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Jewish Centers and Y’s in U.S. Serve 275,000 Membership, J. W. B. Convention Hears

December 18, 1928
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

139 Institutions Erected at $19,300,000 Cost Operate on $3,500,000 Annual Budget; Vice-President Dawes Praises Jewish Philanthropic Work as Mark of High Citizenship; Secretary Wilbur Commends J.W.B. Work in Peace as Well as Wartime; Prominent Leaders from Many States Discuss Jewish Community Problems. (Jewish Daily Bulletin)

The philanthropic spirit of the Jew, to help those who are less fortunate, irrespective of race, creed or color, was highly praised by Hon. Charles G. Dawes, Vice-President of the United States, in an address at the fourth biennual convention held here in the Jewish Community Center. Representatives of three hundred constituent societies of the Jewish Welfare Board, from various communities throughout the country, were in attendance, and listened to addresses and reports on the progress of the Jewish Center movement. The delegates also heard pleas by prominent Jewish lay leaders, calling for the wider development of the moveemnt that is today providing cultural, Jewish and recreational activities for the growing Jewish generation.

Vice-President Dawes was the principal speaker at a banquet tendered by the local Jewish community to the delegates. The dinner was given in the Jewish Community Center building, the cornerstone of which was laid three years ago by President Calvin Coolidge. In his address, the Vice-President commended the efforts of American Jewry to be of service to the less fortunate of their race. “When men associate themselves in a collective effort to render self-sacrificing service to their fellow-men, they are engaging in what is not only one of the noblest endeavors of good citizenship, but its most effective one,” he said, and continuing, added, “That the record in this country of Jewish philanthropy–so largely non-sectarian–so largely and intelligently covering the succor and encouragement of the man who does not have a fair chance and who is down in the world, and yet, so mindful of those who struggle for an education to fit them for the higher tasks of life–so concerned with a wide distribution among our people of the benefits of medical science and invention–that this record is so magnificent, while partly due to certain individuals, great and greathearted leaders in the world whom we all know, is chiefly due to the fact that behind Jewish philanthropy is always a collective pressure.

“It is because your people believe not only that wealth entails an obligation of service commensurate with it, but that those of moderate means should help the less fortunate, and that even the poor should help those poorer,” Vice-President Dawes declared.

“This pressure is not centered upon the very rich alone, but they feel it and give accordingly. It does not center upon any class. All classes feel it and give accordingly. It is not exerted especially through leaders, though they contribute the organizing genius which affords it the means of expression.

“This collective pressure comes from the heart of the great Jewish people as a whole–from the heart of a great people who have suffered unjustly in their time. We have but to think–each one of us–of some great personal sorrow to know that sympathy comes most surely from suffering. And the sympathy of your people is a part of your nature, of your traditions of your history, and it is so broad and great that it knows no sectarian bounds, but has enriched the lives of all the people and helped to make this the blessed land of promise for all.”

In reviewing welfare work accorded to men in the Navy during the World War and the ten years since the signing of the Armistice, Hon. Curtis D. Wilbur, Secretary of the Navy, called on the American public for a continuance of the same type of service rendered during the War to the men now in the service. Secretary Wilbur was the principal speaker of the afternoon session of the convention. There is a great deal of discussion, he said, regarding the building program of the Navy in the American press and especially religious publications, but very little comment is made or suggested regarding the welfare of the personnel in the service. He declared that the men in the Navy today are the same as those who served during the World War, and everything possible should be done for their welfare. One of the reasons advanced by him for the proposed building program of his department was, as he put it, to make the Navy safe for its men.

In his Presidential address, Judge Lehman, of New York, gave a recital of the progress made by the Jewish Welfare Board and the Jewish Center movement. There are now in existence, he stated, three hundred constituent societies of the Board, made up of Y. M. H. A., Y. W. H. A., Y. M. and Y. W. H. A. and Jewish Community Center. Through the cooperation of the Jewish Welfare Board, he pointed out, one hundred and thirty-nine buildings are now owned by constituent societies, at a value of $19,300,000. During the past year, he added, twelve communities are now erecting additions and new buildings, at an estimated cost of $4,800,000, and he said that there were an additional $533,000 in building funds of a number of other institutions. The membership of the constituent organizations, he announced, was now 275,000, and the annual budgets of these societies now totals $3,500,000. One hundred and three paid executives are now directing the work of these organizations, he said.

Judge Lehman then told of other activities of the Jewish Welfare Board, which it offered to the constituent societies. A field service is maintained, he said, which during the past year dealt with 1,418 community problems, and, in addition to the field service, it has made 58 special community studies, preliminary to building fund campaigns, which were handled in the main by representatives of the Board. Lecture and concert programs were also arranged, which in the past year, he said, attracted an audience of 450,000.

The service rendered the Jewish men in the Army and Navy was dealt with in a report by Dr. Cyrus Adler, chairman of the Army and Navy Committee of the Jewish Welfare Board. Since its inception in 1917, the Board has concerned itself with the welfare of the Jewish men in the Army, Navy and Marines and those confined in hospitals, he said. There are now approximately 5,000 men of Jewish faith in the Army and Navy, widely scattered throughout Continental America, Panama, Honolulu, the Philippine Islands, Haiti, China and various other places. For these men religious services are arranged, and special welfare work is carried on by a staff composed of a Director, four full-time and twelve part-time representatives, and fifty volunteer workers. The activities of the Board are also extended to Jewish students at the Citizens Military Training Camps, Dr. Adler added, and in 1928, he declared, 1,850 Jewish students were cared for at 31 camps.

Dr. Adler announced that there are now 17 Rabbis holding commissions in the chaplains’ section of the Officers Reserve Corps and of this number, 7 were on active duty at the summer camps in 1927 and the same number in 1928. He added that during the past few years, the Board has handled approximately 6,400 personal welfare cases of men in the Army and Navy. The cost of this work in the past two years, he said, amounted to $147,158.

A declaration that the most serious handicap to the successful operation of any social enterprise is the burden of a mortgage, was made by Harry L. Glucksman, executive director of the Jewish Welfare Board, in his report on the outstanding problems of the Jewish Center movement. These steps, he emphasized, generally lead to a falling-off of interest on the part of members, and the failure on their part to renew their affiliation, thus bringing about a further reduction in income.

Mr. Glucksman also pointed out the fallacies of “building for the future” and “let the future generation pay.”

In reviewing the progress of the work of the Jewish Welfare Board, Mr. Glucksman made a plea for a larger financial support from the Jewish public.

Benjamin J. Buttenwieser, treasurer of the Jewish Welfare Board, reported a deficit of $82,481. The income during the past two years, he announced, as $302,770, and the expenditures for the same period $350,383, leaving a deficit of $47,612. This deficit, plus a deficit of $34,869, which remained with the organization two years ago, makes a total deficit of $82,481.

In speaking of the deficit, Judge Lehman announced that Mr. Julius Rosenwald has made a contribution of $20,000 towards it, on the condition that the full amount is raised by the end of the year.

Recommendation for a revision in the Constitution of the Jewish Welfare Board was made by Leon J. Obermayer of Philadelphia, chairman of the Constitution Committee. His proposal called for the establishment of the National Council of the Jewish Welfare Board, which shall consist of representatives of constituent societies, of members of the Executive Committee, representatives and presidents of State and Regional Federations, and representatives of the national organizations affiliated with the Jewish Welfare Board. The Council will function as a permanent organization, and will be the legislative body of the Board. It will meet annually.

The afternoon session, following the address of Secretary Wilbur, was devoted to a presentation of reports on progress made by State Federations and regional organizations. The reports were submitted by Bernard B. Given, president of the New York State Federation; Felix Fuld, of Newark, president of the New Jersey Federation: Henry Weinberg, president of the Middle Atlantic States Federation: Jacob L. Wiseman, for the New England Federation; Samuel Druck, president of the Pennsylvania Federation; and Hon. M. Maldwin Fertig, Vice-President of the Metropolitan League of New York.

In these reports, the speakers told of the development of inter-city and inter-state programs and reviewed the fruitful results of such co-operation. The speakers also told of the steps which are being taken for the erection of newer and larger Community Centers in their territory.

Following the presentation of these reports, memorial tablets in honor of local leaders were unveiled. Rabbi Sehwefel delivered a special prayer for the occasion, and the unveiling of the tablets was by Dr. Cyrus Adler. Reports of various committees were then presented.

The convention came to a close with a banquet in the evening at the Jewish Community Center given to the delegates by the Center. Maurice D. Rosenberg, who has just been appointed General Counsel for the Presidential Inaugural Committee, was the toastmaster, and there were addresses, in addition to that of Vice-President Dawes, by Judge Irving Lehman, Louis Marshall, Morris Cafritz, Dr. Abram Simon and Mrs. Alexander Wolf.

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