companionship in the bargain.
When Harry L. Glucksman first joined the Y.M.H.A. he was seventeen years old. He took an active interest in the work at the institution, growing with it.
Yesterday, in an interview at his offices in Federation Building, he spoke of the spontaneity with which the Jewish youngsters, bent upon playing ball games, joined forces with the Y.M.H.A. He spoke of many other things as well, anti-Semitism for instance, which he reflected is a problem which faces not only the adult Jewish population. At the age of eleven or twelve youngsters are face to face with the problem of race discrimination. Membership in a “Y” or a community center, therefore, becomes of first-rate importance.
The great hope of Harry Glucksman is to stage a meeting that will hold the attention of young men and women between the ages of twenty and thirty, and which will eventuate their participation in Jewish affairs, arouse their Jewish consciousness and bring them together in strong unity. The conclave would be called an international youth conference, held in Washington, D. C., or in Tel Aviv, and would be financed by accumulated contributions of world Jewish organizations. Glucksman could not describe precisely what machinery he would use in putting his plan into execution, but he was clear as to the purpose of such meeting: “Hundreds of thousands of Jewish young people are today not in any way playing a part in the communal life of their people. They must be aroused. They must take the reigns of leadership into their hands. The leadership of their elders is fast waning.”
Mr. Glucksman is a member of the board of directors of the “Y”, of the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America; of the Council and of the Administrative Committee of the World Jewish Agency for Palestine, and treasurer for the American Palestine Campaign. He was chairman of the “Romance of the People” pageant committee.
One of the complaints Mr. Glucksman makes is that there is overemphasis among young American Jews upon athletic development, reacting to the disadvantage of their cultural growth.
He is behind the proposed Maccabi movement in the United States, now progressing under the leadership of Nathan L. Goldsteim, but he holds that the physical training aspect must be relegated to secodary importance.
We must think first of developing our “cultural biceps”, he says.