Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Says Boston Jews Apathetic to Plight of Jewish Federation

June 20, 1930
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The present critical stage in which the Associated Jewish Philanthropies of Boston find themselves is reviewed in an article in the current issue of the “Menorah Journal” by Zalmen Yoffeh. After reviewing the history of the huge fund-raising activities undertaken by Boston Jews during the past few years, especially in connection with their new buildings for a Jewish hospital and for several religious congregations, which has brought on the present deficit of half a million dollars, Mr. Yoffeh says:

“What is to be done? For a week I went about Boston asking questions and sounding the opinion of every Jew I met. The leaders in philanthropic work and a number of paid executives expressed optimism.

“Elsewhere I found a wider variety of opinion, and a great deal of apathy. Here was a situation that affected the welfare of the entire community. Yet an astonishing number that I met had never given the matter any thought.


“And the tendency among those interested was to apportion blame for the calamity rather than to offer a solution. The poorer and middle class members of the community blame it all on the rich. ‘They don’t give enough,’ is the cry.

“It is interesting to note here that one of the richer men in the community, a leading and generous spirit, readily admits that he could afford to give more to the Associated Jewish Philanthropies. But he refuses because he believes that the Associated should be a communal enterprise and as such supported by every Jew in the community. ‘I don’t want Boston Jewry to depend entirely upon me and upon a few others. What if something should happen to me?’ he asks. That he is amply justified in his foresight has recently been proven by the experience of another Jewish community. Philadelphia, where the death of a large contributor has left a hole in the annual Federation budget of that city, which the campaign, at least this year, was not able to fill.


“So almost everybody one spoke to in Boston blamed everybody else for the difficulties. The synagogue people blame it on the non-religious group. ‘We give more than does anybody else, ‘they say. ‘We are the ones most easily reached and our rabbis again and again call on us from the pulpit to support the Associated.’ The non-religious element hotly contest this claim. ‘It’s these schul people that are to blame’, they say. ‘Many of them are not giving and they’re using the community’s money to put up their useless buildings.’ ‘My father,’ one man assured me, ‘had much more real religion than any of them. And he never prayed in a million-dollar temple.’ The anti-Zionists bewail the fact that the Zionists are taking money out of the community. ‘Charity begins at home,’ one inspired individual told me. ‘Fools!’ the Zionists answer, ‘can’t they realize that all this is just a makeshift and solves no real problems? These idiots are endangering the Jewish homeland in Palestine.’


“What will be the eventual outcome? As I have pointed out, nobody in Boston really knows. Will the Jews of Boston pull themselves out of their difficulties by their own bootstraps, or will we have the unhappy spectacle of an entire community going bankrupt ? The rest of the country should watch and observe carefully. Let no Jewish community look on in a detached way and think, ‘This does not affect us.’ The germ of the disease that is afflicting Boston is present in every community in the country. To be sure, in no other community has the disease reached such a virulent stage. If Boston recovers the country should rejoice, for it will show that the disease is not necessarily fatal. If Boston fails—but that’s unthinkable! Who ever heard of a Jewish Federation going bankrupt?”

Recommended from JTA