Adjusting Our Lives

Dr. Frank’s column appears in this space every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

In the last ten or fifteen years, with the ceasing of the Jewish mass immigration, our philanthropic and social-cultural work has been directed along new lines.

In the previous thirty to forty years, the American-Jewish charitable activities were mostly devoted to the giving of help to the large masses of the poor and helpless newcomers from Europe. The immigrants were aided to adjust themselves to the strange and complex American scene through a variety of agencies, such as educational alliances, philanthropic settlements, free loan societies, placement offices and the like.

THE AFTER-WAR PERIOD

But a new era was opened in the aftermath of the World War. The Jewish immigration has only in the first few years (1921-1923) preserved its familiar mass character. In July, 1924, the quota law was put on the statute book, and the Jewish immigration into the United States was virtually brought to an end.

Instead of the former clients the “green” new arrivals, an entirely different human element has become the object of the wide community work programs during the years of relative prosperity, 1923 to 1929. Naturally, in this period the amount of need and privation among the Jewish masses of America has grown smaller. Although, even then, seasonal unemployment and a slump in the needle trades did affect a large mass of Jewish workers, yet this was an ill of rather old standing and not a matter of exclusively Jewish concern.

Welfare and relief work now have been directed in the first place toward those elements, present in any type of society, that have been helpless or maladjusted in the struggle for existence, such as widows and orphans, poor aged dependents, invalids or persons of impaired health in need of special occupational adjustment, and so forth.

With the care of the unadjusted new immigrants out of the picture, a wider measure of public attention could be given to the question of Jewish health service (hospitals and sanatoria), care of children (child help and training), homes of the aged, and other institutions for the needy men and women.

CULTURAL FUNCTIONS GROW

But also in the field of social-cultural work, the seven years of prosperity coincide with a period of fruitful and significant endeavor. Many Jewish schools, Talmud Torahs, and other educational institutions have come into being over the length and breadth of the country.

A great number of Jewish Community Centers, in addition to the older cultural organizations, such as the Young Men’s and Young Women’s Hebrew Associations, have also been built up. The Jewish centers inaugurated a comprehensive cultural program in behalf of adults, adolescents and children.

Their essential aim is to bring an increasingly large number of Jewish families into intimate touch with the Jewish cultural heritage as an active fount of inspiration. To this end, Jewish holiday traditions are fostered, and interests in reconstruction of Jewish life in Palestine and Europe, as well as world-wide Jewish solidarity and sympathetic understanding, are aroused. Not least, a fruitful union of Judaism and Americanism is the goal to the attainment of which the centers bend their efforts.

In its exterior, that is, through new imposing communal buildings and very impressive individual contributions, the Jewish social welfare work has become more generous and important than ever before. Also in its contents, however, by the inclusion, that is, of social and cultural Jewish activities, has the program of Jewish communal work, since 1923, grown in stature and prestige, in scope and spirit.

COMMUNITY PLANNING

In smaller towns and cities, a coordination and cooperation of all the efforts toward social help and cultural Jewish endeavor brought the community face to face with problems of centralized communal planning. The Federations of Jewish Charities, in pre-war times agencies for centralized money-raising and distribution, have now in many instances undergone a noticeable extension and modernization.

Even the very names of the central and directing offices here and there have been changed. Instead of the former United Hebrew Charities, we have now Jewish Social Service Bureaus or United Jewish Social Agencies. The same tendency toward a wider and deeper program of social action is reflected in the constantly growing prestige of the central organization of Jewish social workers in America—the National Conference of Jewish Social Service.

At the same time, the Jewish centers are given advice and guidance by the Jewish Welfare Board, so as to coordinate their activities and secure for them, and for the Y. M. H. and Y. W. H. Associations, a permanent place in the Jewish communal life. There is also a professional organization with aims of cultural advancement of Jewish life in America—the National Association of Jewish Center Executives.

Hebrew schools of all descriptions have also coordinated their efforts to the end of improving their standards and methods. Out of the Central Bureaus of Jewish Education in the several cities, a National Council for Jewish Education, with a head office in Chicago, has arisen.

This national council, in cooperation with the two national agencies mentioned above, have recently taken steps toward the organization of a permanent coordinating committee of national.

Not in a few cities, the Jewish Welfare Federations have included representatives of Community Centers and of the school organizations. Thus, a federation, originally a fund-raising agency, automatically has become a sort of a Jewish Community Council, all-embracing and all-directing. If not for the long depression, these sound tendencies of communal planning would have attained a still higher degree of accomplishment.

Dr. Frank’s column appears in this space every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

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